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Gluten-free? Tips for restaurant eating

Posted by Nancy Clark RD CSSD on Sep 14, 2011 4:38:02 AM

If you are among the estimated 1% of the population that has celiac disease and 6% that has non-celiac gluten sensitivity, you’ll feel better if you eliminate wheat, rye, and barley from your diet. While this can be managed relatively easily at home, eating becomes more difficult when traveling and ordering restaurant food. Here are a few tips for successful gluten-free dining on the road:


• When traveling, always carry “emergency food” that doesn’t spoil, such as dried fruit, nuts, and gluten-free energy bars (such as Lara, KIND, Odwalla).


• When eating in a restaurant, you'll have to quiz the staff and carefully order your food.


--Is the omelet made on the same grill as the pancakes?

--Is the gluten-free toast made in the same toaster used for wheat breads?

--Does the salad come with croutons?

--Can the gluten-free sandwich be prepared on a paper towel or surface not used for wheat breads (to prevent cross-contamination)?

--Has the turkey been injected with flavor enhancers?

--Is the hamburger 100% beef (with no fillers) and not cooked on the same surface as the toasted buns?

--Are the French fries cooked in the same oil as the breaded chicken?

--Are the steak tips marinated in a gluten-containing sauce?

--Is the rice cooked in broth with unknown gluten-containing seasonings?


As you can imagine, this all requires a patient waiter and an understanding chef. But the good news is, more and more restaurants are offering a gluten-free menu. Plan ahead and google “restaurants with gluten-free menu Boston” (or whatever your city), and you’ll find several options. And to be 100% safe, you might want to travel with your own gluten-free pasta and request it be cooked in fresh water, in a clean pot, and drained into a clean colander.


For more information and a helpful book by gluten-free expert Shelley Case RD, visit

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