Blog Posts

Coeliac awareness when eating out

15.05.2018 | by Juvela

I’m sure you have gathered by now, I adore my food! But like any coeliac, when eating out, ‘being safe’ is top of my priority list. One of my favourite pastimes has to be trying out a new café or restaurant that has had great reviews.

I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying some amazing gluten free meals over the years and have my own ‘little black book’ of my favourite venues! Before leaving a restaurant, as well as thanking them for the meal and great service, I also like to thank them for recognising the coeliac condition and for providing safe gluten free options on their menu.

Since my diagnosis in 2003, gluten free options available in cafes and restaurants etc, have increased massively and I am constantly blown away by this! However, although many places now offer a separate gluten free menu, I have found that unfortunately it is not always a ‘done deal’ that everything on some menus are safe for a coeliac.  On a couple of occasions recently I have nearly been caught out by this. Both times were due to gluten free food being fried in the same oil as gluten containing food. Luckily, I discovered in the nick of time and hadn’t tucked in. I did politely advise staff, and explained to them, that only safe gluten free options should be listed on a gluten free menu, to ensure the well-being of coeliacs and those following a gluten free diet for medical purposes.

So although things have greatly improved, there is still work to be done in raising awareness of coeliac disease (and other medical conditions) when eating out – don’t be afraid to speak up and explain how they can help coeliacs, the tips you pass on could help other coeliacs who visit the restaurant in future!

Eating out at a recommended gluten free venue is always advisable. When making your reservation you can have 'the chat' to ensure all will be well. I have popped together some things that need checking to keep that pesky gluten out of your tum….

  • Check their understanding of the importance of a gluten free diet for a coeliac and their knowledge of what foods gluten is found in. Don’t be afraid to question further if you still feel unsure about the suitability of a dish.
  • Make sure separate chopping board, pans and utensils etc are used in the preparation for all gluten free foods.
  • Check that a separate fryer is used for gluten free food.
  • Check that separate butter, mayonnaise etc is used for gluten free options.
  • Ask that the chocolate used for hot chocolate or to sprinkle on your cappuccino and any accompaniment’s that go with a hot drink, chocolates, marshmallows are gluten free. Sometimes biscuits are given too, I have never known these to be gluten free so always treat with caution or ask that biscuits are left off your saucer.
  • If a meal is served with something that contains gluten, like onion rings, I would politely request a new meal and explain that cross-contamination is a problem for coeliacs.
  • Never drop your guard! Due to different chefs being in the kitchen or a change of ingredient, you need to do your gluten free checks on each visit - even if it is your regular haunt!

When eating out never be afraid to ask/say if you are concerned in any way that your meal may not be gluten free. I must say on most occasions when I have had to do this my ‘gut feeling’ has been well founded. Also, when I have any doubts about discussing my concerns, I think about others and realise its paving the way to make dining out safer for coeliac and building good rapport with catering establishments too.

Always follow your gut instinct and if in doubt, leave it out. As whether you are symptomatic or not, there is not a degree of sensitivity and as a diagnosed coeliac, your diet needs to be completely gluten free

A handful of great gluten free venues to share; (Had great gluten free fish and chips from here) (Perfect for a lunch time treat and they do proper chips here that are Coeliac friendly…yay!) (A very Special place that I have been visiting for over 10 years…Love it!!) (Lovely location to call for something tasty after a stroll along the nearby canal)

Again, a huge thank you to all restaurants, cafes, etc. everywhere that are providing safe gluten free meals. You are doing an AMAZING job and give great joy to thousands of people like me that require a gluten free diet!!

Happy Coeliac Awareness week to you, may you discover many gluten free hidden gems and treats… Feel free to share them with us!

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