Dining Out

Tips To Consider When going Out To Eat

Choosing a Restaurant

  • Use community resources (like the Find Me Gluten Free app, Allergy Eats app, local support groups, or social media pages) to help find restaurants that are most likely to have gluten-free options.
  • Look for dedicated gluten-free restaurants or restaurants with dedicated gluten-free menus.
  • Look for restaurants whose menus are predominantly made up of naturally gluten-free food and where ingredients and components of the final dish are not premixed or premade.
  • Look for restaurants where there aren’t a lot of gluten flours being used in the main food prep area (hand-tossed pizza places, fresh pasta places, or brunch spots with a large in-house bakery for example), as flour particles can travel to other surfaces, which could cross-contact gluten-free spaces and can remain airborne for a day.
  • Information about restaurants with shared kitchens preparing and serving safe or unsafe gluten-free food is all over social media. It is important to take these reviews as someone else’s personal experience and should not replace your own communication and judgment. What is “safe” for others may not be “safe” for you or your family, particularly in groups where there are a mix of people with Celiac and who eat gluten-free for other reasons.
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Before Going to a Restaurant

  • Review the restaurant’s menu online if available, look for any marked gluten-free options, naturally gluten-free options, and allergen and policies/procedure statements.
  • Some restaurants do not have gluten-free options marked or a separate gluten-free menu, but can still prepare and serve safe gluten-free food.
  • Call the restaurant, let them know that you have Celiac Disease, and ask if they can prepare and serve food that meets your gluten-free needs:
  • Dedicated gluten-free fryer for french fries and other gluten-free fried foods, including tortilla chips.
  • Dedicated gluten-free cooking equipment & food prep area: cutting boards, pot for pasta, strainer/colander, grill space (or use foil as a barrier), serving utensils, knives
  • Separately stored and dedicated gluten-free ingredients used with fresh gloved hands or dedicated/dishwasher cleaned metal serving utensils. Serving utensils that are used with gluten-containing ingredients can’t be used with gluten-free food without being cleaned/sanitized.
  • When a restaurant can meet your gluten-free needs, try to make a reservation with a note that will remind the staff that someone with Celiac will be dining and their gluten-free needs.
  • Timing is important when going to a restaurant that is not 100% gluten-free, try to avoid going to the restaurant when it is at its busiest. A busy staff and shared kitchen has a higher chance of making a mistake with cross-contact.

Communicating With Food Service Staff

Be clear and forthcoming with employees about your needs; remember you and your needs are not a burden and do not need an apology!

 

  • When you arrive, even if there is a note on your reservation, let your server know about your or your child’s Celiac Disease and your strict gluten-free needs.
  • Let your server know if you’ve already looked at the menu online and called the restaurant, also ask if there have been any changes to the menu.
  • If you have not seen the menu before arriving at the restaurant, ask for help. You may want to say something to the effect of: “I have Celiac disease and need to follow a strict gluten-free diet. Can you or the chef help me find safe options on your menu?”
  • Forms of gluten can be found in sauces, marinades, and spice blends and should be avoided if the kitchen can’t guarantee they are gluten-free.
  • It can be helpful to have a Celiac Disease Information Card from Seattle Children’s or one similar to the restaurant card on gluten-free.org to show the restaurant staff. You may not always have the chance to call restaurants ahead of time or there may be a new server who is unfamiliar with Celiac Disease.
  • Not all restaurants will be able to prepare and serve safe gluten-free food. It is your choice to stay or leave.
  • If the dining experience is out of your control (a work event or wedding reception for example) you can eat before or bring food. Many places may not want you to bring food, but if they can’t prepare something safe for you, they will often be ok with food being brought in. Possibly, try calling in advance.
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Check and Double-Check

  • When your food arrives, confirm that the food you received is the correct, gluten-free order. Ask if any special preparation requests were followed.
  • If in doubt, ask the manager or the chef! Sometimes servers or cashiers don’t have all of these answers for you, but someone else might be able to help.
  • If the kitchen has made a mistake, alert your server and calmly let them know about the mistake and that you need your entire plate to be remade; just removing the gluten-containing food from the plate is not enough.

Remember: You will likely find a few of your favorite “go-to” places that are especially good at meeting your gluten-free needs, but, in case there are any staff changes or recipe changes, always communicate your gluten-free needs each time you go; mistakes can happen. Ultimately, restaurants want you to be happy and have a good experience eating their food, and they don’t want you to get sick. They are usually able to make substitutions for unsafe ingredients or changes to how they are cooking your food, but only if you ask them to! Although it might seem silly, it can help you feel more comfortable to ask these kinds of questions if you practice at home with your friends and family first.

No need to start from scratch. Click here for Celiac Program Family Favorites, from product to restaurant recommendations! 

Travel

Keep some safe, gluten-free snacks on hand while traveling – this includes short road trips in the car or long airplane rides. Easy-to-pack food ideas are:

  • Nuts
  • Dried or fresh fruit
  • Gluten-free pretzels
  • Roasted chickpea snacks
  • Individual packets of nut butters and gluten-free crackers
  • Cut vegetables
  • Gluten-free snack bars
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Lodging

There are many types of lodging: hotels with small kitchens, hotels/motels with no kitchens, bed & breakfasts, inns, camping, condos, apartments, houses, boats, RV’s, friends/family homes, all-inclusive resorts, and cruises.

Research and communicate with the lodging options that provide food and find out if they can support your gluten-free dietary needs.

Renting an apartment/condo/house or staying in a hotel with a kitchen:

  • Try to travel with a few essential kitchen tools because some of the kitchen equipment may have been used with gluten-containing ingredients.
  • Cutting board, colander, sauté pan, pasta pot, spatula, cleaning sponge, toaster bags

Research Dining Options Near Your Lodging As Well as Near Points of Interest That You Plan To Visit Before You Go.

  • Use restaurant finding apps like Find Me Gluten Free or Allergy Eats .
  • Find a local Celiac disease support group where you will be traveling to. These groups often maintain lists of recommended restaurants and stores.
  • Search gluten-free travel blogs and other sources on social media that may help you find places to eat while traveling. Take into consideration that these are personal opinions and use your best judgment for you and your family.
  • Make sure that you always ask your safe dining questions before eating at any restaurant.
  • Go on a grocery shopping trip once you arrive! You can buy some gluten-free essentials (like crackers, bread, etc.) that will make you feel more comfortable in new spaces.
  • Consider mailing yourself gluten-free “care packages” of snacks/meals to the hotel or address where they will be staying before you go. This can be a good option if you are staying somewhere that doesn’t have a lot of grocery store or restaurant options.
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Flying While Gluten-Free

  • Bring plenty of snacks to last for the entire duration of your trip in case there are limited options available at the airport, including possible delays.
  • Your doctor can write a note of medical necessity to allow you to bring additional fluids (like protein shakes or smoothies) through the airport security if needed.
  • When flying, contact the airline before departure date to learn about their gluten-free options and if they need to be ordered in advance. It is also helpful, once on the flight, to let the flight attendants know about your gluten-free needs, that you may have ordered a meal in advance, and ask if there are more gluten-free options available. This will help ensure that your special meal is not accidentally given to another passenger and possibly increase your choices. It is important to note that airlines can make mistakes, it is advised to always bring extra food options from home.

For Travel Outside the U.S.

  • If you are traveling outside of the country be mindful of language barriers and different labeling standards.
  • The Gluten Intolerance Group’s (GiG) new “certified gluten-free” label can now be found on products outside of the U.S.
  • Look online for gluten-free dining-out cards translated into other languages.
  • It is helpful to know how to say “gluten-free” in the language of the place you are visiting.
  • Know that some ingredients that are considered safe in the US (like maltodextrin) may be unsafe in other countries. It may be safer when traveling far away from home to choose only foods that are labeled to be gluten-free or those that are naturally gluten-free.
  • If you have access to a kitchen, exploring local farmer’s markets are a great way to learn about local foods as well as feel safe in buying/preparing naturally gluten-free foods.
  • If you have access to a kitchen and are packing a few cooking essentials, consider including a few shelf-stable gluten-free favorites like pasta and your favorite seasoning blend.