Dining out with friends and family offers an excuse to celebrate – and especially during the holiday season, it is a central part of a happy and healthy social life. These days, more and more restaurants are becoming aware of and sensitive to the needs of gluten-free diners, making it easier for us all to enjoy a fun night out together. No matter your reason for doing so, however, dining out gluten-free still requires a bit of additional thought and planning.
Here are some tips we’ve collected to help our gluten-free friends and family make the most of their dining experience:
Do a bit of research.
Whenever possible, choose a restaurant that offers a special gluten-free menu (or an entirely gluten-free kitchen.) This will allow you to feel more confident that the kitchen is knowledgeable about gluten-free dining and will make an extra effort to avoid cross-contamination. Keep in mind that this can still be difficult on shared equipment, so have an open conversation with the staff before determining if the restaurant in question is a safe place for you to dine.
Restaurants all across the country have gluten-free menus. To find a variety near you, try these resources:
- The Gluten Free Certification Organization lets you search by cuisine under “Find a Restaurant.”
- The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness has a search function that lets you search by state.
- The Celiac Sprue Association offers a list of participating restaurants and food companies, organized by the year in which they received CSA recognition.
Additionally, gluten-free smartphone apps are becoming popular. Here are a few to check out:
Of course, we realize that you don’t always have the opportunity to research ahead or time – or, as is often the case when dining out with a large group, select the restaurant. So, once you’ve arrived at your dining destination, be sure to ask the right questions and be up front with your dietary concerns.
Always tell your server that you are gluten-free due to medical reasons, as this will alert him or her to the seriousness of the issue. When ordering, ask whether there are any gluten ingredients in the dish and also about the food’s preparation: Are gluten-free items made in a separate, dedicated area? Is the grill cleaned thoroughly before gluten-free foods are made?
You can also do your due diligence by only ordering menu items that you know are likely to be gluten-free. Simply prepared meats (be sure to ask about the ingredients in any sauce or marinade) and vegetable salads (ask for olive oil and balsamic or red wine vinegar on the side, and be sure that the salad does not come with – or has been tossed with – croutons) are better bets, as are naturally gluten-free starches like a baked potato, rice or quinoa.
In the end, the most important tip here is to not be afraid to ask questions or voice concerns. Know that as awareness of celiac disease and gluten sensitivity become more and more prevalent, restaurants are much more able and likely to provide guidance and assistance to gluten-free diners.
When preparing a meal at home, keep in mind that Ancient Harvest products are always gluten-free. Browse our variety of ancient grains, pastas, polentas and more at AncientHarvest.com.