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A Guide to Eating Out Gluten Free

Updated on July 31, 2012
1 in 10 people suffer from some form of gluten sensitivity.
1 in 10 people suffer from some form of gluten sensitivity. | Source

Gluten Alergies and Dining Out

As Celiac disease and gluten allergies become more prominent, restaurants have begun to cater to an increasing number of customers who are committed to a gluten free diet. However, a lot of the responsibility for a maintaining a healthy lifestyle and commitment to a gluten free diet while dining out also falls to those who have allergies to gluten.

When any restaurant knows of an allergy they will usually make every effort to accommodate it. There may be some grumbling from the kitchen, but the fact is it is easier to put in a slight effort to avoid an allergy than it is to deal with the consequences of someone having an allergic reaction in the middle of a dinner service. However, as gluten allergies are a relative new to the restaurant world, how to address the issue correctly is not always something that a restaurant is able to handle appropriately. Thus, one should always try to stay as informed as possible on what may trigger a reaction.

Make sure the staff knows as soon as possible that you suffer from Celiac disease or have a gluten allergy.The sooner that the staff knows about an issue and its severity, the easier it will be for them to accommodate your needs. If you are just trying a gluten free diet make sure that they know you aren't allergic as well. There are much different considerations when dealing with an allergy as opposed to a health oriented diet. Trace amounts of gluten will still create havoc in someone with Celiac disease where as a health based gluten free diet will not notice in the least.

Wheat is the most basic source of gluten in our diets
Wheat is the most basic source of gluten in our diets | Source

Know the basics

Celiac disease affects 1 out of 133 people in the country and gluten sensitivity is estimated to affect up to 10% of the population.When someone with Celiac disease consumes gluten the body has an autoimmune response that attacks the villi of the small intestine. This causes incredible discomfort and an array of gastrointestinal problems that can lead to long term health issues. Gluten sensitivity does not damage the villi however the same uncomfortable effects are felt.

If you have Celiac disease or a gluten allergy you must know the basic foods that you can have and those to avoid before ever setting foot in a restaurant. It is easy to walk into a restaurant and assume that they have a firm grasp on which products contain gluten. However, not every server or chef is up to date with this knowledge. Going out to eat means that when looking at a menu you need to identify what your best options are and what areas to avoid .

Know the Hidden Sources of Gluten and Make Sure The Restaurant Does too!

OK, so the first part is obvious, but there are many foods that have hidden sources of gluten, or those that present a high risk. Sauces with soy, thickeners, seasoning blends, stuffing, and coatings are all areas where many chefs overlook or forget about the presence of gluten. Any pre-made products (such as desserts) or frozen food that is not house made should be looked at skeptically. The fryer is another hidden source of gluten, do they fry only french fries, or does the restaurant have breaded appetizers or other sources of gluten that enter the fryer.

Always ask if there is any doubt in your mind about what is gluten free. If the chef or server cannot answer more definitive than an "I think this is gluten free" then its best to avoid it or the restaurant all together. A restaurant should know what is in its products, even those mass volume American style restaurant's should have some idea of what they can serve you. It may mean they have to look at the ingredients label on those frozen pre-made products, but the information should be there for you.

Remember, while many people may think that you are just being picky or snobbish, a gluten allergy is incredibly frustrating when triggered, and the sickness it causes is not something that you should sacrifice yourself for if a restaurant staff cannot tell you what you are eating. Choosing a restaurant based on price may is not the best option when suffering from Celiac disease or a gluten allergy.


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    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 5 years ago from San Francisco

      Wow, does 10% of the population really suffer from gluten sensitivity? That's far more than I thought! As I have several gluten intolerant and sensitive (as well as vegetarian, vegan, and picky) friends, I know how hard it can be to find a place to eat out where everyone will be happy. Thanks for the great tips!