Gluten-Free Dining Out
While studying abroad in England in 2001, I was introduced to Celiac Disease. I tried out the gluten-free diet, but was unsuccessful. In 2002, without knowing about my previous attempt at eliminating gluten from my diet, I was encouraged by a nutritionist to try out a gluten free diet. After keeping a food journal for a month, she noticed that my stomach problems and emergency room visits increased the more I consumed foods containing gluten. With the help of my nutritionist, I cut gluten out of my diet for 4 weeks and at the end of that 4 weeks, I was amazed. My itchy rash had gone away and I didn't get get sick after every meal. It was at that moment that I began researching celiac disease and the gluten-free diet. After almost 6 years of research and analysis of celiac disease & the gluten-free diet, I have opened a gluten-free store, "Gluten Free Specialty Market" in Downtown Sacramento, California. The goal is to provide both gluten-free products and gluten-free resources to the local community. With both a BA and AM degree in Psychology, my goal is to provide information about both the physical and psychological effects of celiac disease and gluten sensitivities.View all articles by Melanie Weir
Eating out gluten-free is not as easy as it seems. If you Google "gluten-free restaurants," your bound to find a selection of gluten-free menus and gluten-free yelp reviews. However, a global definition for gluten-free does not exist in the restaurant world.
Many times, restaurants, bakeries and deli’s offer gluten-free options like salads (with menu side notes like: order salad without croutons or order meat without bread). If we define gluten-free as less than 20ppm, then the following factors must be followed to ensure safety from gluten contamination (please note this is only a partial list):
Eating Salads Out
- Use of a Separate Strainer: Using a strainer that has been used for pastas or other gluten products, can result in cross contamination.
- Salad Dressing: Many salad dressing utilize gluten containing ingredients like malt vinegar, spices, natural flavorings, wheat, etc.
- Vegetable Chopping Board: A vegetable chopping board must either be completely sterilized or a gluten-free dedicated board must be used.
- Knife: Knife must be sterilized with heat before being used on gluten-free ingredients.
- Prep Area: Salad prep stations are often housed beneath shelves filled with bread. If bread is stored above the salad prep area, then the area cannot be safely maintained as gluten-free. On an additional note, croutons and other gluten products should not be allowed in the gluten-free prep area (1/6th of a bread crumb is all it takes to be contaminated with gluten).
- Salad Toppings: If a topping like chicken, nuts, tofu, peppers or onions are sautéd or prepared on a grill, then the grill and the ingredients must be maintained as gluten-free.
- A grill must be cleaned before a gluten-free product is cooked on it. A separate area for gluten free foods to be cooked is ideal, but not always possible in restaurant settings.
- Many meats are marinated in sauces containing gluten before they are cooked.
- If an exhaust fan is used in the oven, a screen must be used.
- Pizza toppings for gluten free pizza should be housed in a separate area.
- Cannot be prepared in a facility that uses gluten containing flours, because flour dust in the air settles on food.
- Mixing utensils, wooden spoons, scrapes in bowls and cutting boards must be sterile or maintained for just gluten-free products.
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