Dining out on a gluten & dairy-free diet can be a bit intimidating. My goal is to help make this an easier experience. Here are a list of things to keep-in-mind when you decide to take your feasting outside of your kitchen. Many of these tips has saved me (and my body)!
1) It’s always a risk* (oh my!)
This is not to scare you away from dining out! But I would be re-missed if I didn’t make it clear that whenever you eat out, you are placing yourself in someone else’s care. This can be risky, but hopefully as more awareness is created the risk will become less.
2) Alert your server to your food allergies
Whenever I go out to eat I always let my server know about my food allergies. Even if what you are ordering appears to be a completely gluten & dairy-free, still let them know. I have made this mistake before and not shared this vital information and I’ve ended up with cheese, butter or bread crumbs on my plate.
3) Give specific examples of what gluten and dairy are
I also make a point to share with my server specific examples of what I can not eat, this really helps to create an awareness if they are new to food allergies. ex. I can not eat anything with bread or breading, soy sauce, milk, cheese or butter. I know this can be a long list to rattle off but people often forget that butter is dairy, or that soy sauce contains wheat. You could also consider making a business card that explains your allergies so you don’t have to do as much talking. ;)
4) Know what’s in a dish, before you order it
If you know what ingredients go into making the meal you are ordering, you will be much more effective in telling the staff how to prepare your meal. It can also be helpful to call the restaurant in advance and ask about what meals could be prepared for your allergies.
5) Avoid anything deep fried
The deep fryer is used (most often) with breaded foods. Many places will offer french fries for example, which share the same fryer as a beer battered fish. Depending on your sensitivity, proceed with care.
6) Be aware of cross contamination
Make sure the server is aware that your food needs to be prepared on a clean station or cooked in a separate pan to prevent any cross contamination. This not a criticism of the restaurant, but they don’t know what they don’t know.
7) Double check gluten-free items for dairy
If they offer a gluten-free bread or dessert always ask to have the ingredients checked for any dairy (many gluten-free meals, breads or desserts contain dairy).
8) Give the server a few options to choose from
When looking over a menu I usually choose 2 or 3 meals that might be gluten and dairy free and ask the server to check with the chef. This (often) frees the server from having to run back and forth and leaves me feeling less pressed to figure something out myself. If the server is good he will come back with suggestions if yours do not work.
9) It’s okay to double check!
Sometimes I look at the food sitting in front of me and I wonder, “is this really Laura Friendly?” I go through an internal battle of, “well, I just had them check… but I’m still not sure, what do I do?” Have them check again. Never feel ashamed or scared to look out for yourself! There have been a handful of occasions where I had the server double check my order and sure enough, what was sitting in front of me was not Laura Friendly.
10) Always be nice and tip well
A smile will go much further than a frown or attitude, plus it will help to get the server on your side. And if the server is working hard to take care of you, tip them very well. The next time you come back in they will remember it. :)
*note: If your food sensitivity is extremely high, eating in a establishment that contains gluten can be too much too handle. It’s very important to know your limitations and to listen to your body, it never lies. With any food sensitivity it is always advisable to consult with your physician. I am not a doctor and would never want to mislead you. I’m only someone who desires to share my journey with living with food intolerance’s.