Most people who have lived with celiac disease for a while have mastered choosing foods and cooking for themselves. Dining out, however, is an entirely different situation. Gluten is very obviously in the bread they serve and the breading on their fried chicken tenders, but it is hidden in lots of other restaurant meals as well. There are some important factors you must keep in mind before dining out if you have celiac disease.
Choose Your Restaurant Carefully
Sadly, an Italian restaurant with a menu full of pasta and pizza, both foods that are laden with gluten, is going to be very limiting in their options for a consumer with celiac disease. Some restaurants, on the other hand, have specific menu sections for gluten free foods. If you are dining out and have celiac disease, be sure to choose a restaurant that will have choices for you to eat.
Talk To Your Server
When you arrive at the restaurant, do not be afraid to tell your server that you are on a special diet due to celiac disease. He or she has likely worked with other customers with celiac disease and may be able to make some good suggestions. If this is not the case, choose a few dishes that sound good to you and ask how each is prepared. Pay attention to ingredients that are creamy or deep fried because these are clues that there may be wheat included in the recipe.
You may choose the best possible dish on the menu for your diet and it still may make you sick due to cross contamination. Make sure your server knows it is not enough with celiac disease to pick the croutons off of a salad; your salad cannot have touched croutons, and find out if the oil or utensils they use are also used to work with other foods that may have gluten in them. Do not be embarrassed or feel you are being a bother; it is well worth the effort to ensure that your meal does not exacerbate your celiac disease and make you feel very sick.
Do Not Make Assumptions
Foods that are naturally gluten free at home may not be gluten free in a restaurant, and if you have celiac disease, you cannot afford to take the chance. Scrambled eggs or omelets may contain pancake mix to make them fluffier, and if the mashed potatoes are instant rather than fresh, they will also contain gluten. Artificial seafood, artificial bacon bits, and canned soups and salad dressings may all have hidden gluten in them. Let your server know that you would like the cook to understand that you have celiac disease because the cook might know better which dishes have gluten in them.
You May Have To Settle For Your Second Or Third Choice
You must be prepared for the fact that your first and second choices from the menu are not celiac disease friendly. In fact, you may find that there are no good options on the menu. When this is the case, ask your server if the cook can simply sauté a fish fillet or chicken breast in olive oil and serve with steamed vegetables. If you are prepared for this before arriving at the restaurant, you will not have to sell yourself on the idea when your heart is set on a different dish. Sacrificing your first choice is far less painful than the celiac disease symptoms that will result if you are not cautious.