Dinning out without eating gluten or dairy is like walking through a mine-field. Eating out without sugar is much simpler, no dessert (they all contain gluten and dairy anyway) and no Thai or Vietnamese dishes that have a sweet flavor profile (besides, common soy sauce contains gluten). Mediterranean is loaded with cheese and gluten, as is American. But there are ways around all of this, and that is the point of this page.

As Ur health is Ur responsibility there are ways to eat out, not make a big issue of Ur diet (contrary to popular belief, this is not the way we want to get attention), and feel confident that U know how to handle the situation.  I have found that certain friends like to point to me and tell my waitstaff that I can't eat gluten or dairy when I know that they aren't eating it either, so I take matters into my own hands before or immediately upon arriving with the hostess or manager.   Here are some tips that I use to avoid being really sick for 3 days:

1 Understand the gluten-free, dairy-free diet.  To dine out safely, U must know that some restaurants just aren't equipped to accommodate Ur needs, U are responsible for Ur diet, so don't go in with attitude or whining. Know that U can't eat certain things and help to educate the staff in a kind way, eventually U will be able to easily dine there in the future. I have several restaurants that I can now eat in with full confidence because my suggestions have proven to help their business as more and more people are requesting my restrictions.

2 Choose a restaurant that has gluten-free options, U can usually work around the dairy pretty easily. This means selecting a dining establishment that either serves naturally gluten-free items, such as meat, chicken or fish that is not breaded or smothered in a sauce, has a gluten-free menu, or serves items that can easily be made without gluten or dairy like a hamburger without the cheese or bun (sorry, 'My Father's Office', no choice given from Chef with a superiority complex: no me and my friends).

Avoid food chains or be ready to order a salad with no croutons, cheese or dressing and ask for oil and vinegar and any fresh herbs they might have in the kitchen. Now, if they tell U that they don't have any fresh herbs in the kitchen, what are U doing there in the first place?

When food is fried in the same oil as breaded foods or French Fries that are dusted with flour to make them crisp, it is going to grossly affect Ur health. Exceptions are chains that feature grilled meats that don't put bread on the same grill. El Pollo Loco is an exception, salsa is safe, and they are happy to not put cheese or sour cream on Ur order, just remember to ask for corn tortilla's (some corn tortillas contain wheat too, see questions below).

3 Look for the menu online and call the restaurant, during its non-busy hours, to discuss your menu choices. Questions to ask include:

  • I will be joined by guests that have a gluten and dairy allergy, will you be able to accommodate us?
  • Do you have a gluten-free menu?
  • What items can be made gluten and dairy -free?
  • Shall I remind the hostess or manager when I arrive? (Do this anyway)
  • Do you have rice noodles, corn tortillas without wheat, salad dressing without wheat or dairy?

3 Inform the hostess/host when you arrive, and the wait staff. Let them know that you can't eat anything that contains gluten or dairy and that you'll appreciate their help. If you've called in advance let your server know that you've made arrangements.

4 Ask questions politely, and without whining, but ask!  It is best to choose simple dishes without a coating or sauce, or ones that can be made without a sauce. Always ask Ur wait staff to let the chef know that U cannot eat gluten because you will become ill. Don’t assume that anything is gluten or dairy-free.  Egg omelets may contain pancake batter to make them fluffier. Baked and fried potatoes may be coated with flour to make the skins crispier. Green tea may have barley in it. 

  • Please, no croutons, wontons or crispy noodles on the salad.
  • Please, no bottled salad dressing that contains wheat or flour, buttermilk or cheese.
  • Do you have a vegan soup? Or one that does not contain butter, milk, cream or flour?
  • Has the food been marinated? Does it contain flour, soy or teriyaki sauce?
  • Has the food been dusted with flour or been sauteed or fried in butter?
  • Is the frying oil used for the other items on the menu? (I avoid fried foods out, I've seen the oil they use all day). 
  • Please no artificial bacon bits on mine, real bacon is fine.
  • No mashed or fried potatoes, baked for me.
  • Is the crabmeat real or imitation?

 Cross-Contact Concerns: (news flash: they sometimes lie)

  • Do you clean or is there a separate prep space for your gluten-free food?
  • Do you use clean or separate coookware and utensils for gluten-free food?
  • Do you clean the grill before preparing gluten-free food ?
  • Is there a dedicated fryer or do you change the oil for gluten-free food?

5 Be prepared to eat something that isn’t your first choice.  Sometimes, no matter how prepared and informed you are, there is not a satisfying gluten-free choice.  There are two strategies to address this.  The first is to eat a little something before dining out or going to a party, so that your hunger is under control and you are less tempted to make unsafe menu choices. I find that protein powders or bars or I make powerballs for this purpose. 

The second is to bring gluten-free foods with you such as pasta, which you can ask the chef to cook in a clean pot. 

More tips and lists of what to avoid in the good2buy4U section of this website. Word Press Blog on Eating Out

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