How Do You Eat Out and Avoid Gluten?

What's the hardest part of being celiac or even gluten sensitive? Well, there are quite a few things but one is definitely eating out.  We are finding that some cities are easier than others. Unfortunately for us, San Antonio is tough; Austin and Asheville, North Carolina are great! Slowly, restaurant owners, chefs and servers are becoming more aware and well- versed on gluten and how it’s not just a preference for some diners. (Believe me, if you asked my husband and son if they would rather go order a pizza or pasta somewhere, you would get a resounding response!) 

But educating the food service industry is slow going. A lot of places think that “almost gluten free” or gluten-friendly works. If someone has celiac or non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS), “almost” doesn’t help. Just because something is prepared without conventional flour, it can still easily be contaminated. Oftentimes, food is prepared on the same surface or the same cooking utensils and pans will be used but because the GF flour was used, it will be considered GF. Many times a restaurant claims to be gluten free but then the servers or food preparers use the same gloves or salad dressings splash into GF dressings. It's hard but it's best to always double check with your server and ask questions.  It’s hard sometimes to be bold enough to say that you are celiac or have a sensitivity but it’s not worth the set-back in the long run. They will take it more seriously if they know you are serious about it! We've had managers come double check with us when they found out we were gluten time at an airport restaurant! For the most part, restaurants want to be able to accommodate their patrons. (Plus, they don't want to risk a bad review!) It’s beneficial to them if you can help educate their servers and cooks on the dietary restrictions and what will happen if you get “glutenated”. It will benefit them in the long run and help the next person who comes in with the same concerns.

 You never know what a couple of questions might do! My husband and I were in San Diego for a few days and we had two opposite reactions to being GF. The first was at the restaurant where we are eating dinner. They had a GF menu (with a couple of options) but one option was a roasted chicken with their own seasonings. So we asked more about the seasonings because more often than not, there will be gluten in them. She said she was pretty sure it was okay but that he could always just take the skin off and he would be fine. Ummmm Noooooo! Doesn’t really work like that! So the second one…back at our hotel, they were having an outdoor event called “Chef Throwdown” where San Diego and Coronado chefs were having a competition, while raising money for cystic fibrosis. Lots and lots of samples from this area’s top chefs! We stopped at one called Vigilucci’s. We ended up talking to the chef for a while. Shoutout to Marco Sedda! He is from Italy so he knows his pastas and breads. But he totally gets the whole GF thing and though not medically necessary, chooses to eat that way himself. He said he modifies his pastas in his restaurant and is very careful when people have food allergies or sensitivities. Guess where we went to dinner the next night? It’s just so much more enjoyable when you know the restaurant is on board! We also have found that lots of restaurants are more than happy to collaborate with you to find something that works and might not even be on the menu! 

As far as shopping…so much extra junk is added to things when the gluten is eliminated. Be sure to check the labels and ingredients for added sugar (big problem!) and other fillers. Just because it’s gluten free does not make it healthy. It just means a different flour was used. Of course, we occasionally still eat chips and crackers and stuff not found on the outside aisles but we really limit those foods. I have definitely altered my path at the grocery store. I rarely go to the inside aisles anymore. Look for things that are certified GF. Simple Mills, Terra and Siete are my favorite brands. AND certified! Certified means that is has less than 20 ppm of gluten, which is deemed safe for celiac. Always opt for the Non-GMO! 

A great source for chips at a better price than the grocery store is I get lots of stuff here, from food items to detergent! They have great deals! They also have Paleo Wraps. Great alternative to tortillas. We  steer clear of corn tortillas since, frequently, they are made with some flour and also because corn is so genetically modified and just not “natural” anymore. Very hard to digest! (Watch out for mixes that include corn products!)

On the subject of dairy... We avoid that, too. It's usually not good for Celiac or NCGS since your gut reacts to the casein the same way it does the glutein. There are some acceptable alternatives like almond cheese and almond cream cheese. But when we crave a little ice cream, we love Nada Moo! Lots of great flavors, not a ton of sugar and really yummy!

There’s also lots of chatter about digestive enzymes and “why can’t you just take a pill?”. There is no FDA approved enzyme for celiac. There is a pill called Gluten Digest that Harrison and Jimmy take if they have eaten out and feel like they may have gotten glutentated. But it just softens the affects of gluten and casein (dairy). They don’t break down every molecule that adds to the inflammation and effects of gluten on the gut. And the pill doesn’t give you permission to just indulge and reverse the affects later. It’s for very small amounts of accidental contamination. Hopefully, it won’t be long til another enzyme is available! 

Even though it's healthiest and safest to stick with food from the ground, occasionally you have to treat yourself. What are some good gluten free products that you have tried?