December 28, 2016 Updated July 11, 2018Categories: Eating Out
When you decide to eat gluten free it can often be a challenge to find restaurants to eat at, or at least to know what you can eat on their menu.
When you decide to commit to eating gluten free, there are some big categories of things that you just won't be able to eat in restaurants. Some examples follow, with a description of why they aren't good. We'll cover what you can eat later in the article.
Deep fried food - Deep fryers are generally used to fry everything, including those things with gluten, so you won't be able to have anything deep fried, as it will be cross contaminated.
Salad dressing - Most restaurants use packaged salad dressings. These are usually made with a number of gluten containing ingredients, so you'll have to avoid those.
Prepared meats - Such as ham, sausages, etc. These will most likely contain gluten containing ingredients, as well as other unhealthy substances such as nitrates, which are very unhealthy toxins. Also, things like chicken burgers or fish burgers made from ground chicken or fish will contain fillers and flavorings that often contain gluten.
Items with sauces - Any sauce not made from scratch will be highly likely to contain a number of gluten containing and non real substances, such as low quality oils, flavorings, fillers, etc.
Farm raised fish - Farm raised fish are often fed a variety of man made food, which often contain GMO products, and other artificial ingredients and can be contaminated with gluten. Farm raised Salmon are made red by feeding them artificial and often toxic chemicals. As well, restaurants have been found to be very high in lying about their wild fish, and passing off farmed fish for wild.
Sweets - Any commercially created sweet will likely contain gluten ingredients.
There pretty much is no fast food restaurant that will have anything good on their menu. In fast food restaurants, virtually nothing is fully prepared in the restaurant. Everything is made in factories. This is how they are able to have consistent food all across the country. This also allows them to have very low cost, unskilled workers prepare the food.
Now that you're all depressed with what you can't eat, what can you eat? And where can you find restaurants that will have more choices?Eating Out on a Budget:For those who are on a budget, you'll be able to eat probably only a couple things on the menu at affordable restaurants. You should take the time to find a couple that have something you can eat. Then, suggest those places to go with your friends, so you at least can have something other than a salad with oil and vinegar dressing.Be sure to make it absolutely clear to the serving staff and cooks that you absolutely must eat gluten free. You can even say you have an allergy, because people take allergies more serious than just saying gluten free. (Yes, I know that's not the correct terminology, but it works.) If possible, speak directly to the manager and chef ahead of time, during a slow time of day. If you ever get any kind of 'attitude' from the staff, like they are not taking you seriously, or they look clueless, then be safe and do not eat there. Risking your health is just not worth it.If you would like to have meat with your meal, then try to find a place that can prepare plain meat in a clean pan. You could then have a meal with your meat of choice, and add in some steamed veggies or a salad with some dressing you bring from home, or some squeezed lemon. If you can handle just having a salad instead of a full meal, you'll have more options. You may not have a fancy meal, but you can still eat out on a budget.Non Budget Dining:When your budget allows a bit more flexibility, you will have more choices. Some core things to look for will be restaurants that are dedicated gluten free, and advertise to be safe for those with Celiac disease. You want to find a place with a manager and chef that are open to your concerns, and are transparent in explaining how they prepare and source their ingredients. Restaurants that prepare all or most of the food themselves, from scratch will likely be the most knowledgeable. This is getting a lot easier to do as time goes by.Ask for recommendations from other people who eat a strict gluten free diet. Those people that are the most strict, can be the absolute best people to get recommendations from. You want to be warry of people who are lax in their gluten free food choices. Unfortunately this will be the majority of people. Many people just do not take it as seriously as they should.Food with Sauces:You'll want to ensure any sauces are not made with a mixed spice base, as these are notorious for being made with gluten containing ingredients. You want sauces that are made 100% from fully recognizable food and named single spices (labeled gluten free) or fresh.Salad Dressings:If you find a restaurant that makes their own salad dressing, ask what they use to make it. The spices used in salad dressings should be single spices, and be either fresh, or labeled gluten free. It's okay if there are several, you're just wanting to avoid premixed spices.Vegetables:You'll have to ensure that how they prepare them, and season them meets your standards. They need to be prepared in fresh water or a clean pan. You'll have to check what any sauces are made from, and that they are fully prepared from scratch with only gluten free ingredients. Steamed vegetables will be good, if fresh water is used.Oriental:If you're eating some Oriental food, you want to avoid soy sauce. This is mostly because many commercially prepared soy sauces are no longer made as truly fermented products any more, and are made with wheat. If you can get them to use Tamari, then you may be able to eat it. Tamari is more expensive, and not as popular, so it is much more likely to be made in the traditional fermented way, without wheat. Be sure to check the label to be absolutely certain. Be sure to also ask them to not use corn starch in the sauce they make, such as what is done when making a stir fry. Corn starch is often contaminated with gluten, unless it is labeled gluten free. Some places will have rice starch that they can use instead, if labeled gluten free. You will also need to ask some direct questions of the manager and chef and ensure they can segregate the preparation of your meal, and are able to cook it in clean pans with clean utensils.Sunshine Dining:If it's nice weather outside, you can also "eat out" without technically eating at a restaurant. There are many new trendy food kiosks, or places like Whole Foods, or upscale health food stores, or other types of very specialty food shops, where you can really find exactly what you're looking for. These can cater to very specific diets, and the staff are often very knowledgeable on how the foods are prepared. You can put together what you'd want for a meal, and take it to the park or some other nice area outside to enjoy it. If you're in an area with several of these, you can have a group of friends all eating completely different food, but you still get to spend time together.Closing Notes:With a bit of leg work, and some questioning, you can find a variety of places to eat out. You'll find that over time more of the restaurants will start to cater a bit more to specialty diets. Even places that currently don't. Restaurants do cater to their customers, and the more customers that ask for special items, the more likely they are to create something new to meet those needs.
Tell us about what places you've found, and what your experience was like in discovering your "eateries".
And tell us what you ate!Buon Appetito (Italian)Thora Toft