Tips for Dining Out Gluten Free

It is certain to say that gluten sensitivities are definitely on the rise. With this gluten free diet phenomenon, also comes a rise in gluten free restaurants, and restaurants accommodating the gluten free lifestyle. Although it may seem a tad bit easier to eat out with a gluten intolerance, there are still frustrations and lack of options.

Dining out with a gluten allergy is easiest when restaurants have specific gluten free menus, such as Casey’s, Milestones, Boston Pizza, and PF Changs (now in Canada).
Although there may not be as many options as the full menu, there are still safe alternatives for you to enjoy without worry, and to leave without gluten induced symptoms.

My greatest frustration with being gluten free is finding “fast food” while on the go. Although fast food is not the healthiest alternative, it is sometimes very convenient if you don’t have a prepared meal or snack at hand. For example, Tim Hortons, Subway, Wendy’s, and McDonalds are not the most friendly towards their gluten intolerant friends. There have been so many times when I am with my friends and family and we stop at Subway for them to get a delicious looking sub, while I end up with an – although decent – Subway salad. I would love to have a sub on a gluten free bun! Although it may seem that there is nothing for you to eat while on the run, or even at a restaurant, there is definitely always something.

Here is a list of tips for dining out, or dining on the run for those of you who live a gluten free lifestyle:

At a restaurant: 
– If you are dining at a restaurant without a specific gluten free menu, have no fear, there are still potential possibilities. First of all, make it clear with your waiter/waitress that you have a gluten allergy – even if it isn’t a diagnosed allergy, you still get sick from it, so let them take as many precautions as necessary to make sure your meal isn’t in contact with any gluten. Sometimes I will order my meal and say that I can’t have gluten, they will proceed with asking if it is a preference or if it is okay if there’s “a little bit in the marinade”. I definitely can’t have any speck of gluten so I make it clear that it is an allergy. When restaurants hear the word “allergy”, they take it very seriously.
– Secondly, ask you waiter if they know of what on the menu is gluten free. For example, at Jack Astors there are no indications of what is and what isn’t gluten free on their menu, so either ask the waiter or ask to see the allergen guide book.
– If there isn’t anything on the menu that looks safe, a chicken breast with steamed veggies or a salad topped with a protein is always a safe bet.
– Be careful of seasoned rices, sometimes they do contain trace amounts of gluten!
– Never be afraid of asking too many questions or challenging your waiter/waitress – they are there to accomodate you with whatever you may need.
– Most Mexican restaurants are naturally gluten free as the majority of items are corn based (corn tortillas). Even if some of the items are made with flour tortillas, they can usually substitute for a corn tortilla. (Mexican is one of my absolute favourites!).
– A lot of Italian restaurants are starting to include gluten free pastas and pizza crusts
– Japanese/Thai/Korean restaurants are very rice based. Make sure they do not use soy sauce and that the noodles are always rice. Although buckwheat is a gluten free grain, a lot buckwheat noodles also have wheat flour. Sushi is always a great gluten free dinner date!

At a fast food restaurant:
– Tim Hortons: Walking into a Tim’s and smelling the freshly baked muffins and donuts is very desirous when you obviously can’t have it, however, if you’re hungry and without any other options around, there are a couple gluten free items available (unfortunately they aren’t muffins or donuts). The smoothies and yogurt with berries (no granola) are available, and they can curb the appetite until you find something fulfilling.
– McDonalds: The french fries are gluten free…but, make sure that you ask if their oil is separate from the gluten contaminated items, if the oil is merely for the fries, then you are safe to go! This is only for Canada however, the USA uses a flavouring for the fries that contains wheat (sorry Americans!). The smoothies, soft serve ice-cream (without a cone), and fruit and yogurt parfaits (without the granola) are also all gluten free.
– Subway: Sadly all of the sandwich options are off limits, but there is the option for the salad. Make sure they change their food handling gloves before making your salad and that they wipe off the counter. Sometimes when I ask them to change their gloves they become a little frustrated with me…but I tell them I am allergic to wheat and they understand a little better. Sometimes deli meats can contain gluten, so I usually opt for a veggie salad – peppers, olives, shredded carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes and cheese. It’s a pretty delicious salad actually…just try to not think of how delicious the subs could be!
– At Wendy’s there is actually a list online of what is gluten free. You can click here to view it. On the list includes the Frostys, salads without croutons and pecans, baked potatoes, chilli and patties without the bun. The fries are cooked in the same oil as gluten contaminated food.
– If you go to any of your favourite fast food websites, there is usually an allergen guide in which you can determine what is gluten free. I would advise researching any items before ordering them.

Well my gluten free friends, those are all my tips for now. I certainly will update this if I come across anything else. For the most part, asking questions and doing your research is the safest bet. Although it may seem frustrating to eat out on a gluten free diet, it is possible and in the long run, you won’t be hurting after a meal!

If you have any suggestions or tips for dining out I would love to hear from you. You can send me an email to thegutgazette@gmail.com, tweet me @gutgazette or visit my Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/TheGutGazette!

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