Nourishing Your Body for Better Health
Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

Safely Dining Out G-Free

Safe Dining, G-Free Style

Especially given all of the recent fuss over the Domino’s not-truly-gluten-free pizza, one of the most common question I hear from clients is about dining out.  Is it safe?  Where can you go?  How do you KNOW they’re taking our health concerns seriously?

A good place to start is with restaurants with a gluten-free menu, or one recommended by others on a gluten-free diet.  My favorite local resource is Gluten Free Travel Site, which has a free mobile version as well. Allergy Eats also has website resources.  There are a variety of apps including Gluten-Free Registry , “Is that gluten-free” and “Find me Gluten-Free”.

For the DC Metro Area, I have to say that I personally adore the Great American Restaurants (Mike’s, Sweetwater, Silverado, etc.)  They were gluten-free friendly  long before it was trendy, and have always done a good job.  Lilit Cafe in Bethesda also has one of the most extensive gluten-free menus aroundChoices by Shawn and the new Happy Tart are also g-free gems.

DC Metro Area Celiac Support group has a great guide through the yahoo group. Richard Paul of the DC Celiacs group was kind enough to compile a list of places to eat in DC, and even what Metro stop they are near.  Thanks, Richard!  Triumph Dining has a nice paperback national guide, Gluten Intolerance Group (GIG) has a national listing.  A local or national list serv is a good place to get great ideas, like the Silly Yak’s Yahoo site, the St John’s Celiac listserv, or the Delphi group.  Or, if you’re gluten and dairy free, GFCF Recipes is a great place to get thoughts.  When you’re traveling some place unfamiliar, you can do a google search for GF blogs, CSA chapters, or ROCK groups.   Choose restaurants more likely to have gluten-free options, like grills, sushi, East Indian and Thai.  If you can, look for a menu online or call ahead.

It’s a good idea to dine early and avoid the dinner rush so restaurants can take the time to understand and meet your needs.  When you arrive, explain your diet simply.  Explaining Celiac as an allergy is sometimes easier than a medical discussion, and it’s often better understood.  If you have a dining card, such as the ones from Triumph Dining, bring that along, too!  Once you’ve figured out a safe entree, make sure you discuss cross contamination, including:

  • Requesting that staff change their gloves before handling gluten-free food.
  • Insuring that staff use a separate cutting board, pans, utensils, etc.
  • Only eating fried foods from a dedicated fryer
  • Discussing non-obvious sources of gluten: soy sauce, cream sauces or roux, broth, marinades, etc.
  • No glutenous garnishes or rolls!

Make sure that the server understands your needs.  If not, it may be necessary to speak to a manager or chef, or if your needs can’t be met, leaving is the healthiest choice.  Also, when your meal arrives, always double check with your server before you begin to eat.

Definitely discuss the diet, even if it’s a place you’ve gone before, and even at a place with a gluten-free menu.  New staff may not be well trained, and menus are ALWAYS changing!  Just because those fries were safe last time doesn’t mean they are safe today.

If you have a good experience, be sure to thank staff and leave a nice tip!  Whether your experience is good or bad, you may consider writing a letter or emailing management.  Feedback is important, and you’re helping yourself and others have a good experience in the future.

Another resource that gives much more detail on dining out safely is this article from Living Without.

Have I left out your favorite resource?  Let me know in the comments!

Stay cool and have a great summer!

Harris Whole Health offers individual sessions, family sessions and group classes to help people eat healthier and feel better! Whether you are dealing with a specific health concern, or if you just want to feel and look better, Cheryl can help you achieve your goals. For an appointment with Cheryl Harris, Registered Dietitian and Nutritionist, please click here or call 571-271-8742.