Following a gluten-free diet can be challenging, especially when dining out. Even something like salad isn’t so simple when you consider the risks of cross-contamination. Fortunately, the number of restaurants with gluten-free friendly meals and menus is increasing. At the same time, most of these restaurants are not 100% gluten-free. It still requires some detective work to figure out whether a restaurant can accommodate your needs. We have outlined six steps to help you navigate this process.
Pick Your Place
Start by searching online for gluten-free friendly restaurants near you. Two websites we suggest are findmeglutenfree.com and allergyeats.com. You can download the app for these search tools for free on your mobile app store.
Review the Menu
You’ll want to figure out how gluten-free items are identified. Is there a gluten-free menu or are items on the regular menu marked gluten-free? If not, are there naturally gluten-free items (e.g., steak or salad) that can be prepared safely (e.g., without cross-contamination)? This will help you narrow down the options.
It may be helpful to call ahead and discuss menu items over the phone. Most restaurants want to accommodate, they just need to be aware of your needs and have time to prepare accordingly. Questions to ask may include:
- Are fries cooked in a separate fryer?
- Is gluten-free soy sauce used?
- Are soups, sauces, or dressings thickened with any flour?
- Are there croutons or crispy noodles on salads?
Place your Order
Explain to the server clearly and kindly that your meal must be gluten-free. Share that this is for medical reasons and that consuming gluten may cause a serious reaction. Ask them to note it as an allergy on the order. It may also be helpful to share a dining card with specifics that can be shown to the chef (see a sample below).
Observe Your Plate
Always look over at what’s been served before eating. Double-check that you received what was ordered.
Enjoy the Meal
You have taken every step to minimize your risk of accidentally eating gluten. Check-in with yourself. Are you relaxed? If not, take a few deep breaths. It’s important to savor the flavors and the experience! DH