While it may help some people to lose weight, a gluten-free diet is a lifelong regimen for people with celiac disease. For celiacs, eating foods with gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye, triggers the immune system to attack the lining of the small intestines, causing damage and malabsorption. While eliminating gluten from your diet limits your food choices, it doesn't mean you can't eat out at a restaurant.
Concerns About Eating Out
When eating out at a restaurant, you need to be aware of the possibility of cross contamination. If a restaurant worker uses a pan to cook someone's pasta dish and then uses that same pan to prepare your meal, there is a possibility your food may become contaminated with gluten if the pan was not cleaned properly. To limit your exposure to cross-contamination, tell your server when you order that you have an allergy to gluten to make sure the kitchen follows the appropriate protocol.
Gluten-Free Eating-Out Tips
Do some homework before going out to eat at a restaurant. If possible, go online and see if the restaurant has a gluten-free menu. Or, call and ask if the chef can prepare a gluten-free meal.
Talk to your server and ask how the food is prepared, making sure to ask if the food contains any hidden sources of gluten such as soy sauce or Worcestershire sauce. You may also want to bring some of your own gluten-free food, such as fresh fruit or gluten-free crackers, just in case, suggests the University of Colorado Extension.
Fast-food restaurants that offer gluten-free options include Burger King, Chick-fil-A, McDonald's, KFC, Taco Bell and Wendy's. According to a 2014 article in Today's Dietitian, Wendy's offers a variety of gluten-free options that are healthy, too, including the baked potato, chili and salads with dressing but without croutons
Many of these restaurants, including Burger King and Chick-fil-A, offer a separate gluten-free menu to help make ordering easier.
Sit-Down Chain Restaurants
A number of sit-down chain restaurants also offer gluten-free menus and meal options, including Applebee's, Ruby Tuesday, California Pizza Kitchen and Red Lobster. It's important to note that many chain restaurants warn their customers about the potential for cross contamination despite offering gluten-free menu options. Menu options and recipes change, so always ask the restaurant for the most up-to-date gluten-free menu.