When you life with a food sensitivity, it pays to know ahead of time where you can and cannot eat out. Pizza? Probably not unless the parlor specifically serves GF pizza. Brew pubs? Not your best option, either.
Knowing ahead of time the restaurants that cater specifically to people on a gluten free diet or those who can easily accommodate your needs will come in handy when the question gets asked, "Where should we eat tonight?" Consider knowing a few restaurants in different parts of town, that serve different cuisines and what your beverage choices are (not just beer, for example). If you're not prepared with some suggestions that will have broad appeal and can meet your dietary needs, you'll probably find yourself eating a house salad, hold the croutons and dressing. Again.
Your troubles don't stop once you get to a known restaurant or one you reasonably believe could accommodate your gluten free lifestyle. You should also know where food allergens can hide out of sight on the menu descriptions. Some common foods prepared with wheat, barley, malt and rye include:
- Soup with a flour base;
- Salad dressings containing soy sauce or other thickeners;
- Breading on a wide variety of appetizers and entrees;
- Finishing sauces and gravies thickened with flour;
- And anything with soy sauce.
Never be afraid to ask your wait staff about how the food is prepared, what specifically is in the dish including the different sauces, and whether or not the food comes into contact with any gluten, especially if you have a very high sensitivity or celiac disease. If the chefs or wait staff can't tell you if a dish is gluten free or not, pick something else. A little investigating on your part will save you from the after effects of ingesting a known allergen after your meal.
Help With Cross Contamination
No matter how careful you are in selecting a tasty dish to eat, it is wise to use gluten and casein digesting (dipeptidyl peptidase IV or DPP IV) enzymes at the beginning of your meal. Why you may ask and the reason is the food you eat at a non-gluten free restaurant will likely have gluten cross contamination. Taking an enzyme with high activity units of DPP-IV go a long way towards mitigating the effects of accidentally ingested gluten cross-contaminated foods. I recommend either Apex Energetics GlutenFlam or Integrative Therapeutics Similase GFCF. I have used both personally and find them very effective. They are available at my office.
Educate Your Friends
Your food sensitivity is not just a matter of taste. Living GF takes diligence, effort, patience and a lot of self education. People don't choose this diet simply because they woke up one day and decided they didn't like bread. But sometimes, our social circle, particularly those without dietary restrictions, simply can't understand why we have to be so careful about what goes in our mouths. Taking the time to teach your friends about your autoimmune illness, how it affects you and the long term damage gluten can do to your body will go a long way toward making dining out with friends easier. When your friends understand your challenges, they will be less likely to blow off your concerns about where you choose to eat.
Living with a gluten sensitivity takes some hard work, but you can still enjoy the pleasures of dining out with friends by planning ahead. Happy eating.