For anyone who is suffering from celiac disease or even a severe allergy to foods that could cause life threatening issues, going out to eat is no easy task.
When I was first diagnosed with celiac, I am pretty sure I didn’t even attempt to go out to eat the first year. I wanted to cook at home and learn how to heal my gut from my own safe haven. As time went on, my husband and I began to venture back out into the world. Let me just tell you: it’s a scary world!
I can remember my very first order out was at a place called Wild Willies!. Now this place was actually amazing for those who need something gluten free. (I’ll be doing restaurant reviews at a later time.) I remember ordering a burger and french fries. My husband was told that the fries were cooked in a dedicated fryer and the bun was frozen and thawed in a microwave. For my first outside experience, and even though the bun tasted horrific, the fries and burger itself tasted amazing and thankfully I didn’t end up sick.
So what should you be asking when you decide to go out to eat?
The main thing I have learned is to call ahead of time and ask to speak to a manager. Once we decide as a family where we may want to eat, I will look up the gluten free apps or online to see if they offer any gluten free meals. Once the manager is on the phone, one of my main questions to ask is if the establishment has a dedicated prepping space. If the place can’t guarantee a space to prepare foods separately, or only offer foods that can be made “gluten- sensitive or gluten-friendly” then that place is not really safe to eat.
If an establishment can confirm that they will have separate prepping areas, then I will give the thumbs up to go there. Once we go out to eat, I will ask to speak with a manager and the waiter/waitress and ask if the chefs can change their gloves to prep my food, all the while confirming what I was told over the phone that they do indeed have a separate prepping area. I know, I sound like a lunatic! The problem is, I have gotten sick from eating out way more times than I care to count. Every person who has celiac disease, their symptoms will vary, as well as their reactions.
Another thing, I also like to make sure of, is that the things like fruits, veggies or other items are not stored next to or near items that contain wheat/gluten. There is a huge risk that if fruit is on a shelf right below the breads, then the crumbs could fall on top of it. I know most people who don’t understand celiac disease would just suggest wiping off the crumbs and all will be ok. It is definitely not ok. I will also ask that the food be made or prepared in other bowls and utensils. Did you know that you can still get sick if they cook gluten free pasta in the same pan they just made wheat pasta in? Like I said in the beginning, going out is no easy task!
What about eating at parties, weddings etc? Ok, this is a whole other topic. First of all I always like to talk to the host ahead of time. For things such as birthday parties or cookouts etc, I will just either eat at home or ask the host if they would feel comfortable having me bring my own food so to avoid cross contamination. (some if not all will offer to make some gluten free items for me, but how to politely say no could take up another post)
When it comes, to weddings, showers or other events that will be at an establishment, I will reach out the person who had sent the invitation and ask them about gluten free options, as well as reaching out to the manager of the venue. One of the hardest things, I have found is dealing with weddings. No one wants to bother the bride with their own issues that deal with food. And why would you? The bride certainly doesn’t need added stress to her plate! In the past, I have always eaten at home ahead of time. This year for example we have about four weddings to attend to. My plan for now is to reach out to the people I am close to and ask them if it would be ok if I could contact the venue to secure a gluten free meal. Another new thing that I will be trying out is the new Nima Sensor that had just arrived a few weeks ago! I will be doing a review about that as well. The Nima Sensor has been said to detect whether or not the food is indeed actually gluten free. This will make it very helpful in the long run, whether it be attending an event or traveling.
So let’s recap:
- Call the restaurant and ask if their food can actually be made gluten free, and explain what celiac disease is! ( A lot of people are still so unaware of this disease)
- Ask the manager if there is a separate prepping area to make your meal.
- Once confirmed, and having arrived at the establishment, ask once again to speak to a manager, waitstaff and or chef. Confirm about the food prep area.
- Ask about where items are located and explain about cross contamination.
- Ask if they can change their food prep gloves and use clean, and new utensils and pans when cooking your meal.
- If you have the Nima Sensor, give it a whirl. If it comes back that it contains gluten, notify your waiter/waitress and alert the chef.
I understand that this is all information overload, and I can’t begin to tell you how overwhelming it was for me and sometimes still is. I can tell you that as time goes on and the more you learn, it will get easier! Feel free to share this article with others who are also struggling with celiac disease. Don’t forget to click the follow button on the homepage to receive alerts on new posts~
Until next time….
The Celiac Corner