10 tips to keep gluten-free when eating out

Eating out may seem like a daunting task when you have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity because just a small amount of gluten can leave you feeling ill for days or longer. But that doesn't mean you can't enjoy a night out – it just means you may need to do a little planning.
With more than 18 million people in the United States affected by gluten sensitivity, you aren't alone. Some restaurant menus even offer gluten-free menu options to make it easier. By following these 10 tips, you can eat out with friends and family and enjoy yourself in spite of your dietary limitations.
1. Choose certified
Did you know that there are food service establishments that are certified gluten-free all over the United States and Canada? You can get the list at Gluten Free Food Service to see if it includes somewhere in your area to eat out.
2. Look online
More and more restaurants list their menus online. This makes it simple to check ahead for safe, gluten-free meal options before you even leave home.
3. Consider the type of restaurant
If you want to eat fast food, you may have fewer choices than restaurants considered casual or fine dining. Fast food is often made ahead and there is greater risk for cross contamination. Also, ethnic restaurants where there may possibly be a language barrier could pose a challenge if servers are not clear about what you are requesting.
4. Call ahead
If you can't find a certified establishment in your area, it's a wise move to call ahead. With the large number of people in the United States who must avoid gluten, restaurants are not surprised by people who have special dietary requirements. Ask if the restaurant offers gluten-free options or if it can custom cook your meal to meet your dietary requirements.
5. Avoid the rush
Try to plan your visit during slower times instead of at regular meal times. When the staff is rushed to serve an influx of diners, mistakes are more likely to be made, and you will be the one who suffers.
6. Make your needs clear
Not everyone understands that gluten will cause more than a stomachache. For people who are sensitive to gluten, actual damage occurs to the small intestine when they consume contaminated foods. Although you don't have to go into all the details, make sure this is clear to your server so mistakes can be avoided. This is about health, not a diet trend.
7. Avoid risky foods
Fried foods, as well as foods in sauces, gravies or marinades, may contain hidden gluten or be prepared in pans that also prepared foods with gluten. Avoid these choices or ask about how safe they are for you.
8. Double check
When your meal arrives, politely double check that it is the special order that you requested. Sometimes mix-ups occur.
9. Always be polite
You are more likely to get the service you need when you ask kindly, and your health may depend on it. Don't forget to thank your server after the meal. The person will be more likely to remember you next time.
10. Take the restaurant card
Print and take the restaurant card from Gluten Intolerance Group. You can share it with your server and the chef to help ensure that you get a safe meal.

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