Sometimes the idea of eating out with coeliac disease can seem really daunting.
But the good news is, eating out on a gluten free diet doesn't have to be difficult at all.
After writing my post about the worst gluten free dining experiences, I thought it would be good to offer a practical follow up.
When you’re new diagnosed with coeliac disease, dining at home is often the first thing you tackle.
Once you get the hang of cooking your own meals and reading ingredients lists, the whole gluten free diet thing seems a little easier.
But it’s when you have to visit a restaurant or attend a wedding that the panic sets in.
How do you know something is truly gluten free if you haven’t overseen every single aspect of the preparation?
What should you even ask restaurants? And how do you find a gluten free restaurant in the first place?
To help you out a little, I’ve put together a few handy little tips and tricks for eating out on a gluten free diet or with coeliac disease...
Do your research
The first thing to do when eating out on a gluten free diet is do your research.
In fact, so much of coping with coeliac disease is all about the preparation.
Life is definitely easier if you’re the one choosing where you eat.
Search TripAdvisor and social media for restaurants which have a gluten free menu or have been reviewed by a gluten free diner.
Go on the restaurant’s website and check their menu – do they mark items as gluten free?
Do they have any allergy disclaimers in the small print?
Even ring ahead at the time of booking and ask about their gluten free options and cross contamination to gauge if you feel comfortable eating there.
Don't forget, I also do some travel content on my blog, so it might be worth checking my travel section to see if I already have some safe recommendations.
Check for Coeliac UK accredited restaurants
Did you know Coeliac UK runs an accreditation scheme for restaurants, which includes a number of chains?
Their website is a great resource for gluten free knowledge and you can find all their accredited restaurants listen there.
Some chains (such as Pizza Express, Phö, Wagamama and Côte Brasserie) are always a safe option and are accredited, and there are also a number of independent eateries on there too.
This accreditation scheme provides some reassurance that staff have been correctly trained and procedures put in place to avoid cross contamination.
Just make sure you always double check when you’re ordering and state you have coeliac disease.
Ask for the manager
This was actually a really brilliant point that was raised in a panel talk I once took part in – always ask for the manager.
In theory, the restaurant manager should be the most experienced staff member on the floor and have the most knowledge about what is safe to eat.
In fact, if you have coeliac disease or a food allergy, some chain establishments will only let you order through the manager.
It’s a good way to fast-track the chain a little and make sure you’re speaking to someone who can hopefully help you.
Don't be scared to ask questions
It's really easy to feel like the awkward diner when you're eating out with coeliac disease.
But it's SO important to not be afraid to ask questions.
Trust me - this gets a lot easier with time.
Some good questions to ask the waiting staff in a restaurant when eating out with coeliac disease are:
- Do you have a separate preparation area for gluten free food?
- Do staff change/wear gloves when preparing gluten free food?
- Is the toast cooked in a separate toaster (and if not can it be grilled instead to avoid contamination?)
- Do you use separate pans/chopping boards/spoons/etc for preparing and serving gluten free food?
- Are the chips fried in a separate fryer? (Be aware sometimes things like chips are marked gluten free but when you quiz the server they can be cross contaminated due to shared fryers).
- In a pizza restaurant, do you use wheat flour to dust surfaces?
- In a Chinese restaurant, do they have gluten free soy sauce, and are different woks used for gluten free food?
- At a carvery, is wheat flour used on the roast potatoes or to thicken the gravy/sauces/etc?
The questions you ask will vary largely depending on what sort of restaurant you're eating at, but these should help as a good starting point!
Don't be scared of eating out with coeliac disease
My number one top tip is to make sure your coeliac disease doesn't leave you scared to eat out or leave the house!
Eating out a gluten free diet used to be difficult but now it is so easy in comparison.
Most restaurants have allergen folders or helpful staff who are willing to help you out.
After all, your money is as good as everyone else's!
If you do your research, know what to ask and go on the recommendations of others before you, you should be absolutely fine.
Just don't be afraid to questions staff and make sure you enjoy yourself.
What are your top tips for eating out with coeliac disease?
I'd love to know if you have any top tips for eating out on a gluten free diet which I've missed!
Or perhaps you could share a positive experience you've had, or one of your favourite gluten free restaurants?
Make sure you share them in the comments below so they can help others too.
You can also come on over and join my Facebook group, where you can ask for recommendations in areas and see where others have enjoyed a gluten free meal!
If you liked this post, make sure you check out some of my other coeliac tips!