I’m not here to pick on anyone but restaurants can be a major problem for someone with celiac disease. Not all restaurants are created equally here and once you get out there after initially being diagnosed you will realize this all too quickly. Sometimes you can do everything right and still get sick because something was cross-contaminated or the practices in the kitchen are not safe for you.
I can tell you in the beginning it is hard and honestly the more comfortable you are around food the easier it will be. At first you don’t want to be a bother or an inconvenience to everyone else nor do you always feel like interrogating the wait staff but you will soon learn how costly those mistakes are and you will pay dearly for them with your health a fews from now.
I’m not saying all this to scare you or freak you out but there is a very big difference when going out with a newly diagnosed celiac and a long-time one. The long-time celiacs have learned to get over it and exude a confidence and will not back down when the wait staff is not giving them the proper attention, they know what is at stake for them. And the point of all this is, you will too in time.
So here are my Top 3 Tips, hope they help.
If you know what restaurant you are going to ahead of time, check on-line and read the menu first. Pick out what is safe for you and what sounds good.
If you need some additional assistance, I always suggest calling the restaurant ahead of time, during non-busy hours and speak with the manager to get additional assistance. Managers generally are better trained to deal with food allergies and challenges, in addition they are generally more familiar with how the chef prepares the food and can be of great help to providing you with the best options.
Also, if you have a chance to recommend a restaurant, speak-up and suggest a place that you know is safe for you to eat. This always makes for a better time when everyone can relax and enjoy each others company and not have to be anxious about the food.
Order last, never first. I know this can be a bit of a challenge as a woman because men as a common curtesy, sign of respect and general caring for you, always want you to order first. However, when you have gluten challenges this is not your best option. So make up whatever excuse you need to, pretend you are still deciding so that you can order last.
The reason being, you are going to have questions, how something is made, the wait staff may have to go back and check with the chef and they are certainly more likely to do so if you were last to order. If you were first in a large party forget it, they won’t remember so always try and order last. Plus at this point you will have their undivided attention as they have all the other orders and won’t feel rushed to take yours when you start asking questions.
In addition, if you are in a large party always try and sit on an end so that you do not have to yell your order over others. In a loud restaurant, you cannot afford for things to get lost in translation or drowned out by the band playing, your health is at stake.
When speaking to the waiter or waitress it is extremely important for you to explain that you have celiac disease because you will get very sick if the order is wrong (which you will).
I go on to say that I have a severe allergic reaction to wheat, barley and rye. Why do I call celiac disease an allergy? Because most people in the food industry are trained how to deal with food allergies and may not always know what celiac disease is, but they do know what an allergy is. And then I pause.
I pause until they look me in the eyes again. I want to know that my statement just registered with them and that they understand that they need to be careful with my order. Most servers will nod their heads or acknowledge, its the ones that have the blank, deer in the headlights look that you have to really worry about. If they have never heard of celiac disease or allergies, your best bet is to speak to the manager because if they have not been trained on how to handle this, you should not be the training exercise to see how they do.
Would love to hear your tips on how you survive eating out, please share in the comments below. Also, if you have specific tips you’d like to request, click on the question box and I’ll get to yours just as soon as I can.