Gluten free life: Eating out

Delicious rissoto starter at La Boheme, Lymm.

Updated 30th January 2021

Speaking to other coeliacs, and from my own experience, eating out is one of the main worries for people, when it comes to successfully managing a gluten free diet. The thing is, at home you’re  in your own comfort zone. And should you share a kitchen, you will have a good system in place to prevent cross contamination.

Simple things like; using a separate toaster, butter pot, chopping board, dedicated gluten free fryer and preparing gluten free food on a freshly wiped down surface are all a must when it comes to safely catering for anybody requiring a gluten free diet and when eating out, you need to be confident that these procedures are firmly in place. 

The great news is, there are plenty of places that can cater safely for a gluten free diet. But you’ll need to do your research and still communicate well with the establishment prior to tucking in to ensure that all is good to go!

I love to eat out and have discovered some fabulous places over the years. And, although I have unfortunately been accidentally ‘glutened’ on a couple of occasions, 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.

Gluten free options still need checking

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.

No worries if the menu is short…as long as it’s safe

As much as I love an extensive menu, it would be best all round for individual 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 importantly it supports the chef too, as it gives a clear indication from the order that the meal they are preparing needs to be 100% gluten free.

So to all you lovely catering establishments. As much as I love my chips, if you aren’t able to fry them in a gluten free fryer then keep them off your gluten free menu.

Goats cheese starter at 1539 Chester

Quick check list to help you eat out safely and keep that pesky gluten out of your diet:

  • Make a list of your favourite places that serve up great gluten free grub. Of course still do your usual checks each time you visit.
  • Eat out at recommended places. Check out google and trip advisor, chat to other coeliacs and look out for places which display coeliac accredited stickers. But do still always ask the relevant questions when ordering.
  • Call up before you planned visit 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.
  • Go with your gut instincts and ask more questions if you’re not convinced all is well. I’ve 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 which 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 onto 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 your experience of living with coeliac disease to help pass on a better understanding of the condition.
  • If you’re 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 – you’re  magic!

What tips do you have to ensure all is well when eating out?

Liz x

One thought on “Gluten free life: Eating out

  1. James Wallis says:

    Excellent article for coeliacs eating out and managing a gluten free diet. Your checklist is perfect for anyone who is looking to safely eat out gluten free. Great article, thank you.

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