Eating out with Coeliac can be a daunting experience, especially when newly diagnosed. There are certain questions everyone who needs gluten free should be asking when they eat out to ensure they get a safe meal every time they eat out.
When eating out is imperative that every Coeliac should ask the right questions to make sure they are going to get a safe meal. While the food industry has generally improved with their gluten free offerings over the years, it can still be tricky to find a safe restaurant to eat at. There are loads of them that really do understand but there are also the ones that just don't get our needs at all.
To make sure you can eat without getting ill it is always best to ask questions, if they give you a blank look from the off you know you are in trouble, even more so if you mention the G word and they think you mean milk, that's the time to get up and run.
It is always an idea to ring or email a restaurant beforehand too, they can often offer insight into how well you will be catered for before actually going for your meal, if you want to make sure you are not going to be disappointed it's worth doing this, it really does save embarrassment and humiliation when you are trying to order in front of all your work colleagues or friends and family!
However, whether I've rang ahead or not, I still ask the same questions because I want to make extra sure I can eat safely and here is our low down on what we should be asking when we eat out.Do you cater to Coeliacs?
Ok, really basic question but if you have ever asked this question to restaurant staff it can really tell you what kind of service you are going to get.
1. The upbeat enthusiastic response of "yes, we do all sorts for Coeliacs" - that's when you know you are probably going to get decent food.
2. The hesitant response of "yes, we have a few options I think" - be prepared to probe them more and hope you get offered more than just a steak and salad
3. The baffled response of "umm, what's Coeliac?" - turn tale and run as fast as you can out the door.
It can be surprising how much information you can glean with this simple question and the reply you get back.Do you have a gluten free menu?
There are so many places these days that have a gluten free menu but don't publicly advertise it so it doesn't put none gluten free people off so it's always worth asking in case they have one hidden away in the back.
Don't be put off if they don't have a gluten free menu though especially if they have said they can cater. The wait staff may automatically go through what options are safe, if not ask for a manager to run you though the menu and talk through options which are naturally safe and what can be adapted to suit.Can I see the allergen book?
There really is no shame in asking to see the allergy book, every eatery should carry this by law. This is especially useful if the staff aren't as clued up as they could be or there is no gluten free menu, you can simply run through a breakdown of all the meals for yourself and see what would suit your needs.
The manager can also run through the allergy book to help you choose what is safe for you to eat.Do you use separate fryers?
Always make sure separate fryers are used for gluten free. Chips often have dedicated fryers but they can also share with things such as onion rings which would then make the chips unsuitable for Coeliacs.
There is one well known chain that I shall not mention that think chips in contaminated oil are fine for Coeliacs, they are not. Gluten is not "killed" at high heat as some people may suggest, see this blog if you want to read more on the subject
. If they are cooked in contaminated oil they are not safe, simple as. Do you use separate utensils?
It's not just fryers you need to be wary of, using utensils that were previously used on none gluten free products are going to be covered in crumbs that will then contaminate your food. Also ask if they use separate chopping boards or at least wipe down thoroughly before prepping your food.
I've seen cafes so many times use a cake slice on none gluten free cake and then go on to serve a Coeliac gluten free cake with the same cake slice, defeats the point of gluten free don't you think? Make sure they use separate utensils or at the very minimum ask them to wash the used ones first.
If you are ordering sandwiches or anything with butter or spreads also ask if the same tubs are used for none gluten free, if they do it's pretty much guaranteed that there are going to be crumbs in the tub so ask they to open a fresh one. Would x be gluten free if y was taken out?
Don't be afraid to ask if something can be made gluten free, especially if a menu doesn't have something marked as gluten free and it turns out it's just because of a sauce or something which can just be left out.
This is often seen on desserts, so many places won't mark sundaes as safe but usually turns out that if the wafer is left of it would be fine, so don't be afraid to ask if bits can be changed to suit your requirements. If you are using the allergen book this is a good time to question the manager about elements that can be changed too.
We use these simple questions all the time when we eat out, these days there are so many places that are clued up but you really do need to ask questions to make sure they cater properly and don't just offer gluten free for "the fad dieters".
Do you have any more questions you ask when eating out? Making your requirements heard is really important with Coeliac so don't be afraid to ask questions the worst they can do is say no, they can't cater to you, at best you get a meal fit for a queen or king!