Eating gluten free at restaurants with friends and family doesn’t have to be off limits just because you have a food allergy. With the right planning and preparation, eating at restaurants can still be part of your life.
Before you go, consult with your allergist or contact a support group in that area for recommendations on a restaurant. In picking the restaurant, think of those that do not have a bakery or buffet as the likelihood of cross-contact with either can be high. In addition, choose a restaurant that does not serve pre-made foods or is known to use allergens in many dishes. Instead, pick a restaurant that prepares its dishes from scratch so you know the exact ingredients and can ask to have a problem ingredient removed. Finally, consider choosing a chain restaurant, especially when traveling. Each restaurant is likely to use the same ingredients and prepare foods the same way, and a growing number are allergy-aware.
Once at the restaurant, communicate with the restaurant manager and wait staff about your food allergy. Inform them of the foods you cannot eat and ensure they understand the seriousness of your allergy. When ordering, keep it simple. If you have to ask a lot of questions about the items on the menu, try ordering a plain baked potato, broiled chicken or steamed vegetables. And, it is best to avoid fried foods as the grill and frying oil are ripe for cross-contact. Finally, be very cautious when ordering desserts. Many restaurants order their desserts from specialty shops and the restaurant staff may not be able to provide a complete list of the ingredients of the dessert. If in doubt, hold off on dessert until you get home.
With some careful preparation, you can still dine out with family and friends with your food allergy. Just remember to never leave home without your epinephrine auto-injector and any additional medications necessary for your food allergy, and be sure to wear your medical identification.