Eating out with Coeliac Disease can be daunting, and scary but it is possible! With a few extra steps, you can eat out with confidence.
Something I haven’t discussed very much through is my anxiety. It’s something that is triggered by eating out. So much so that I used to avoid eating out completely (unless the restaurant was 100% gluten free). And if I did eat out, the anxiety I would get about not knowing if my food was 100% gluten free, despite asking all the necessary questions was enough to make me sick to my stomach – gluten or no gluten. The few times (I’ve been careful/lucky, there was has only a few), when I have accidentally eaten gluten, I spend days hanging out in my bathroom (near the toilet), with headaches, brain fog and ongoing fatigue. For me the consequences of eating gluten are so strong, that I try to avoid it at any cost. For me its really not worth it.
In an ideal world we would only eat out at 100% gluten free or Coeliac Australia restaurants, however this is not always possible! So in the event you’re going somewhere new, try these tips below to eat out with confidence!
- Do your research
This can involve calling ahead, to speak to the manager and asking if they can serve gluten free food, that is suitable for someone with Coeliac Disease.
Emailing the restaurant or even sending them a message on their social media accounts – with some simple questions about cross contamination and if their gluten free food is also ‘Coeliac Safe’.
Googling them – to research their menu, trip advisor reviews and what gluten free options they have. I find if they have more gluten free options on their menu, I’m more likely to have a positive experience.
Join Coeliac support groups on facebook – lots of Coeliacs will post if they’ve have a good experience somewhere, or you can ask if anyone has eaten there. Most of the time someone has!
- Ask about how the strategies they use to avoid cross-contamination – before going and double check when ordering (as things can change)
Unfortunately there is a lot of misinformation out there about gluten. For example, one I’ve had a few times is ‘our frier cooks both gluten free and non-gluten free food, but its fine because the high temperature kills the gluten’, which is not true! So its important to check their processes and strategies they have in place to clear up any confusion.
Some common things to check or ask for:
Using clean surfaces, chopping boards or utensils when preparing gluten free food, or using a separate set of utensils
Using a separate toaster for gluten free bread, or toasting with foil or in a clean pan on the grill to make gluten free toast, and not spreading with butter in the kitchen (another source of cross contamination).
Cooking gluten free food in separate dishes – including fresh water for gluten free pasta.
Storing gluten free food separately on the top shelf and using clean tongs.
Having a separate frier for gluten free food, or only frying gluten free food.
- Check some common ingredients that may contain gluten
Sauces such as gravies, curries can be thickened with wheat flour
Mayonnaise – with malt barley
Soy sauce – many brands contain wheat
Coating meat, or vegetables (eg. potato) in flour before cooking
Icing sugar, baking powder or cornflour – can contain gluten so double check
Chocolate toppings on cappucino or soy milk (I nearly got caught out last week with Vitasoy containing Barley)
Vinegars – malt vinegar
- If in doubt leave it out
I know this is a difficult one, but peace of mind for me is sometimes more beneficial than eating the food, that I’m not comfortable with. As I’ll spend the rest of the night feeling anxious, waiting for something to happen!
- Come prepared with snacks
A protein bar, ball or muesli bar is always an easy snack to keep in your pocket or bag.
If I’m not sure I’ll be able to eat (for example at a wedding or event), I’ll make sure I eat beforehand, so I’m not hungry and if there is safe gluten free food there it’s an added bonus!
Check out my eating out page for some of the best tried and trusted restaurants in Melbourne.
Please let me know if you think I’ve missed anything on this list, and I’ll add it!