In a perfect world you wouldn’t have to worry whether you’ll be able to eat when you go to a restaurant, but unfortunately for those who suffer from celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, that is not a luxury. Every time you go out to eat you must make your health the priority. Choose a restaurant that you know will have gluten free options and make sure you ask all the right questions if you aren’t sure. If you can, look up the menu online before you go or call ahead of time to ask about gluten free options, it will give you a better idea of what you’re walking into.
Many national restaurant chains list their allergen information online, which will usually tell you if they have gluten free menu items. Some restaurants have a separate gluten free menu, which is awesome! So without further due, here are a few important questions that you need to ask your server when going out to eat.
Do you have a gluten free menu or list of items that contain gluten?
If you’ve already done your research by going online beforehand, then you may not need to ask this question. Although, if you went online and didn’t find the answers you were looking for (a gluten free menu) then you will want to ask the server. I like to ask immediately when I walk into the restaurant, as the host/hostess is asking “How many?” to seat my table, I kindly ask “Do you have a gluten free menu?” and if the restaurant does then I will get it right away, and if not then I have already put the word out there that I will need extra attention from the server. Extra attention may sound like a bad thing, but when you have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, you want as much attention as possible on your food order! It is your health and body on the line after all!
If you were able to get a gluten free menu, then fabulous! But, in the scenario where you weren’t given a list of gluten free options, here are a few more questions to clearly and kindly ask your server.
Do you have a separate fryer for food items that have gluten?
Depending how in tune your server is with the term “gluten free”, you may have to ask in a simpler way such as “Do you use the same fryer for your fries as you do chicken nuggets (chicken strips, fish strips, calamari, chimichangas, sopapillas, fried chicken, or anything else deep fried that would require any type of flour or breading/coating)”. If only the fries are put in the fryer, then great, the fries are likely to be gluten friendly.
Another food item to be careful with is chips. At restaurants that have chips and salsa on the table to snack on, or have menu items with chips, make sure you ask if the chips are put in the fryer. Many restaurants do put their chips in the same fryer as other deep fried items that contain flour.
How is it cooked?
Is it breaded, deep fried, battered, stuffed, blackened, grilled, broiled, baked? Red flag words would be breaded, fried, battered, stuffed, because it most likely has been prepared with flour. When you see blackened, grilled, broiled, baked, it may be ok with further questioning.
What type of seasoning is used?
Many seasonings contain wheat starch or some sort of filler that contains gluten. The server may have to ask the chef/cook for more information on the seasonings being used, and if you can’t get a good answer then ask if you can get your food unseasoned.
Does it come with a sauce or gravy?
Just like the seasoning, you want to make sure there’s no gluten hiding in any sauces. Unless specified as gluten free gravy, assume it contains gluten. Flour is often used as a thickener for heavy sauces such as gravy. If you can’t get a good answer as to whether a sauce contains gluten, then ask if you can order the dish without the sauce.
This also applies to salad dressings. Some dressings, such as an Asian vinaigrette, may be made with soy sauce or have wheat starch as a filler. If you aren’t sure then you may want to ask for oil and vinegar as a dressing (just make sure its not malt vinegar!!).
Can you make sure there’s no cross contamination?
Even if the sauce, seasoning, and food are all gluten free, if your food is prepared on a surface or with utensils that are contaminated by gluten, you could still get sick. Keep yourself healthy and stress to your server the importance of keeping your food uncontaminated.
I was recently at a restaurant that serves pizza, with an option for a gluten free crust. I told my server that I would like to order the gluten free pizza, but I need to make sure it’s prepared on a clean surface without a chance of it touching any flour or gluten from the other pizza. It took a few times of repeating myself until she fully understood what I was asking. But she assured me that it would be taken care of and my pizza would be prepared on a clean tray that would not touch the area of the other pizzas, just in case there are remnants of gluten. My server was happy that she could help!
Does it come with bread, croutons…?
Now that you know your food will be gluten free, you want to make sure nothing will be put on your plate that has gluten. Certain dishes may come with a side of bread or crackers. Ask your server what your food comes with, bread, garnish, anything? If you ordered a salad make sure it doesn’t come with croutons or crackers on it.
Going out to eat gets easier with time and experience as a gluten free eater. Don’t think its the end of the world if you can’t eat certain dishes. Embrace the food you can eat!
Use your judgement when eating at a restaurant. If you don’t trust the server’s answers to your questions, then don’t risk it. Unfortunately, there will be some servers out there who are less willing to get your questions answered. Its ok though, you don’t have to eat the food to please your server or whoever you are dining with. Be true to yourself and your body. Treat your body well and it will treat you well!
Have anything to add? Let me know, comment below!