Vigilance is paramount when eating out or attending dinner parties, but don’t let celiac disease or gluten intolerance turn you into a hermit. It’s still possible to enjoy meals outside your kitchen’s safety. Melinda Dennis, RD, nutrition coordinator for the Celiac Center at Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, offers these pointers.
Next page: Call ahead
When you’re not in the mood to cook, phone the restaurant you’ve chosen and talk with the manager or chef. The best time to do this is during the midmorning and midafternoon downtimes when they’re less busy, says Dennis. More and more establishments are eager to accommodate gluten-free diners.
Next page: Pick your cuisine
Some cuisines are naturally more gluten-free than others. Mexican food, for example—with its emphasis on beans, meats, corn, rice, avocados, and other fresh produce—is an excellent option. On the flipside, Asian dishes are often doused in sketchy, potentially gluten-containing sauces. Don’t be lulled, however, into a false sense of security by a dedicated “gluten-free” section of the menu. Cross-contamination can occur in the kitchen, particularly if the staff is not trained in gluten-free food preparation. “If you're in doubt about a dish, query the chef or manager about it, and be sure they're confident in their answer,” Dennis advises. Consider carrying a dining-out list of safe and unsafe ingredients.
Next page: Be dinner-party savvy
To avoid staring longingly at off-limits foods, speak to the hostess and offer to bring your own gluten-free entrée, appetizer, or dessert, says Dennis. Many beers and premade cocktails harbor gluten, so consider bringing these, too. If you’re still worried about finding enough to eat, have a small meal beforehand.