Going to restaurants or ordering takeout food can be a pain when you’re gluten-free. Luckily, it’s getting better with more and more restaurants and fast-food chains considering the dietary needs of their customers. You now regularly see vegan and/or gluten-free options on menus. Having said that, it’s still not easy but these 6 tips for gluten-free dining out (along with practice) will help make it less troublesome.
6 Tips For Gluten-Free Dining Out
1) Be Prepared
When you’re going out, try to plan ahead so you can do your own due diligence to see which restaurant can best accommodate your gluten-free requirements and food preferences. Being able to plan ahead gives you more control over what you can eat so ordering won’t be an issue. If you’re invited out to a dinner or other event, find out which restaurant they are going to and then follow the steps below to help you plan your menu options (or decide if you want to eat beforehand or not go at all).
2) Try Using A Gluten-Free Restaurant App
If you are in a new city or just trying to find somewhere new to eat, a great first stop is to download a gluten-free restaurant app like ‘Find Me Gluten-Free.’ These apps help you locate gluten-free establishments in the area where you are, or where you’re going to be. This app, importantly, boasts customer reviews, so there is a lot of great information you can get from actual diners. You can learn about the quality of the food/service/best dish(es)/worst dish(es) or if someone ate at the restaurant and had a reaction despite a gluten-free label.
3) Read The Menu Online Ahead Of Time (If Possible)
Check the menu online (if available) ahead of time and look for items that are labelled gluten-free (which is always helpful). It doesn’t matter if things are plainly labeled gluten-free or not, read through to see if anything stands out for you to eat. You want to look for things that are usually always gluten-free or something that can easily be made gluten-free. Salads can generally be safe, but you have to know the ingredients in the dressings, croutons and know how the protein is prepared (if applicable). Plain grilled steak, a roasted chicken, or seared fish are usually a pretty safe bet but always check.
4) Check The Allergy/Allergen Guide
This is great if you’re at a chain restaurant or fast food restaurant. You can either find this type of guide on their company website, or when you walk in, just ask for their allergy guide. The guide will tell you which allergens are present in each dish or component. It will alert you to gluten, wheat, soy, and other allergens. Unfortunately, this isn’t something small independent restaurants do, but it is a great resource for chains. This doesn’t eliminate issues with cross-contamination, which can still occur in the kitchen.
5) Call The Restaurant Ahead Of Time
Call the restaurant to see if you can speak with the chef, cook, or manager, and ask questions like:
- Can you accommodate gluten-free guests?
- Which dishes can you alter to accommodate a gluten-free guest?
- Or ask any other specific questions you may have.
I always ask if the sweet potatoes fries are gluten-free because they can often be coated in either cornstarch or flour before they’re fried. So I confirm if they’re dipped in flour. I’m also nightshade free, so I don’t eat white potatoes.
Asking these kinds of questions helps to cut down on some of the questions you may need to ask at the table, which depending on who you’re out with could cause you some embarrassment, discomfort, or just draw unwanted attention to yourself. If you’re out with people you don’t know well, do you really want to have them hear you ask the waitstaff 20 questions or make a slew of demands? Have you seen When Harry Met Sally?
6) Befriend The Wait Staff
You should always be courteous and gracious to waitstaff. When you have dietary restrictions you are relying on them to help you know what is safe for you to eat at the restaurant. Sometimes you can end up somewhere and you didn’t get to plan ahead-so be extra nice. The staff can tell you a lot, so don’t be afraid to ask them if they are sure or if they can please check in the kitchen, if they are unsure of the answer to your question. As long as you are courteous and kind, they won’t really mind you peppering them with questions. Just be nice about it and let them know why. Restaurants want to give you a great experience so just tell them, “I have a gluten allergy/sensitivity/celiac disease” – they will most likely try their best to accommodate you.
Following these 6 tips for gluten-free dining out should help take some of the guesswork out of eating out. Gluten-free dining out really boils down to preparation. You have to be willing to plan, ask questions, and do a little legwork, to be able to enjoy gluten-free restaurant dining and take out. It is is similar to our tips to help get you started and make going gluten-free easier.
Do you have any tips for gluten-free dining out to add to our list? Did you find these tips helpful? If you have a question about being gluten-free, or have a comment, or just want to say hi, please feel free to reach out in the comments below. We welcome hearing from you.
Cheers and here’s to enjoyable gluten-free dining out!