For anyone who has been diagnosed with celiac disease or knows someone with celiac disease, it's a very complicated and challenging disease to deal with. While it might be easier to adapt to a lifestyle at home and completely rid your life of any gluten products, when it comes to dining out it's not that easy. If you're suffering from celiac disease or know someone who is, follow these tips the next time you have the inclination to go out to dinner.
Just as you would with any other dietary needs or restrictions, you need to call ahead before dining out with celiac disease. Don't be afraid to make a phone call to the restaurant of your choice and ask questions before dining there.
Some questions you can ask include asking whether or not they have a separate gluten-free menu, what their gluten-free menu options are, ask if they know what gluten is and ask if the business has completed a gluten-free training program. All of these questions will help you in your quest to find a restaurant that you feel 100% comfortable with visiting and dining out. The hardest part is asking, and after that you might just find your newest favorite restaurant!
After you've made your phone call and you've determined which restaurant fits your needs best, ask your server plenty of questions. Before ordering, always ask how the dish is prepared, see if they use any spice blends or mixed, if flour or soy sauce is in the dressing/sauce/batter/base, and how they garnish the dish.
Another important and critical question to ask is how they avoid cross-contamination with gluten-containing ingredients. Ask questions like do you separate prep space for gluten-free food? Do you use separate cookware and utensils for gluten-free food? Do you clean the grill? Do you use a dedicated fryer for gluten-free options? These can all help determine the experience you'll have at this particular restaurant.
After you're finally served, you might feel like it's finally time to dive into your dish, but not quite! Before taking your first bite, ask the server if what's in front of you is gluten-free. If there's something on your plate that looks like it might be gluten or there's something in your dinner that the waitstaff didn't mention, ask to speak to the manager or the chef. It's something as simple as explaining that you suffer from celiac disease and let them know that if there are any traces of gluten in your food, you will be sick. This will not only give you experience in the future at other restaurants, but it will help restaurant managers and chefs learn the importance of offering gluten-free menu items to customers.
While it might seem like a lot of work now, living a gluten-free lifestyle doesn't have to be as difficult as everyone thinks. As long as you're diligent about asking questions and building relationships with various restaurants, you'll go through something like this once and then you'll be able to trust them for future dining experiences. If there's one thing I want to stress, it's to not be afraid to ask questions. In the end, the only one who will end up hurting is you, so be smart! Just ask.
Felicia Walkins is a freelance writer and lover of all things food. After her best friend was diagnosed with celiac disease, she's learned to understand the lifestyle changes that come with this, especially when it comes to dining out. Luckily for them, there are many restaurants in NJ that accommodate a gluten-free lifestyle and they hope to educate others who might not be as lucky.
*Image courtesy Flickr creative commons.