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Gluten-Free Dining Out
Celiac.com 04/16/2012 - Can I eat our at restaurants if I’m on a gluten-free diet?
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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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