How to Order Gluten-Free in a Restaurant

Reviewed by Barbara Gordon, RDN, LD
How to Order Gluten-Free in a Restaurant

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Dining out doesn't have to be off-limits for people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. Many restaurants now offer a surprising number of gluten-free items. However, it also takes some extra planning and attention.

Follow these tips to make sure your experience is both gluten-free and pleasant.

Before You Go

  • Call ahead. Try calling during a slow time so you can have the host's full attention. See if the restaurant has a gluten-free menu or if it participates in the  Gluten-Free Restaurant Awareness Program.
  • Read the menu. You can narrow down your choices and have a more focused conversation with the server. Watch out for culinary terms such as crispy, crunchy, breaded, wrapped or thickened — a sign that those items might contain gluten.

While You're There

  • Be clear. While at the restaurant, communicate your needs clearly, assertively and graciously, never trivializing your condition or need to eat 100 percent gluten-free. You may need to speak directly to the chef or manager.
  • Look for gluten-free menu options. The safest choices at restaurants are simple foods without added breading, sauces, marinades or gravies. Many seasonings can contain gluten, so the best bet is to ask for no seasoning. For instance, try grilled salmon with lemon, a baked potato with butter and chives and your favorite steamed vegetables.
  • Ask questions. Menu descriptions don't always list every ingredient. Get the full list of ingredients for sauces and dressings. Inquire how gluten-free grains such as rice are cooked, for example, sometimes they are cooked in broth which may contain gluten. Confirm that separate, clean utensils and equipment will be used for your meal.

When You Leave

  • Spread the word about good service. If you experience good service, be courteous and gracious to the staff. Let them know by saying so, tipping well and spreading the word to the gluten-free community. By doing so, they'll be more likely to provide good service to future gluten-free customers — yourself included.

Need help learning about eating gluten-free? Make an appointment with a registered dietitian nutritionist in your area.

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