Eating Out Gluten Free

When you cook at home, you know what’s in stuff. This makes eating gluten free easy as pie. Well, crustless pie. Which would be pie filling. Which is basically sugar and fruit. See? Easy.

from homefabulous

Anyway, you can’t always eat at home. At some point you will have to go to a restaurant, which may strike fear in the new Celiac or anybody trying to live a gluten free lifestyle.
Gluten can be sneaky, kids. It’s like MSG.

from sodahead1

So here is ol’ Celia C again, your trusty gluten-free guest blogger here at Suck It, Martha. She’s going to dish on how to order at restaurants. Hang on.
Name of the game is COMMUNICATION. Seriously.

from briansolis

So you already know the things you’re not allowed to eat. Wheat, rye and barley are the easy ones.  Also, look out for soy sauce, since most restaurant brands contain wheat.

The tricky thing about restaurant eating is cross-contamination in the kitchen. Whether or not the plain fries are fried in the same oil as the battered onion rings.  If the meats are marinated in soy sauce or dusted with flour before grilling.

Sounds like a hell of a lot to tell a server who’s really just waiting for you to point to something on the menu and grunt, right?

from newsbiscuit

Trust me, anyone who works for tips will want to help you out.  Don’t be shy. It’s much better to feel silly for 30 seconds talking than be sick for two days.  Speak up.

In general, I’ve found eating out to be easier if A) it’s a locally owned, independent restaurant or B) the chain’s website has an online menu and ingredient list.

Local, independent restaurants LOVE their customers.

from middleotwney

I’ve  made friends with the menus at several local spots where I live, including but not limited to The Rookery and Lemongrass Thai Bistro. Both have helped me in ordering and I have never been disappointed with a meal there.

from animatedheroes

Often, you can speak directly to the chef or kitchen manager, as I did at the Tic Toc Room my first time there.  My friends were there for tapas and the chef came out and went through the tapas menu, pointing out what I could have and what he could modify to make for me.

My company Christmas dinner was at Marco this year and boy howdy did I have a wonderful meal!

from mostphotos

The limited menu was pretty much safe for me to begin with and they happily brought me gelato for dessert instead of cake. Locals LOVE their customers. Seriously.

One other thing about locals is that most everything is made in house, like sauces and side dishes.

from igourmet

This is helpful because then the chef knows EVERYTHING that went into it. And since it’s not processed sit-on-the-shelf stuff, it’s less likely to have unnecessary thickeners like flour or modified food starch.

Most chain restaurants are hip to the fact that a lot of their would-be patrons don’t visit because of food allergies or dietary restrictions.

from beecommunicators

These days, most of them have their menus online with ingredient lists and some even have separate lists for food allergies.  I’ve spent some time looking at websites for a lot of the chain restaurants I’m likely to frequent, so that’s helped and you can do that too.

But the basics are as follows:


from koloskov

  • Enchiladas are made from corn tortillas, but make sure you ask about the sauce.  I always ask that them top mine with regular salsa rather than their special sauce, just in case there’s flour in it.
  • Hard taco shells are usually corn, but you never know. ASK.
  • Taco salads are awesome, but ask them to skip the tortilla shell.
  • Wheat = “trigo” (tree-go)
  • Sauce = “salsa”
  • I cannot eat wheat =  No puedo comer el trigo.
  • Does the enchilada sauce have wheat? = La salsa por las enchiladas tiene trigo?


from italylogue

  • Salads are usually the only option.
  • Some more well rounded Italian places may have grill items like a chicken or beef dish that comes with sides.  Follow your typical rules for this but keep in mind that kitchen cross contamination is more likely in an Italian restaurant than any other type.
  • Also there might be risotto on the menu, which is just rice. A GREAT pasta alternative.
  • Pizza themed places are out of the question. Sure, you can order a salad, but the person making it is standing in a room where literally EVERY surface is covered in flour. Sorry, IVP.


from factspy

  • In a typical Chinese, order-by-number restaurant, pretty much you can have Moo Goo Gai Pan and steamed rice. Nearly every other dish is either sauced with soy sauce or wrapped in a wheat flour wonton.
  • At sushi restaurants, I bring my own soy sauce (LaChoy brand contains no wheat!). It’s a little dorky but who cares?  The ordering can be tricky as you need to avoid anything with “crunch” or tempura. Often menus detail what comes in each roll, but again SPEAK UP and don’t be afraid to ask questions.
  • Hibachi table dinners are out of the question as the really awesome knife throwing dude will cover everything on the cooktop with soy sauce. Thanks but no thanks.

Bar food/American Casual

from burgerbusiness

For the wing joints, Applebee’s, etc. I advise that you check out the websites ahead of time, if possible. That way you know about the details.

  • AppetizersChips and dips are usually best. Some places have potato skins, though unless you’re sharing, it’s too much food.  Beyond that, most appetizers are fried or on a bun.
  • Skip the sandwich menu entirely.  Take a look at the burgers though. Ordering a burger without the bun is a really greatmeal. You immediately skip some unnecessary carbs (since you’re probably getting a load of carbs on the side anyway) and usually most places have some interesting special burger toppings. I love the Johnny Jenkins at The Rookery (topped with pimento cheese and pickles).
  • Salads are a good, safe go-to. Skip the Asian themed ones and any with fried chicken on them  and make sure you tell the waiter no croutons. Also ask about dressings and if your salad comes with meat on it, ask about marinades.
  • Soups can go either way. A lot of creamy soups are thickened with flour and many of the broth based ones have barley or pasta in them. Ask questions. (O’Charley’s potato soup is safe but a cholesterol bomb)
  • Wings are hit or miss. Depends on the place. Again, check the website or ask the waiter. Make sure you ask about the wings alone as well as the tossing sauces.
  • Pasta – This should be a no brainer. Unless you’re at Maggiano’s Little Italy, which makes their own GF rotini to order. So tasty.
  • Grill items like chicken and steak are usually safe bets. Just make sure to ask the waiter about marinades and bastes. For example, Outback uses a grill baste on all it’s grilled meats and it contains flour. But they’ll make it without if you ask.
  • Sides: Stick to the unprocessed stuff as much as possible. Mashed potatoes are more likely to be safe than plain fries or potato salad.  To use Outback as another example, their steam vegetables are dusted with a seasoning mix that uses flour to prevent caking. Ask for them plain.

Fast Food

from ieatasphalt

  • Krystal – Pretty much the only drive through breakfast available for us GF types. Called the Scrambler, it’s a little bowl of grits, topped with a scrambled egg, a slice of cheese and your choice of bacon or sausage. Plenty of protein, yummy, about $3.
  • Wendy’s – The grilled chicken is safe. If I’m craving fries, I’ll get the grilled chicken sandwich combo, no bun. Also, their Baja Salad is a great one. The chili, side salad and baked potatoes are all GF.
  • McDonalds – For a long time, the only things on the menu we could have were soda and soft serve ice cream. Now they’ve changed the marinade for the grilled chicken so the salads with grilled chicken are safe (except the Asian one and of course skip the croutons).  The fries here actually contain flour. Sorry kids.
  • Zaxby’s – Just learned that the wings are GF! Check the website for their sauces’ ingredients, but I prefer them plain.
  • Moe’s – Everything but the flour tortillas. Boom.

Convenience Store Snacking 

from snus

Not so healthy, but we all have days when this is necesssary.

Obviously you steer clear of the Honey Buns and Little Debbie stuff.

from thedaddydiaries

Hot dogs are usually ok without the bun but awkward to eat in the car.

Most chips are ok. Check the labels on Doritos (some flavors have wheat) and skip the SunChips.

The healthiest way to snack at the gas station is a piece of string cheese or a bag of nuts or trail mix. Always read the labels but for the most part, you’ll be ok.

suck it, gluten.

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Categories: Guest Posts, Life


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2 Comments on “Eating Out Gluten Free”

  1. March 16, 2012 at 4:27 am #

    I have the same problem.

  2. March 20, 2012 at 7:19 am #

    You have a very fantastic website

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