This can be one of the hardest things for those with coeliac disease, at least initially. You may be limited in your local choices of where to dine out, worried about visiting friends' houses or feel travelling is simply not an option.
However, it is not as scary as you think; a little forward planning should sort out most of the difficulties.
Over time you will get to know which of your local restaurants are the most helpful concerning a gluten free diet, and those which are best avoided.
The golden rule is ‘ask questions and talk to the staff’.
If your child is on a gluten free diet, packing a container with snacks is a sensible precaution.
Eating with friends
Eating at friends’ houses is initially about education if they are not aware of your need for gluten free foods. With the increased availability of delicious gluten free small goods such as sausages, barbecues are a simple option. Request that your meat is cooked on a clean part of the barbecue to avoid cross-contamination. Avoid sauces, spices or flavourings unless you are sure they are gluten free. Encourage your friends to try gluten free options too when you visit (they may be pleasantly surprised about their quality) and don't forget that most fresh produce is naturally gluten-free.
With special occasions such as Christmas, birthday parties, weddings and shared lunches, discuss what is available to you with the organiser or take a plate.
These days most restaurants are able to accommodate gluten free requirements. Restaurants or cafe's don't have to offer a gluten-free meal, so it is best to call ahead or check their website to see if they offer gluten-free options. If you speak to restaurant staff, explain why you need to ensure you don’t have food that contains gluten. Highlight what foods are naturally gluten-free and suitable to eat and provide specific examples of what is not safe, for example:
- wheat flour in sauces
- some stock cubes/powders
- oil used to fry foods that contain gluten.
You may also need to explain why it is vital to avoid any contamination with foods that contain gluten.
If there is nothing suitable on the menu, ask if the chef could cook something else for you. Many restaurant chefs are happy to do this once they know
the reason for the request.
When eating at cafes, look for foods such as omelettes, salads, jacket potatoes, chicken pieces (uncoated), wedges and chips. Check with the chef that your selected option is gluten free, and use the points above - if you are unsure, just ask. Be careful of noodles in soups and salads as these may not be gluten free.
There are a growing number of fast food outlets providing gluten free options. Some are good and some are not so good. Some apply a surcharge to cover the associated costs. The same tips apply as above - if you are unsure, check the company's website, or call and ask.
- If you don’t feel confident in the responses you are receiving, try another restaurant.
- Be prepared to pay a little more, as often it does cost more for restaurants to provide gluten free alternatives. This may be owing to purchasing separate equipment for gluten free food preparation or the increased costs of the gluten free ingredients from their supplier.
- If something doesn’t seem right, don’t just assume it is gluten free, question it. For example, if you have ordered soup as a meal and it comes served with crusty bread on the side, double check that the bread is gluten free. Alternatively, if you have ordered a cake at a café and it is sprinkled with icing sugar, check that the icing sugar is gluten free.
- If you had a great gluten free experience, take the time to thank the staff.
- If the venue has not got their gluten free processes quite right, it is up to us all to educate them and most venues will be open to this. Coeliac NZ have a number of educational resources you can provide (or we can post out) to food industry providers. We are also happy to get in touch with them directly.
We have further helpful information in our Member's Area of the website, including: a comprehensive list of restaurants and cafes that provide gluten-free options, as recommended by CNZ members, and information about different countries cuisines and travel trips for those planning an overseas trip. To view this section, you must sign up as a member to CNZ, which you can do so below.