I’m pretty excited to welcome a good friend & really fun guest blogger today, everyone meet Jackie! She’s the super talented blogger and resourceful mastermind behind Gluten Free Follow Me; a comprehensive dining guide that’s meant to make gluten-free dining effortless & conveniently easy for all. She’s eaten her way through some of the best restaurants; exploring, tasting & listing their gluten free menu options so you don’t have to. Her Instagram page is filled with the most drool-worthy finds, as well as her own delicious creations. Feast your eyes!
Hi! I’m Jackie, and I’m the founder of Gluten Free Follow Me, the Guide to Dining Gluten Free in NYC, California, and beyond. I’m so excited that my good friend Aleyda and I are both guest blog posting on each other’s blogs this week! Isn’t she the best?! Aleyda makes the most delectable yet still healthy creations – her posts and recipes always get me hungry! I’m here to share how you CAN eat out without negotiating your gluten free diet and to give you some tips on dining out when gluten free!
When I moved to NYC in July 2011, I was excited and overwhelmed about the seemingly infinite number of restaurants across Manhattan. I wanted to try them all and have proceeded to attempt to do so. A few months after I moved to NYC, I learned I was unable to eat gluten. I was determined not to let this stop me from experiencing all NYC restaurants have to offer.
I have lived in NYC for over five years and more recently in Los Angeles, and it’s been so much fun exploring all of the gluten free options (there are a lot!). I detail and rank over 1,000 gluten free friendly eateries in NYC on my website glutenfreefollowme.com in addition to 1,000+ other eateries across the United States & globally, products, delivery services, and my own recipes.
I feel very lucky to live in NYC and LA, two of the most gluten free friendly cities. A few months ago, I drove across the country and was stunned to realize how hard it was to eat gluten free in some states. Thankfully I brought snacks because Subway was the only place I could find gluten free options. I asked them to change their gloves and made some sort of salad with the greens and vegetable toppings. So if you don’t live in a gluten free friendly area, I feel ya!
When you have a gluten sensitivity, and especially celiac disease, you have to be incredibly careful when dining out. Thankfully, there are some eateries that represent themselves as 100% gluten free and thus safe for those with celiac disease. There are other eateries that take precautions to keep their kitchen as gluten free friendly as possible. If you follow my tips below, you should be able to eat out safely!
1. Call the eatery beforehand to see if they are gluten free friendly. Ask if they offer gluten free options such as gluten free bread, pasta, pizza, and desserts. I’ve found that many restaurants offer gluten free options but don’t always list them on their menu. This is one of the reasons I detail the gluten free options on my website and include any nuances I find.
- When you get to the restaurant, tell your server that you are gluten free. Don’t be embarrassed to say that you are gluten free. It’s so much worse if you order something that you think is gluten free and it isn’t and then you get sick!
- Ask your server if they have a gluten free menu. If they do have a gluten free menu, then it’s pretty easy for you to figure out what you can eat. However, you should still examine the GF menu carefully to make sure the options are indeed gluten free. For example, I only eat fries that are in a dedicated gluten free fryer. Some restaurants may assume fries are gluten free if they don’t add flour to the fries but a fryer that has been used to fry other gluten-containing items is not safe for those with celiac disease. If you see the word “crispy” on a menu, ask how it’s cooked and what it’s made with because crispy usually means it’s fried. I frequently see crispy Brussels sprouts and crispy cauliflower dishes on menus, and unfortunately they usually are not gluten free since they are fried in the same fryer as other gluten-containing items.
- Even if a restaurant doesn’t have a gluten free menu, most chefs and waiters know which items are gluten free or if they can make modifications and substitutions to make it gluten free. Ask your server to go through the menu with you item by item so you know which items are gluten free or which items can be modified to be made gluten free. You can never assume that something is gluten free because menus typically don’t include all of the ingredients for each dish and unfortunately sometimes add flour as a thickening agent. For example, crème brulee, panna cotta, and chocolate mousse are naturally gluten free desserts but some restaurants add flour to them so it is important to ask.
- If the restaurant doesn’t have gluten free bread/buns, ask to get a burger without the bun or served on top of greens or as a lettuce wrap. Note that most veggie burgers contain gluten so make sure the patty you’re getting is indeed gluten free. Beef and turkey patties are typically gluten free, but again always ask!
- If the restaurant isn’t sure whether their entrees are gluten free due to the sauces, request fish and meat to be simply cooked aka with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Gluten can hide in the sauces so be careful!
- Asian food can be tough if you’re gluten free, mostly because of the sauces. Some restaurants offer Tamari gluten free soy sauce upon request so be sure to ask your server. If you know the restaurant doesn’t have GF soy sauce, then bring your own! It may seem silly but sushi does taste much better with soy sauce than without 🙂 Also, you should question items that contain the following words: soy; tempura; crab since imitation crab isn’t gluten free; eel sauce; teriyaki; creamy; marinated; dressing; crispy; spicy; wasabi. Vegetable rolls or simple fish rolls like tuna, salmon, yellowtail are usually safe.
- If there aren’t too many gluten free options at a restaurant, salads and egg dishes are typically safe items. For salads, request balsamic vinegar & olive oil for your dressing and make sure there aren’t any croutons or breadcrumbs in the salad.
Happy Gluten Free Eating!
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