How to Dine Out Safely with a Celiac Child
Celiac is an autoimmune disease that is also called celiac sprue. It is most likely an inherited disease though this has not been proven one hundred percent. People with celiac cannot tolerate, nor eat, anything with gluten in it. Gluten is a protein found in so many things I don't have time to list them here, but, the main culprit is wheat. Celiac disease symptoms vary from person to person and can include; gas, diarrhea, fatigue, itchy skin rash, joint pain, poor weight gain, and others. Symptoms may be mild or severe which often makes it difficult to diagnose. Children who have a parent with celiac or have Type 1 diabetes or down syndrome are more likely to develop celiac.
The only treatment for celiac disease is to remove gluten from the diet. While it is a difficult disease for adults to live with it is especially difficult for children. Imagine being at a birthday party when everyone else is eating cupcakes or birthday cake...and you can't! A gluten free diet for children is more than difficult, it is inconvenient and often makes children feel 'different', but it must be done. Fortunately more and more gluten free food is available.
Good old hamburger!
Eating Out With Celiac
Before you can eat out with your child, it is important to know what the celiac diet is made up of. Its tough, especially for children. You must avoid wheat, barley, rye, and even oats due to the processing of oats. Very often children, and adults, with celiac develop an intolerance to lactose so dairy may be on the forbidden list as well. While eating out may sound somewhat easy at first glance, it can actually be very difficult . The child with celiac cannot have any of the things mentioned but the hard part is, some of the 'allowed' foods are cooked with foods that are NOT allowed thereby contaminating them and making them not allowed. Did you follow that? For example, a child with celiac cannot eat french fries that were cooked in the same oil as bread coated chicken or fish because the bread coating can stick to the french fries. It is hard to understand if you don't have celiac but sometimes just one crumb can trigger symptoms and serious health problems.
What to do? First, look for restaurants that provide gluten free options. Thankfully there are more and more of them available. Thanks to the Internet, the search is easier now than in the past. Look for restaurants that have separate gluten free menus. For example, 99 Restaurants have gluten free hamburger buns. They do not have gluten free french fries but will substitute potato chips. Bugaboo Creek Steakhouse has a gluten free menu. Another chain offering gluten free is California Pizza Kitchen. Note, however, they do not have gluten free pizza.
Another place is Cheeseburger in Paradise. They have both gluten free hamburger buns and gluten free french fries! Kona Grill has a gluten free menu as does the Old Spaghetti Factory. However, the Spaghetti Factory has a limited menu and charges $.75 more for gluten free.
So where do you get this information? There are many Internet sites including glutenfreerestaurants.org, celiacrestaurantguide.com, glutenfreetravelsite.com/restaurants, to name just a few.
Gluten Free Pizza
http://celiacdisease.about.com/u/ua/socializingwithoutgluten/ReadersFavoritePizzas.htm has a list of places to find gluten free pizza. Imagine never being able to eat pizza again? This list contains pizza places and restaurants that offer gluten free.
AVOID - Things with Gluten
- Soy Sauce
- Glue on envelopes
- Some vitamins
- Bar soap
- Some shampoo and conditioner
If you are in doubt about a restaurant, you can contact them on the Internet or call them to find out if they have gluten free. I wanted to eat at The Texas Road House, well, actually I wanted to eat their barbecue ribs, however, when I contacted them they told me their barbecue sauce is not gluten free. Local restaurants are always easy to contact and most are very cooperative.
I have also found, aside from a gluten free diet, most places have hamburgers and you could bring your own bun. Order a plan hamburger with no bun and use your gluten free bun from home. Speaking of buns, this may be a little off topic but if you have a child with celiac you may appreciate it. Udi's makes a great gluten free hamburger and hot dog roll.
While eating in a Chinese restaurant is a no-no, there are now Chinese restaurants that offer gluten free. The culprit is usually the soy sauce, which suprisingly to most, contains gluten. I found a Chinese restaurant in northern New Jersey that uses Tamari, which is a wheat free soy sauce substitute. If I could find it, hopefully you can too.
Over the last ten years the offerings for gluten free have increased more than ten fold and not wanting to lose customers, restaurants have been jumping on the bandwagon. If you are traveling, when you stop in a strange restaurant ask if they have a gluten free menu, you'll be surprised at how many do.
I hope this has been helpful and that you find foods your child can enjoy at many restaurants.
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