How to Dine Out When You Have Celiac Disease
Guest post by Amy Richards
So you found out from your doctor that you — or your partner, or your child, or your best friend – can no longer eat gluten. With a growing awareness of celiac disease and of gluten sensitivity, more people are becoming aware that the “stomach ache” that they always get isn’t necessarily normal, and are going to their doctor to find out what it is.
photo: ppacificvancouver, flickr
But back to the situation. You (for all intents and purposes, let’s say it’s you that are the one affected by celiac disease) can no longer eat gluten. So your social life is shot, right?
If you’re more likely to hang out at a bar and drink your glutenous substances, then yes, you’re going to have to switch your default drink from beer to something a bit harder…but even then, there are a number of gluten-free beers out there. Really. Here’s an alternative.
But we aren’t here to talk about the bar scene – we’re here to talk about everyone’s guilty pleasure…and wallet-emptier – dining out. Who says that you can’t go out to restaurants when you have a gluten allergy or sensitivity? Nobody.
But you are likely to encounter a few more obstacles than your typical diner…bu still, it’ll be worth it to not have to cook for an evening a week, right? To just sit back and relax with those close to you without having to worry about the food preparations? I thought so.
What follows are a few guidelines to not stress so much about dining out with a gluten allergy.
Before You Go
Oh, the wonders of technology. The internet has allowed us so many things, and the ability to do them quite quickly. Finding a celiac friendly restaurant is one of them. Most restaurants these days have their menus posted online – and if they have an alternate gluten-free menu, it will probably be online as well. So don’t be afraid to take full advantage of this information, and peruse the menu before you sit down, with the pressure of ordering.
There are also a lot of gluten-friendly resources that can point you in the right direction, if you don’t have any way of determining where the celiac-friendly restaurants are in your area. Resources include:
- glutenfreerestaurants.com (operated by the Gluten Intolerance Group of North America)
And if you have any questions about the menu or preparation, call ahead during off-peak hours and do your darnedest to actually speak to the chef and speak to him or her about your dietary needs. After all, a restaurant is in the business of pleasing its customers.
When You Get There
So you’ve taken the leap, and have decided to go out to a restaurant that you’ve screened ahead of time.
Once you’re actually there, you should probably be prepared to take the time to educate your server about celiac disease, and to be able to quickly and easily translate the specifications of your condition to your waitstaff. Aim for an “elevator speech” – 3 sentences of explanation, at the most.
Even if you are at a celiac-friendly restaurant, most likely not everything on their menu is going to be able to be prepared gluten free. So have a back-up choice for your entree and be flexible – work with your server and possibly even the chef to figure out what meal is going to best accommodate your needs and tastes – do what you can to be cooperative.
After You Leave
Hopefully your evening went well and smoothly and you were able to enjoy your night out away from the kitchen. And if that’s the case – this is a restaurant you’re going to want to tell all your gluten-free friends about. But really, if you find a restaurant that works for you and your diet, keep going back. Become a regular patron, and by continuing to go to that restaurant, you will be “voting with your fork,” and possibly encouraging more restaurants in the area to follow suit with the celiac-friendly menu options.
While it may sound like a lot of preparation goes into dining out with celiac disease or while gluten-sensitive, it’s mostly about being prepared to articulate your dietary restrictions to your hosts. You’re not an obnoxious client who wants the menu changed to his every whim, you are a client who is looking to enjoy a meal, but happens to maintain some strict dietary requirements. These are two very different scenarios – and as long as you are courteous and gracious, the waitstaff and chef should be more than happy to accommodate.
Amy Richards is a freelance writer who has loved ones with celiac disease. She likes to give them gluten free gift baskets when they make her smile, which is often. She hopes that everyone finds a way to integrate celiac disease into their life, and not let it dictate life.