3 Holiday Tips for Eating Gluten Free at Restaurants

During the holiday season we often eat many more meals away from our home than is typical.  This can be more difficult if you don’t know how to get exactly what you want and what  you need.

When you’re home, assuming your home is 100% gluten free, you are in your safe zone.  Nothing is brought in that contains gluten so you can roam around, nibble as you please without any repercussions to your body.  That doesn’t mean you won’t over indulge.  That’s another post entirely.  How to recover from over indulging.  Hmm,  I may have to share that soon too.

But back to eating away from your safe zone.  Let me share a little story with you to illustrate how diligent you must be.

The other night the gang was all here.  My oldest son Andy who lives in San Francisco and has written posts on gluten free beer and gluten free pop up restaurant in San Francisco, was down for the Thanksgiving holiday.  So my husband Scott, youngest son Brad, Andy and myself went out to eat.  We went to a local restaurant that has the name of a prominent figure in the health field.  We love this restaurant.  I go there a lot if I’m out walking errands or even want a treat or pick me up.  I love their gluten free pita and hummus and their kale aid drink.  Yum!!!

Sorry I get lost in food sometimes.  So their menu is marked which items are gluten free.  There are even many items that can be modified to be gluten free but those items are not marked, you have to find that out by asking questions. ****  Scott ordered what was presented as a gluten free meal on the menu.  He had roasted chicken with farrow.  *******  Yeah so those of you who read my blog or have worked with me know that farrow is wheat and wheat is definitely not gluten free.  Andy noticed the farrow in his dad’s bowl and asked him what he was eating.  Andy of course is a foodie and pays close attention to what living gluten free means.  Scott had a Steve Martin “waiter there are snails on her plate” moment.

The waiter apologized and brought him a new meal but he had already eaten some of the farrow.  Fortunately he does not have the same immediate sick response as I do where my abdomen blows up like Violet Beauregarde from Willie Wonka, I lose every ounce of energy and clear thinking I had.

I hope they are reprinting those menus as we speak.

So you see you have to know what you’re talking about when it comes to gluten free dining and not rely on what the waiter knows or remembers to tell you on your visit.

***** Tip #1  ASK LOTS of QUESTIONS

Can you accomodate a gluten free diner?

Do you have a gluten free menu or is your menu noted?

Are there items on your menu not marked gluten free that could easily be gluten free if the bun was omitted?

When you talk with your server ask them for help.  This will get them listening to you when really you are going to walk them through the help.  Tell them you have a severe gluten allergy.  No you don’t but when a restaurant hears allergy then their ears open up and they take notice.  This is what you want.  EVEN IF YOU ARE ORDERING FROM A GLUTEN FREE MENU, tell them you need a gluten free meal (hubby).  When it arrives at your table confirm that it is a gluten free meal.

Can you please ask the chef what they would recommend that would be safe for me to eat gluten free.  I often will look at the menu to see what proteins they serve and if there are any I don’t like I let them know.  So I’ll tell the waiter, I will eat whatever the chef would like to create that is gluten free but please do not use lamb but any other proteins are great.  I’m not a fan of lamb.  This works great if you are at a high end restaurant where the chef uses individual ingredients and they would rather create then be told how to cook the recipes they created.

Read through the menu and pick out a couple of possibilities that you can have the waiter check on if this is not a high end establishment.

If you are interested in a burger (100% meat and no fillers) or anything that is cooked on a grill or flat top, ask if it cooked on a surface where they place buns or anything with a sauce that contains gluten.*******  This would cause cross contamination.  Ask if they can cook your meal in a separate pan.  This usually is easy to accomodate.

If you are looking for french fries, read through the menu and look for anything that would also be deep fried with breadcrumbs like chicken or calamari.  Ask if they have a dedicated fryer for the fries or is it all cooked in the same fryer.  If they are all cooked in the same fryer you want to avoid them.  You can ask if they can cook them in a separate pan too.  Some places will do this.

Confirm any salad you order does not contain croutons and ask if the dressing is safe.

Stay safe while eating out and make sure they know of your needs and can accomodate them.

ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS thank the waiter for their help.  They are your allie and can help you.  If they can’t help ask to speak to the chef or manager.  If you are not satisfied that they are working to keep you safe, don’t eat.   Have a drink if you are with others and then eat later and always keep backup fruit or nuts on you.  It’s only one meal and there are usually so many others during the holidays that you’ll get food soon enough.

********Tip #2 KNOW WHAT IS TYPICALLY IN THE DISHES YOU LIKE TO EAT.  IN OTHER WORDS THE MORE YOU COOK AT HOME THE EASIER IT IS TO EAT OUT.

This is one of the most helpful things I can pass along to you.  If you are cooking at home and reading recipes then you know what typically is found in dishes you like to eat.  You’ll know what comes with a sauce or is usually started with a sprinkle of flour.  This will help you in asking the question in an intelligent manner. If you are not cooking many meals at home find out why and then change that.  If you need help in that area please contact me.  I love helping people get back into the kitchen.

******Tip #3 KNOW THE MANY NAMES OF WHEAT and WHAT CONTAINS GLUTEN

  • couscous
  • farrow
  • wheat berries
  • semolina
  • durum
  • spelt
  • soy sauce
  • malt vinegar
  • Tabbouleh made from bulgur wheat

There are many other foods that may contain gluten that you should be aware of.  Know what’s in the food you eat.

As a holiday gift to you I am sharing my Gluten Free Starter Guide usually reserved for my clients:  

Download the Gluten Free Starter Guide here.


Happy Holidays and please eat safely. 

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3 Responses to 3 Holiday Tips for Eating Gluten Free at Restaurants

  1. Melissa December 11, 2012 at 7:44 am #

    Great information, Diane. I just returned from a trip to NYC and did a LOT of dining out. Tips like yours are so important for those of us in the GF community. Thanks for all you do.
    Melissa

  2. Bar POS December 12, 2012 at 12:18 am #

    Interesting Tips Diane. It's really very important to know and be aware of what is in the food we eat in order to be gluten free. Happy Holidays and keep Posting.

  3. Anna Dickerson February 15, 2013 at 8:46 am #

    Eating out can be tricky if you’re eating gluten-free (GF). But if you choose restaurants that feature gluten-free menus, you may find your dining experience is more enjoyable.

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