Raise your hand if you have ever felt like *that person* when dining at a restaurant with friends? If you are already reading this article, the chance is likely that you know what I'm talking about. It feels awkward, embarrassing, and sometimes stressful. With only being gluten free for a couple years now, I am still adjusting to being *that girl*. However, with Ulcerative Colitis, I know my body feels better without it and minimizes inflammation, so it is worth it for me.
I remember all too clearly the days of saying “Pick whatever you want for dinner, I can eat anything!” Ha! Man, I wish that was still true, but, alas, I know too much now and can’t go back to my carefree days of eating whatever I wanted. I feel too great to go back to the days of being constantly inflamed.
In the beginning stages of my journey back to health, I quickly discovered the frustration of eating outside of my house. Going out to eat with friends became a stressful event when it should have been a fun, relaxing time. In the same way I learned everything else about healing my gut, it took time to experiment with what works and what doesn’t. So that you don’t have to go through the same struggle, I am sharing with you my own personal tips on how I eat at restaurants while eating gluten free. I truly hope this helps you!
My Gluten-Free Restaurant Tips:
Breakfast is my favorite meal and also the toughest meal to be gluten free. I have found breakfast items that work though and you can too! Any egg or hash dish is an easy option, bonus points for a dish that is loaded with veggies as well. Protein and veggies make for a tasty and satisfying meal that will keep you full for hours. There are now gluten free pancake and waffle mixes you can use when you want to treat yourself to a sweet breakfast (I wouldn't suggest this as an everyday option, but it works wonders for a special occasion!)
2. Just say no.
For dishes that offer toast or biscuit, ask for a gluten free option or just politely decline. If the bread comes in a basket placed on the table, ask nicely to not have it on the table to avoid temptation.
3. Be prepared.
Look up the menu ahead of time if you know where you are going. (Even better- you can offer to select the restaurant if you are familiar with the area!) This gives you plenty of time to comb through the menu and decide what you want to eat or if you need to go elsewhere. This also prevents any unnecessary stress or pressure to pick something quickly at the table with friends.
4. Avoid anything fried or breaded.
These products are almost never gluten free and rarely have a gluten free substitution. Choose baked or grilled instead.
5. Read the fine print.
Sometimes there are gluten free substitutions for a small additional fee, like a gluten free bun for a burger or for pizza crust. For a burger, you can also ask if they can make it in a lettuce wrap.
6. When in doubt, ask.
Gluten is hiding in a lot of food products you may not suspect. Products made with ground meat (burgers, meatloaf, or meatballs) and soup are two examples of food that commercial kitchens sometimes add gluten as a bulking agent.
7. Again, asking never hurts.
If it seems like a restaurant that may offer gluten free items, try asking if they have a separate gluten free menu. I remember being pleasantly surprised that a restaurant in my hometown (not a super gluten free friendly place just yet 🙂 ) had a gluten free menu! You never know until you ask!
8. Mexican or Thai.
If you are having trouble choosing a restaurant and enjoy ethnic food, narrow it down to Mexican or Thai food to make things easier for you. Mexican restaurants almost always uses corn tortillas (ask before assuming; some restaurants use flour tortillas) and Thai restaurants use rice noodles instead of wheat, like in Soba noodles and ramen.
9. Dessert desert.
The dessert menu full of plausible options suddenly seems scarce when trying to find a gluten free option. If you can tolerate dairy, you can opt for ice cream (most kitchens keep ice cream as a dessert topper) or crustless dessert like chocolate mousse or custard. Be careful with pie as many pie fillings use flour as a thickening agent. If you need a way to stay strong and know dessert is going to be offered, try my fool-proof and shameless option and carry a bar of dark chocolate in your purse or bag. You heard me right! It is so handy to pull out and eat a couple of squares to satisfy your craving and not feel left out.
10. Remember the reason.
Remember why you are electively choosing to not eat gluten. Whether you are Celiac or find that your body runs more smoothly without it, you are choosing your health when you are not choosing gluten. Whatever your reasoning is for going gluten free, remind yourself- in the moment when it seems unfair that you can't eat that piece of cake or eat that dinner roll- of the original reason you made this decision to begin with and it will help you stay strong in moments of weakness.