Eating Out with Gluten Intolerance or Other Restrictions

Making Your Needs Known in a Restaurant is Critical

When you have food sensitivities, whether it’s celiac disease, gluten intolerance, dairy intolerance or something else, going out to a restaurant can be difficult. Making a mistake on your diet can result in anything from mild discomfort to life-threatening consequences, depending on the degree of your sensitivity or allergy. While those with gluten intolerance can be affected acutely or seemingly silently, we know that a zero tolerance policy is the only way to go.
You Can Eat Out Successfully

I would love to say that the following tips are fool-proof but we unfortunately do not live in a perfect world. Hopefully they will at least be helpful and make going out to eat more enjoyable and safer.

• This first tip came from a patient who shared this good idea in our last “Gluten Free For Me” support group meeting – held the second Tuesday of every month at 7 pm here at HealthNOW. If you know that you are going to a restaurant for dinner, call them about 3 or 4 pm and speak to the chef. (Ideally it would be great to have pulled up their menu on-line so that you have an idea of what they offer beforehand.) A typical restaurant chef will be in “dinner prep” mode at this time and therefore has more time to speak with you than when the restaurant is busy serving customers.

• Chefs love to nourish people, it’s the reason they became chefs. If you clearly state what foods you are intolerant to and what you do like to eat, it should be fairly easy to work out a dish that he or she can prepare for you. Get the chef’s name and give him yours as well as the time you will be arriving for dinner. Work out what the waiter should say to the kitchen staff when your order comes in so that the chef will know it’s you. This may be a little labor intensive on the front end, but imagine how nice it will be to simply place your order without having to “grill” the waiter about your food restrictions!

• If you don’t have time to do the above, end up going out unplanned, or it just didn’t work to speak to the chef or maitre ‘d, then you’ll have to be more aggressive in the defense of your health.

• Look at the menu from the perspective of what’s in the kitchen rather than how they have put the meals together. In other words if you want the salmon but it comes with polenta and you’re allergic to corn, ask for the salmon with rice, if you see rice somewhere on the menu. Or better yet, get it with some broccoli or spinach. Think of it more as selecting what you want from the available options on the menu as a whole, rather than how the chef is choosing to serve to pair the ingredients.

• When ordering make the seriousness of your needs clear. If the waiter is standing far away from you, ask them to come closer. Let them know that the reason you have to ask questions is that you have severe allergies (yes it’s okay to say “severe” – it gets their attention) and if you eat gluten (or whatever food is problematic) you will get very ill. If you say it in a serious tone, they will not treat your request lightly. It’s up to you to make your statement impactful enough for them to carry the information back to the chef accurately.

• When you are asking for special consideration, make sure they know that it’s due to food allergies. I usually say something like this: “While the pasta sounds delicious with the chicken, unfortunately I’m allergic to it. Can we substitute broccoli?”

• Simple is best. Unless you are a decent cook yourself and you know how things are made, sauces and dishes that are “stuffed” or complex have a higher likelihood of getting you into trouble. The fewer components to the meal, the more likely you will have an enjoyable, healthy experience.
Don’t Be Shy – Your Good Health is Worth it

I hope you find this helpful. Navigating through menus and others’ kitchens can definitely be anxiety-provoking, especially when you’ve had a bad experience. But if you do your homework and you’re not shy about communicating your needs, you should do well. The good news is that the awareness of food sensitivities, especially gluten intolerance and celiac disease is definitely increasing. Enjoy!
Is Your Health At Its Optimal?

If you have any health concerns—contact us for a FREE CONSULTATION. Call (408) 733-0400 to schedule. If you are not local to us, our DESTINATION CLINIC treats patients from across the country and internationally. We will help you find the underlying root cause!

To your health,

Dr. Vikki Petersen
IFM Certified Practitioner
Founder of HealthNOW Medical Center
Author of “The Gluten Effect”
Author of eBook: “Gluten Intolerance – What You Don’t Know May Be Killing You!”