• Are you gluten free? Have you ever thought about going out to eat only to say to yourself “It would be SO much easier to just stay home and eat!”

    You’re not alone. We’ve all been through it. Though we don’t necessarily know each other, let’s be gluten free buddies. I know we can help each other not feel so weird, ok?!!

    I invite you to join me and not allow yourself to be on a pity pot. You have to grab life by the horns and just do what you need to do to make it work. Plain and simple. Not so plain and simple, you say? Let’s brainstorm and come up with strategies for eating out and making sure you return home feeling healthy, ok?

    1. Stick up for yourself ALL THE TIME! When you explain your needs to the waitstaff and you can just tell by his/her body language that he/she wants to run as far away from your table as possible, hold on tight. Don’t give into the urge to take a chance on whatever they serve. You have to make sure that what you eat will be gluten free. Even if it is blatantly obvious that you are causing them a major headache, persevere. Trust me, you’ll be happier when you return home.

    2. I’ve found that it helps to literally take the waitstaff and/or restaurant manager aside and help them understand the seriousness of your situation. This way you can ask the questions you need to ask and have their full attention.

    3. Ask as many questions as you need to, but always be polite. It really will go a long way towards making sure you have a safe dining experience.

    4. Before visiting the restaurant, if the restaurant has a website, view their online menu so that you have time to carefully and thoroughly scrutinize the menu for adequate gluten free possibilities, especially if the restaurant doesn’t have a gluten free menu.

    5. Try not to go during their peak hours. You’ll be more likely to get personalized service and attention if you go either before or after their busiest times.

    6. For emergency purposes, bring something safe to eat with you – a gluten free snack bar, a bag of nuts and dried fruit, for example. This way, if there ends up being nothing safe on the menu to order, you’ll at least have something to eat.

    7. Eat a small snack before arriving at the restaurant. This will ensure that you aren’t ravenously hungry when you order and will help you make safe decisions.

    8. If your meal arrives and you’re even the tiniest bit uncertain about it being gluten free, DO NOT hesitate to send it back. But first, before your food is taken back to the kitchen, try and ask for the manager so that you can enlist their help.

    9. Tip generously. If your waitstaff has really done a super job of delivering your needs to the chef, and if you enjoy your meal, make sure to tip well. They will appreciate it and it will help future gluten free people who dine at the restaurant -we must stick together!

    10. Make sure to communicate your satisfaction (or lack thereof) to the management before leaving the restaurant. In fact, I would go so far as to suggest writing a letter to the restaurant (pick up their business card before you leave or go online – oftentimes, you can email comments at the restaurant’s website).

    Do you have any other suggestions for gluten free dining at restaurants? Please share your strategies – we can all learn from each other!
    • glutenfreesoxfan

      Great list!
      Also, if you find a restaurant you like, become a repeat customer. Once you are recognized as a regular (and a good tipper), you get great, personalized service.
      -Karen

    • I Am Gluten Free

      Hi Karen,

      Great additional suggestion! Thanks! I would add that if you are a repeat customer, upon visiting the restaurant each time, request the same waitstaff person, if possible.

    • Mike Eberhart

      Nice list of things to consider. Sadly, I have reached a point of near paranoia about what I will and will not eat because I don’t trust things to be gluten-free unless I am able to oversee the production from start-to-finish, and of course I can not do that at a restaurant. It is becoming increasingly rare that I will “risk” eating out. My main concern is unintentional cross-contamination by people that just don’t “get it”. But, should I decide to eat out, I will certainly apply your thinking to it. Thanks for the list!

    • Gary

      Great suggestions.
      What’s really helped in my town is a great support group. They actively work to promote GF food with area restaurants. and most importantly they publicize the GF restaurants through their vast email network. Restaurateurs are amazed at the response and others notice.
      If you don’t have a support group start one. If you have a lame one, make it better. Work with area doctors to grow your group membership and send customers to GF friendly businesses.

    • I Am Gluten Free

      Mike – I know how you feel. In my case, because of my work (my husband and I are musicians and we travel throughout the country), I have had to figure out how to make it work while on the road. It is risky, that is for certain. But I ask LOTS of questions and won’t eat anything unless I’m as sure as I can be. I like to get the manager involved whenever possible – that always helps.
      ~Ellen

    • I Am Gluten Free

      Gary – I started one about two years ago, but it has lapsed. Thank you for the reminder. I really should get it up and running again. ~Ellen

    • Maureen "Hold The Gluten"

      Great post! I needed a refresher on this as I totally have to get over being “apologetic” for my celiac disease when dining out.

      As for gluten free dining tips, I have found that “word of mouth” from other celiacs is worth its weight in gold. I’ve discovered safe restaurants that I never knew existed from gf blogs, etc.

    • I Am Gluten Free

      Maureen – don’t feel bad – it’s easy to fall into the “apology” state of mind. But we need to not wallow in it and quickly jump back out to reality. I’m glad I could help you with that! I need reminders too, which was partially why I wrote the post in the first place!
      ~Ellen

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