Dining out with any sort of dietary limitation can be a challenge, to say the least. You have to have an eye for ingredients to avoid, and you have to be willing to ask questions. Sometimes, you even have to deal with the potential awkwardness of not finding anything on the menu that you can eat. Dining out with Celiac Disease can be especially challenging.
Generally speaking, there are two reasons to avoid certain foods in your diet. The first reason can be if you choose to lead a certain diet for health reasons. For example, you can avoid foods with saturated fat, foods that are high in carbohydrates, or eat only plant-based foods, to mention a few. The goal of these dietary patterns may be to lose weight, achieve a certain physique, or simple to make healthier choices.
In this “category” of dietary restriction, you are making a choice. If you decide to have a cheat day, or to make an exception, there won’t be any immediate or serious effect on your health.
The second reason to avoid eating certain foods can be because of a serious health condition. In this case you can’t make exceptions or have ‘cheat days’. Making an exception once, or even eating certain foods accidentally, can result in serious consequences. This is the case for people who have allergies or serious sensitivities, like people with Celiac disease.
Eating out is much more difficult when you must be extra careful about what your foods is made with or touches.
Do you have celiac disease and know exactly how it feels to struggle when eating out? We feel you!
This article will serve as a quick guide for people with Celiac disease on how to eat out.
5 Steps to Dining Out with Celiac Disease
To make it easier, we’ve developed a 5-step process to eating out with Celiac disease.
Step 1: Choosing a Restaurant
Some restaurants are much more gluten-free friendly than others. Next time you are discussing which restaurant to go to in your group chat, it will be useful to have a few guidelines in mind.
Mainstream fast food restaurants aren’t very Celiac friendly. They have a small menu with basic options, and they are meant to cater to the general population. Sometimes they offer “lighter” menu options, but they will rarely offer gluten-free options.
Smaller, community restaurants are usually much more conscientious about offering a menu that caters to common dietary restrictions. Since gluten-free diets have become popular, even among people without celiac disease, it is much easier to find at least a few gluten-free options in smaller, health-conscious restaurants.
Vegan and vegetarian restaurants are another good option and they will usually offer a greater variety of gluten-free options than most.
Step 2: Deciphering the Menu
As you know, if you have Celiac disease you cannot eat foods that contain gluten.
What foods have gluten? Gluten is a protein that is found in wheat, and it is what is responsible for bread’s spongy texture. Sometimes, other grains like oats, rye, and barley may also contain wheat if they are processed in a factory where cross-contamination occurs.
So, when looking at the menu, some restaurants may list certain food items as “gluten-free”. This will make you job a lot easier. However, if they don’t highlight gluten-free options, they may still have gluten free options. You need to discard any options that contain bread or flour. These include croutons, sandwiches, hamburgers, pita bread, and wheat tortillas. Some soups will also contain flour used as a thickener, so you may need to avoid creamy soups to be on the safe side.
Step 3: Double Checking
Once you have narrowed it down to a choice or two, make sure to ask the waiter if the item contains wheat. Explain that you have celiac disease and eating wheat will make you very ill. If they look unsure, ask them to please ask the chef if the food contains wheat or has come into contact with wheat.
If your dish of choice contains another grain, you can ask if it is certified gluten free. If they aren’t sure, it is best to avoid it and switch out any iffy sides.
Step 4: Choosing a Dish
This is pretty straight forward; you have checked out the options, and doubled checked with the waiter or chef, so you can go ahead and make your choice.
Step 5: Enjoy!
Once your meal comes, check it out to see if it is what you asked for. Make sure there are no surprises like croutons or wheat tortilla strips. If there are, ask that they change it. If you feel comfortable, stress that you have a condition where you cannot eat anything with wheat. When people are aware that it is an issue of health, they will likely be much more sensitive to your request.
If all looks good, enjoy!
As always, there is a small risk of things going the wrong way, even when you are careful about what is on your plate. Be aware of any short-term symptoms of having eaten wheat, like bloating, pain, cramps, or diarrhea. If you experience these symptoms, call your doctor and ask what steps you should take.
However, you should not let celiac disease keep you from enjoying the company of your family and friends out on the town. You may have to be more aware of what is in your food that most people, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy dining out with Celiac Disease. Over time, you will identify favorite restaurants that have several delicious gluten-free options than everyone can enjoy!