Living with celiac disease brings on many struggles. With having to adjust to a new diet, learning a new lifestyle, and managing a difficult illness, it can be a very isolating experience for some. It’s easy to fall into patterns of isolation when you live with such a seemingly restricted diet. That being said, there are a lot of ways that individuals maintaining a gluten-free diet can remain active in all of their usual social activities. In many ways, much (if not most) of our social activities revolve around consuming—particularly consuming food. Going out to eat and trying new restaurants is a staple in social interaction. However, when you have a gluten-free lifestyle options can be limited and cross-contamination can be a concern. Though it takes a little extra effort on your part, dining out is still completely do-able with a gluten-free diet. Follow these guidelines to successfully dining out with a gluten-free diet so that you don’t have to consistently opt out of your normal social outings.
Make Your Reservations in Person
When you’re planning a day out, make your reservations far ahead of time and try to make them in person. Yes, this can be an added pain, but it’s worth it. Speak with the chef and restaurant manager ahead of time to discuss your dietary restrictions. It’s really helpful for both you and the restaurant, if you get everyone involved in the process beforehand. Be considerate. Stop in during a slow time of day, so that you don’t disturb the staff when they are busy and so that you can have their full attention. By explaining your needs to the chef and staff of the restaurant, you can more easily have a successful mean and they can more easily serve you.
Check Menus Beforehand
Most restaurants make their menus available online. Take the time to look through the menu before your reservation so that you can get an idea of what they have to offer you. There may be some options on the menu that are already gluten-free or they may be some things that can be more easily modified. Looking at things beforehand helps prepare you to talk to the waiter and/or chef when you order. Communication is key when dining out with a gluten-free diet. You want to communicate with the restaurant so that you can both have an enjoyable experience.
Bring Information and Resources for Chefs and Staff
Try taking information about celiac disease and the gluten-free diet with you when you go out to eat. One of the biggest struggles gluten-free individuals face with their everyday actions is a lack of awareness from the people around them. Give the restaurant information on the diet and disease. Provide them with a way to become more aware of the lifestyle and ways gain more information. This can really help a restaurant and chef become more aware and provide better service to a portion of their customers. Of course, this should never replace having a conversation with the restaurant manager or chef. Talk with them and offer the information to help.
As I said before, communication is vital. Be sure to ask whatever questions come to mind when you are out to eat. If it is unclear how a dish is prepared, ask about it. Open up a clear line of communication, so that your waiter and chef can serve you properly. If the plate looks suspicious, it’s okay to ask the waiter to check and make sure. Mistakes happen. No one will fault you for being cautious.
This article was contributed by Amelia Wood. She is passionate about all things health and medicine related and welcomes your responses at firstname.lastname@example.org.