Sticking to a gluten free diet is much easier when you prepare your own food and snacks. You can buy ingredients you know are gluten free, and prepare them without any “forbidden” ingredients. But does sticking to a gluten free diet mean you can never eat in a restaurant again?
The short answer is “yes”, you can. You can enjoy restaurant meals, you just need to be vigilant about both the food you order, and the way that food is prepared. Following are a few tips to ensure that you enjoy your meal, and that you don’t suffer for it afterwards:
- Let your waiter know you have a food allergy. Sometimes, the chef will use ingredients that are not on the menu to prepare your food. By letting your waiter know, you can alert the kitchen staff early, and they will be better prepared to accommodate your needs.
- Order foods that are traditionally gluten free: meats, potatoes, rice, un-sauced veggies, and salad are all naturally gluten free, so it is a good idea to start with a choice from one of these categories.
- Avoid foods with “gluten” words: The following words usually signify gluten has been used in the preparation: breaded, fried(possibly), tempura, sautéed (can be made gluten free easily), cream soups, most vegetable or cheese based soups, casseroles, stews, most sauces, particularly white or light sauces, “parmigiana”(indicates breading), some stir frys, and virtually all pastas and breads.
- Foods that need to be prepared when they are ordered, like steak and other meats, are better choices that pre-made foods like soup. Your order can be easily custom prepared if it is something they cook one at a time anyway.
- Since you already have one restriction, don’t be as concerned about fat or calories, if you try to eat a gluten free meal that is also low cal and fat free, you are going to end up with a plate of plain lettuce.
- Ask for recommendations: If you are in a fine dining establishment, ask for a recommendation. If there is a chef on hand, he or she may be able to easily come up with something wonderful for you and it will be easier for them to suggest something they have on hand and can easily modify than make an existing entrée to fit a gluten free diet.
- Call ahead: If you are making reservations, let the restaurant know that you have special dietary concerns. They may be able to come up with something for you in advance. Letting them know early makes it easier for them to accommodate your gluten free diet needs.
Most good restaurants are likely to accommodate your needs, after all, a happy customer is one who will return again and again. Usually, the higher quality the establishment, the more likely they are to be able to accommodate your gluten free diet, they will have better trained cooks, more ingredients on hand, and more of an eye towards customer service.