Tips for Eating Out with Celiac Disease

I love eating out at restaurants. As someone who is the worst cook known to mankind, restaurants are my go-to for filling, fun meals. When I eat out, I am always taking a risk…could I be glutened?!?! Yes, that is always a possibility, but I have some very important steps to prevent this. This is probably the most frequently asked question I receive from my readers so I figured it would helpful to post this as its own blog entry. This is intended for individuals who cannot handle cross contamination. 

Gluten free menu does not mean gluten free. You need to know this and keep this in mind when eating out. As long as the ingredients used do not contain gluten, anything can be called gluten free in restaurants. This means that cross contamination can occur and it would still be “gluten free.” This has made me very hesitant when eating out…but have no fear! There are several questions you can ask to assess whether something is truly safe for you to consume. This applies to pretty much any allergy.

1) “Do you have clean pots, fresh water, and clean colander for your gluten free pastas?” Seems like common sense right? But no. I have gone to numerous restaurants that say they have gluten free pasta! Yippee! Until I ask if the above question and am told that they share water or pots without cleaning….uh no!! 

2) “Do you have a dedicated gluten free fryer?” More times than I can count I have seen restaurants advertise gluten free French fries. However, when I call to ask if they have a dedicated fryer, I am told that no they do not. This fryer is shared with gluten containing foods! Not safe. This happened to me yesterday at an Indian restaurant—their vegetables are in chickpea batter (gluten free) yet fried in a fryer with items coated in flour. That was a no go for me.

3) “Do you have a seperate clean surface for gluten free food?” This is extremely critical for pizza places. I have had poor luck finding too many places that are celiac safe for pizza…even those reviewed online by gluten free individuals! Same surface as flour pizzas? Cross contamination galore!! Avoid at all costs. Also, check the grill…is your steak grilled on the same grill as the gluten bun? If so, ask them to clean it well before using. Dominoes nearly put me in ER in my early celiac days…this also happened in San Diego at a bakery that claimed that they had gluten free cupcakes…when asked this question, I was told that they use the same surface and utensils…without cleaning.

4) “Do you use seperate utensils?” This one is quite important for sandwich places…do they use the same sandwich knife for gluten sandwich as gluten free sandwiches??! You would be surprised.

5) “Do you have a seperate stash of ingredients for your gluten free menu items?” This is one I ask for pizzas and sandwich places. Why? Because for toppings where the staff touches gluten and then touches the toppings screams cross contamination. Think of tomatoes as an example..the staff grabs the bread and then grabs the tomatoes. This also applies to peanut butter, butter, and other spreads where knifes may be shared touching gluten and going back in the jar.

Here are five tips to start! I will keep adding more. 🙂 Always always ask how the staff handles cross contamination and what measures are in place! And communicate your allergy to them. It’s totally okay to ask the staff to double check to make sure something is gluten free. Hope this helps!!

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5 thoughts on “Tips for Eating Out with Celiac Disease

  1. This is a great list of questions to ask! I find that very often restaurants use shared fryers. This means not many places for tortilla chips and french fries. 😦 That’s why I love Chipotle and Five Guys for these things! Until recently I didn’t ask about whether they share pasta water for the gluten free pasta. I was surprised to find how many places do this. And don’t even get me started on Dominoes. Their pizza left me on the bathroom floor with nausea and pain all night, and while I was on vacation! I never really thought of asking about the utensils though, so that’s definitely something I’ll think about when I go out in the future.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks of reading!! 🙂 The fryers is such a bummer…but more and more places seem to be getting on board with getting a dedicated fryer (some Chick fil A have a dedicated fryer and their fries are wonderful!!!!). I’m sorry to hear about Dominos! I still have no idea how they can have “gluten free”—they are facing so many lawsuits because of it!! Chipotle is one of my favorites too–the one here always tries to get fresh ingredients for me from the back to avoid cross contamination, which I really appreciate. I haven’t had any problems with them yet!

      Glad I could help 🙂 The utensils part I learned late in the game when I kept getting sick from gluten free sandwiches. The surfaces is what gets me the most…usually if there is no dedicated area, restaurants have been super accommodating about cleaning the surface thoroughly and I am usually fine with that (especially if it isn’t loose flour!). One of my favorite crepe places does this for me and I’ve never had a problem. However, certain restaurants (*cough cough* Carraba’s *cough cough*) I manage to get glutened every single time I eat there!! Sigh…

      Liked by 1 person

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