The people of Britain love to dine out. It’s certainly high up on our family’s list of priorities. Who wouldn’t want to be given a selection of delightful meals to choose from, which you don’t have to cook (or indeed do the washing up?!)
However, when you’ve been diagnosed with coeliac (celiac) disease, or you’re gluten intolerant, then it’s not such an exciting experience, as you’ll end up having to explain over and over (and sometimes, over!) again, to either the waiter, or the people that you’re with, that you need to eat a gluten free diet. Don't worry about being a bit pushy; it's vital to make people aware it's a medical requirement, not some 'food fad'.
You know you’re in a genuinely gluten free understanding environment if the server asks if the person is coeliac (celiac). Those who do, know that it’s of the upmost importance that the food hasn’t been contaminated with gluten. For example, be wary of chips. Of course chips are gluten free – after all they are simply potato cooked in oil, but if that oil has been used for also frying scampi, for example then it’s no longer gluten free. It’s not rocket science, but you wouldn’t believe how many restaurants don’t think of these things, so you will need to.
Things to be aware of when eating out:
- Keep your eyes peeled for any gluten free symbol that often appears on menus, telling you that the dish is gluten free and meets all the requirements stated by Law. Look out for Coeliac UK's GF symbol on menus and in the windows of Coeliac UK's accredited venues.
- Food establishments must, by Law, be able to provide you with information on any allergens, including gluten. You should ask for this information if it’s not obvious to you.
- View the menu online or call ahead and chat to the chef or front of house, to make sure they’re able to properly cater for your needs.
- When you arrive, make sure that the waiting staff know that your child is coeliac and stress the importance and consequences of eating gluten. Be prepared to be pushy, but pleasant! After all, it’s you who will be looking after a sick child if they don’t.
- Your server will be able to offer advice on what meals on the menu are gluten free, and if not, they will be able to offer you the allergens chart.
- Be sure to ask about ingredients in soups, sauces and gravies, as wheat flour can often be used to thicken them up. Also, sausages are not always gluten free.
- Be aware that breaded items on the menu may be cooked in the same pan as your gluten free meal. As before, make sure the waiting staff will communicate to the chef, the importance of avoiding cross contamination in this instance, despite it being a busy kitchen.
In time, figuring out the best places to eat will become second nature. Here are a few of the places we like to eat as a family. In general we find them to be friendly and genuinely understanding of coeliac disease. But more importantly, it just means we can hang out as a family and Freya can eat similar things to us, so we’re not making a big deal about it.
- Carluccios – offers gluten free pasta, along with a variety of main courses, antipasto and desserts
- Handmade Burger Co. – offers a wide range of gluten free burgers, shakes and malts but be sure to check the venue that you’re visiting first, as it tends to vary.
- Pizza Express - offers a range of gluten free meals including pizza, risotto and sorbet.
- Pizza Hut - You can now enjoy a gluten free pizza base from Pizza Hut in store, but also as a takeaway!
FRIENDS & FAMILY
Eating out at a friend or family member’s house, which should in theory be easier, is in fact sometimes harder than dining in a restaurant. We’ve found that some people can be a little nervous, but the more advice you can offer them, the better. If the host is happy for you to advise, then suggest something simple, like rice, potato or vegetable based. Or better still, just bring something with you. It takes the stress away for everyone and then you can just get in with enjoying the visit.
If you’re going to a party, BBQ or buffet, it might be easier to take a little something for your child anyway. To avoid the potential for cross contamination, we always find it easier to take our own plastic utensils and label our dish as gluten free.