This series is aimed at helping people who are on a gluten-free diet but suspect that they are consuming gluten unintentionally. It is also great for anyone who is just starting out on the diet.
After reading part 2 about eating in your own home (if you don’t have a completely gluten free home) you won’t be surprised that it’s even more difficult to eat safely outside your home. It can be done, though.
There are various situations in which we eat outside our homes.
- Eating in a restaurant or cafeteria or at a catered event.
- Eating at the home of family and friends.
- Packing our own food and eating it at work, school, or on a trip.
Eating at Restaurants or Similar Situations
I do not eat out very often, so I’m no expert on this, but here are a few tips.
1. Gluten-Free Food – You need to start with making sure there are gluten-free food options. I like to give my business to restaurants that offer a gluten-free menu. There are a few listed at the bottom of my sidebar with links to their gluten free menus or nutritional information.
If the restaurant does not have a gluten-free menu, scan the menu for items that are naturally gluten free, then questions the staff, preferably a chef, about anything that might have been added to the food such as marinades or seasonings and ask to see ingredients.
2. Cross Contamination – Once you are sure you have ordered gluten-free food items, you need to educate that staff a little about cross contamination. If bread is put on a grill, it will need to be cleaned before they grill your steak. If the salad bowl usually has croutons in it, they need to use a clean bowl to mix your salad. Also request that they keep your food away from bread and any other gluten containing foods.
Eating at the Home of Family and Friends
1. Gluten-Free Food – Try to discuss the menu with the cook before you arrive. If they are not sure what to prepare be ready with some suggestions. Basic meat, potato, and vegetable meals are usually safe. Don’t forget to discuss anything that will be added to food: marinades, seasonings, butter, etc. Remember, although butter is gluten-free, their butter might have crumbs in it. Ask them to use a new stick.
Bring food to contribute to the meal. I often bring dessert since that can be particularly difficult for someone to make gluten free. Otherwise you could suggest options such as fresh fruit and ice cream.
Don’t eat something that you know or suspect contains gluten just to make them feel good. It’s not worth it.
2. Cross Contamination – The percentage of times I have gotten sick after eating at a friend’s house is greater than the percentage of times I have gotten sick from eating at a restaurant. I believe it is because of cross contamination. For one, many restaurants are trained to think that way. They keep things separate and clean. Second, I don’t eat at restaurants that use much flour or do baking. My friends, however, do bake, and it can be very difficult to make sure that everything is clean.
Do your best to educate them about cross contamination. If you can be there to help with food preparation and cooking then you can make sure that everything is clean and handled properly. Your host/hostess might enjoy having the two of you cook together.
Packing Food and Eating it at Work, School, or on a Trip
1. Gluten-Free Food – This is probably the safest option of the three because you are more in control. You can bring your own safe gluten free food with you. You can make your own bread and pack a sandwich. Salad is one of my favorites for traveling. I include some type of meat to go on it and pack a few crackers or chips to go with it. There are more great lunchbox tips in this post.
2. Cross Contamination – This is mainly a problem if you are eating with other people, such as a child eating at school. Try explaining the situation to those involved such as your co-workers, and ask them not to wave their sandwich over your food. 🙂
For children, make sure the teacher understands and is looking out for your child, and of course, educate your child. It would probably also help to talk with your child’s closest friends and their parents. I really don’t have experience in this area, so maybe some of you could give suggestions in the comments.
I hope you have benefitted from this series. I think it’s a good reminder for all of us as we need to be continually diligent about what goes into our mouths.
The Gluten Free Survival Guide is a very practical and thorough eBook which I recommend to beginners. The link to the survival guide is an affiliate link which will take you to another site.