Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Eating Gluten-free in Restaurants

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I received this question from a reader: How can I enjoy eating in restaurants when the employees do not know what is in the food they serve?

This is a very good question and one we address frequently with our patients.  In order to enjoy a meal in a restaurant you have to get over any shyness you may feel regarding “being different” or “special”.  If you try to guess whether gluten is contained in something you order, you’re playing a bit of Russian roulette with your health.

Not only do you need to let your wait person know your dietary restrictions, you need to ensure that they understand that it is a serious matter and that they relate your needs to the chef. Some patients have found it easier to make up small laminated cards that state that they are gluten intolerant (or have celiac disease) and they are unable to eat wheat, rye, barley or oats (include oats since getting them uncontaminated is only possible when you buy them yourselves typically) without getting very ill.  The card further states that it is critical that their food be uncontaminated by gluten via pans, frying oils, utensils, etc.

Happily, I have seen a tremendous change in restaurants over the past few years.  We were in the Portland airport last summer and my daughter wanted Mexican food from the food court.  As she described her gluten intolerance I was amazed that the employee knew exactly what gluten was plus what she could safely eat.

While I can’t state this definitively I can tell you that in the restaurant experiences my patients have that are less than favorable, we can usually trace it back to their “assuming” that something was safe rather than being diligent about checking.

There is nothing wrong with ensuring your good health.  Discussing gluten often brings interest from either the wait person or one of your fellow diners.  Many times I’ve gotten into discussions about gluten with someone who later found they were gluten intolerant.

And don’t be surprised if the chef comes out to ensure that you are well taken care of.  I find that happening quite frequently.

I hope this is helpful.  Please let me know if I can be of further assistance.

To your good health,

Dr Vikki Petersen

2 comments:

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