How to Eat Gluten Free at Fast Food Restaurants
Eating gluten-free at fast food restaurants is going to be difficult. If you are gluten-sensitive, I would try to avoid fast food restaurants. Even if you are not, fast food is not something that is healthy to eat on a regular basis.
However, sometimes when travelling there is little choice but fast food restaurants around and we have to make do with what we have. Also there are certain communities in food deserts where the only restaurants available are fast food.
So here are some tips on how to eat gluten-free on fast food restaurant.
Beware of gluten cross-contamination
Most fast food restaurants will have bread products. When workers are working fast and touching various food items and using the same food surfaces. It is likely that virtually everything in the fast food restaurants can be contaminated gluten molecule.
Now, this gluten cross-contamination is not going to be a problem with individuals that are just slightly gluten sensitivities. But for individuals with celiac disease or who are highly sensitive, this can be an issue.
You can try to request the food preparer to change the gloves while preparing your food -- that is if they wear gloves.
Hamburger Low-Carb and Protein Style
If you are gluten sensitive, you already know to avoid bread and pasta and cookies and pastries and brownies. So those are all out.
But you can order hamburger without bun and without dressing. Some restaurants call these "low-carb" style, because the carbohydrates are in the bread. Other call them "protein-style", because the meat is the protein. Some call it "lettuce wrapped", because they may wrap it with lettuce instead of bread if you specifically ask for that.
However, avoid the dressing on the hamburger because some commercial condiments does contain gluten. While many mustard and Ketchup are gluten free (such as French's mustard and Heinz Ketchup, you can not be sure what brand the fast food chains are using.
Some burger chains (such as The Counter Burger) have choice of ordering your burger on a salad and other have fries done in a separate gluten-free deep fryer.
Are French Fries Gluten Free?
Some are gluten-free and some are not. French fries are made from potatoes, which are naturally gluten free. However, the batter and the oil in which they fry them in may not be gluten free.
According to this blog post, it writes ...
"For example, the battering on the French Fries at Popeyes contains wheat, while the coating on the Burger King fries do not."
Plus the deep fryer could be contaminated by frying other gluten-containing foods or bread crumbs could have dropped into it.
Some restaurants have dedicated fryers to make their gluten free fries and they would indicate on their menu if their fries are gluten free. If not indicated on menu, then assume not.
Is Soda Gluten Free?
Yes, usually; but not always. Read more about it at celiacdisease.about.com.
While you may be able to find gluten-free french fries and gluten-free soda at fast food restaurants, that does not mean it is good to eat them on a regular basis.
Dr. Jonny Bowden wrote article on HuffingtonPost about the two worst food in the world. Can you guess what he said? Yep, you guessed it -- french fries and soda.
What about Salads?
Salads are a good choice only if you forgo the dressing. Most commercial salad dressing is likely to contain gluten.
Do Your Own Research Before Hand
Asking the fast food restaurant staff which product is gluten-free is probably of little help. The staff turns over relatively quickly and are not well trained in food sensitivities. More likely they will just come up with their best guess, which may often be wrong.
You would be better off doing your own research before hand. Many fast food restaurants are now posting gluten and allergen information on their website.
About.com has a good article listing some fast food restaurants gluten information.
Some Fast Food Restaurants
One of the better fast food places is Chipotle and they have detailed food allergen and gluten information on their food here.
Quoting, it writes ...
"Most people wanting to avoid gluten can eat anything we serve except for our large and small flour tortillas. ... However, you should know that it's possible our corn may have a small amount of gluten from potentially co-mingling with gluten-containing grains in the field."
With the above caveat, it shows that their soft flour tortilla has gluten. Their corn soft and hard taco shell does not. But make sure you ask specifically for the corn tortilla; otherwise they may give the flour tortilla, which does have gluten. Their burritos are made with the flour tortilla, so do not ask for the burrito style and ask for the bowl or salad style.
And their crispy corn chips and crispy corn tacos fine.
As for Kentucky Fried Chicken, no so good. I have seen numerous blogs about KFC and gluten.
This one says ...
"KFC is one of the scariest place for anyone with a gluten allergy or Celiacs disease to go to."
And take a look at this other article on HubPages
Certain Subway Sandwiches offer to make any of their sandwiches into a salad style without the bread. Just ask for only olive oil as dressing.
When Togo Sandwiches asks for what kind of bread, just say no bread and to put it on a plate.
You would think that it is difficult to eat gluten-free in an Italian restaurant, and you would be right with all that pasta. But Olive Garden has a gluten-free menu with gluten-free penne pasta. For your salad, remember to ask for no croutons and no dressing -- except for olive oil and balsamic vinegar (which they most certainly would have). After all, they are supposed to be an Italian restaurant.
GlutenFreeGuideHQ.com has gather 75 gluten-free menu from various restaurants.
Extreme Pizza have gluten-free crust available. And when getting it without any cheese, it can be dairy free as well. They get their crust from Still Riding Pizza which specializes in gluten-free pizzas. However, they do contain eggs (in case you are sensitive to eggs). You can search on their site for other restaurants by zip code that serves their gluten free pizza. California Pizza Kitchen has a gluten-free menu with gluten-free pizzas.
To find restaurants that are gluten-free friendly, visit PassportGlutenFree.com and FindMeGlutenFree.com In general, it is a bit difficult to eat gluten free at Chinese restaurants due to their use of soy sauce with contains gluten. But P.F. Chang's China Bistro has a gluten-free menu.
UrbanSpoon.com and other restaurant directories sometimes have tags as to which restaurants are gluten-free friendly.
GlutenFreeBar.com gave the chili at Wendy's a gluten-free confidence score of 7/10 where 10 being gluten-free.
This article was written in August 2013 and is only opinion gathered from the internet at the time of writing. This is not definitive information and can become outdated by the time you read this. Afterall, fast food chains can change their food formulas at any time. Information is based on fast food chains in the United States. The same chains in different countries can be entirely different.