Speaking to other coeliacs, and from my own experience, eating away from home can be one of the main worries for people, when it comes to successfully managing a gluten free diet. At home you have everything covered, your separate toaster, preparation area, equipment, butter pot, etc. – and therefore, you are confident, knowing whatever you prepare is completely gluten free. But eating out you are handing over this responsibility to somebody else, and understandably this can be a concern.
I love to eat out and have discovered some fabulous places over the years. And, although I have unfortunately been accidently ‘glutened’ on a couple of occasions when I have eaten out, thankfully, it hasn’t stopped me from still heading out to eat, as it’s one of my very favourite pastimes. I’m just extra cautious, and far more careful now. Fortunately, most places do get it right, and offer a great selection of safe gluten free delights for us coeliacs to tuck into. We are even blessed to have a couple of totally gluten free eateries in the UK.
It’s really good when gluten free options are clear on a menu, and in theory this should be perfect, and most of the time it is. But, unfortunately I have found that some dishes on gluten free menus are not necessarily guaranteed to be suitable for a coeliac, and therefore further questions need to be asked when ordering. On a few occasions when I have checked about the suitability of meals, I been advised that chips listed on a gluten free menu have been cooked in the same oil as gluten containing foods?? When I have explained that they are not then gluten free, I have been advised “ it depends on how sensitive you are”. This response really bothers me, as for any coeliac, food that has been affected by gluten cross contamination is not safe. Of course I will always politely explain this to a member of staff.
As much as I love an extensive menu, it would be best all round for catering establishments to work out what they can safely prepare gluten free and only offer those choices on their gluten free menu – the kitchen and customer both know exactly where they are at then. And when food is ordered from a gluten free menu, the chef will appreciate the importance of the dish being so, and prepare it accordingly – I know this is mostly the case. So, as much as I love my chips, if there isn’t a separate fryer to cook them in they should be missed off a gluten free menu.
Quick check list to help you eat out safely and keep that pesky gluten out of your diet………
- Keep your own little list of places that serve you up great gluten free grub – they are the perfect ‘safety net’ places to eat!
- Eat out at recommended places – Check out google and tripadviosr, chat to other coeliacs and look out for places displaying coeliac accredited stickers. Even then, you will still need to ask the relevant questions when ordering.
- Call up before you visit to eat and have a natter with the manager or ideally the chef who will actually be preparing your food. Even better pop in to have a face to face chat to ensure they have the full understanding of a gluten free diet.
- No matter how often you eat somewhere, still always check suitability for your diet. Staff and ingredients change and something that was OK previously , may not be now.
- Ask more questions if not convinced all is well – I have done this on several occasions, and was so glad I did, as once I was given a meal that wasn’t gluten free and then another time a meal was served with ‘standard’ onion rings (don’t be tempted to eat a meal that has been contaminated with gluten, request a fresh meal). Both times the restaurants were great and the meals were returned to the kitchen and a fresh one brought out for me.
- Even when a menu states gluten free you need to of course always cover the cross-contamination element too, asking questions like, “do you use a separate fryer, chopping boards, toaster, utensils, butter and condiments, are your dressings gluten free, etc?”
- Dont forget to check drinks. Especially hot ones like hot chocolate (I have also come across some tea’s that contain gluten). Sometimes cafes use oat milk that is not gluten free, so double check about this and if it is the case, ensure the steamer has had a good clean before they froth your milk. Also double check the sprinkles being dusted on your cappuccino, they are not always gluten free. That goes for marshmallows too. And watch out for that pesky biscuit that may have been popped on your saucer – don’t eat it unless you have been advised it’s a special one just for you and it is gluten free!!
- Chat to staff about the coeliac condition to help pass on a better understanding.
- If in doubt leave it out.
It’s great to eat out, sharing special times with friends and family. The more we do it the more we spread the gluten free word and we all get to experience some pretty amazing food! Big thanks to all those lovely places that offer super service and delicious gluten free food – your magic!
Love to hear your gluten free tips for eating out.