So you've been diagnosed with celiac, gluten sensitivity or gluten intolerance and your friends have invited you to hang out at that classy restaurant downtown. You can not help but feel a little fear and anxiety rise in your throat at the thought of eating out. What if the restaurant has no gluten-free accommodations? What if you accidently get “glutened”? What if, what if, what if? The reality of dining out suddenly makes meeting your friends not so much fun and this absolutely sucks! When I was first diagnosed, I had become so suspicious and wary of restaurants that I avoided them completely. In the long run, it was cheaper but my social life became seriously impaired.
For the most part, I would stay stay in and cook my own food. But after months of living gluten free, I realized that eating out was not so hard as previously thought. Here are some tips that I've come across while ditching the fear of getting “glutened” and actually living.
Heading to that yummy Asian location?
I learned this one the hard and painful way. Asian food can be tricky and unless you're not having the completely authentic oriental dish, I wish you good luck in NOT getting glutened. Most Chinese takeout involves heavy gluten, from the soy sauce to deep fried anything. My hubby likes to take me to a great Chinese restaurant down the street from our apartment and I always stick with one dish. Rice with bamboo, garlic sauce, carrot, chicken, sprinkled with cashews and cilantro. Yum! I knew that this dish was safe because of the clean ingredients, of course I doubled and tripled checked with the waiter of the restaurant but anything with rice is reliably safe. Sometimes, I even bring my own gluten free soy sauce.
If you're really pinning for Asian food, then I suggest avoiding Chinese, since soy sauce is in almost every dish. My recommendations would be Thai and Vietnamese because most of the dishes offered are naturally gluten free.
Fries, wedges, chips, you name it …
If you're anything like me, I'm always down to eat anything potato related. It's cheap, fast and everywhere. When I first came to Berlin, I was amazed with the amount of potato dishes that I could indulge in, of course this was before I was properly diagnosed so when I needed to make the gluten food cut, my heart broke at the thought of departing with the common street food.
French fries and wedges are notorious for being covered in wheat flour, this is so that they do not clump together when they're frozen. If you're wondering if you can take the risk, the one clue to look for would be if they look like they're covered in a crispy texture. The freshly served ones look different in the way that they are simply cut and fried. Beside, anything that has been deep fried is a red flag to stay away!
Do not be afraid to speak up!
This is something you need to learn right from the start. Not being shy to speak up to the waiter, chef or even owner of the restaurant. At the end of the day, it's your health that matters. Ask for a gluten free menu, ask if a certain dish is safe to eat, ask if they can double check with the chef. Ask, ask, ask. Sometimes before I go to a restaurant with friends, I call the location in advance to see if they have gluten free options. This will not only give you a sense of security but also avoid the entire double checking if the dish is gluten free fiasco. Now-a-days, most restaurants will have an extra allergy free menu to give but if you're in a foreign country, like myself, they will not.
Make the suggestion!
Once you've become accredited to the restaurant locations in your area that carry safe dishes, making the restaurant suggestion to your friends and family may be the better option. For the most part Thai, Japanese, Vietnamese and Indian restaurants are great options. Thai specializes in fresh and healthy rice-based noodle dishes. If you like sushi, Japanese restaurants are the place to be for gluten free food but make sure to bring your own soy sauce! Indian restaurants also have many naturally gluten free dish such as Tandoori chicken, fish and shrimp with vegetable side dishes. However, make sure to ask about the sauces as some are thickened with wheat.
Planning a head is perhaps the most important tip. Call in advance, choose the location yourself and even check to see if the restaurants uploaded their menu online. At times, it can be a trial and error game but once you know what and where you can eat, life becomes much simpler. Almost like those good ol 'days of eating anything you wanted. The good news is even if you're stuck at a menu and wondering what to eat, you can always stick with a salad or a big fat steak.
What are your tips when going out?