Happy Power Monday! How was your weekend? I have a pretty fulfilling and productive one myself! It feels good to get things done right? Plus, it is day one of the Gluten-Free Challenge! I hope you are all starting your day with a nourishing g-free breakfast! I am so excited to get to read all of your thoughts and experiences at the end.Remember the link-up will be up on the next Power Monday and you can also email your experience at strengthandsunshine(at)gmail(dot)com if you don't have a blog. Use the hashtag #GFC14 and post all your amazing g-free meals to instagram or twitter too! Lets make awareness!
Now one thing I have yet to address is eating out while having Celiac disease. When you have any food allergy or disease, eating out can be the scariest most daunting task. I know it was and still is for me, but I am making some progress and allaying my fears and taking a few leaps of faith when necessary. Through my few most recent dining out experiences, I have learned and implemented just a few easy steps to make sure I stay safe and happy. I don't know if I will ever feel "OK" with eating out, but if I really must, at least I know it can be done safely and healthfully.
Step 1: Search. This is the first step and most "time" consuming, but also one of the most essential. Where ever you are going, may that be a local place or you need to find someone on your vacation destination, you need to look up your options. I like to create a folder in my bookmarks tab on my laptop with the name of the destination I will be at. Then I start simply searching Google for gluten-free/allergy-friendly restaurants. I like to start with a general search, but then move on to sites like Gluten Free Registry, Yelp, and Find Me Gluten Free. Also don't be scared to ask on Twitter or in Facebook groups for recommendations. I have also found success with asking fellow food bloggers what they might suggest! Reach out!
Step 2: Narrow it down. Once you have a huge compilation of possible places, it is time to narrow down your results. Start by reading reviews. Of course I never go fully on a review as some people are simply very biased or opinionated on the internet, but they can give you a general idea of how the restaurant is. Next I always scour the menus for hours! Look and see exactly what you might want to try, see if they have anything at all. By doing this, you can get a feel and head start on what you will be ordering when it comes to go time. This will give you a better opportunity to prepare your host (see the next step for more). If you find that the menu is mostly pasta, pizza, and burgers (with no gluten-free options) it may be a good one to delete form your list. Look for special gluten-free menus and even distinguishing marks like asterisks that denote gluten-free. This is always a good indicator that the restaurant is cognizant of safe food practices.
Step 3: Call ahead. (Or email). Once you have the possible places you feel you may be safe eating at, make sure you call or email the restaurant. Ask about food safety/cross-contamination practices, all their gluten-free menu options, and other information you need to feel safe. You can tell by speaking to them just how educated they are on food allergies, so pay attention to how they respond. If you feel like the place you called is a good match, make reservations! By doing this you can tell them to prepare for your arrival and they can plan ahead with the chef if necessary. You also get seated quickly and it just makes the experience better 😉
Step 4: Arrive on time. This may seem silly, but make sure you are courteous and arrive on time for your reservation. Ask for a gluten-free menu if applicable, and have a smile on your face. By sending out positive vibes, your hosts will be a lot happier to accommodate you! This is also a good time to ask to meet with the chef. Some restaurants will gladly bring out the chef and he can talk to you about practices and options he recommends. (This is really common when visiting small family owned restaurants!)
Step 5: Place that order. Hopefully you already have the dish you want in mind since you did all that menu research! When the server comes to take everyone's order, inform them one more time about your allergy and restrictions. Make everything clear and defined (this is life threatening!). Also this is the time to ask for substitutions and swaps. I never order a menu item to the T. You can usually change up sides really easy, add or subtract elements, etc. I don't eat dairy or eggs so I have to do this often even if the dish is gluten-free. Restaurants now are even carrying g-free pasta which you can just swap for normal pasta in a normal menu dish. Just ask!
*If you are eating out in a foreign county, there are special restaurant cards in every possible language you can give to your server and the chef so ensure what you need is able to be accommodated and met safely.
Step 6: Inspect your dish. Before you dig in, inspect each element on the plate. Make sure there are not accidental hidden croutons under that lettuce or a sauce you did not request put on you chicken. If everything looks safe, then you are good to go. If not, do not be afraid to get your dish corrected. Ask for a whole new plate (you must), and don't settle for anything less.
Step 7: Enjoy you meal, family, and laughter. Now you should just enjoy your meal and those you are with. You have taken every step and precaution possible. Just relax and enjoy, you can't do anything now! 80% of the time you will come out fine, but there will always be risk, always.
Step 8: Thank your server, chef, and host. If you have a great experience, make sure you leave a good tip and thank all those who helped accommodate you. Ask to speak to the chef and even thank him personally! Next time you come back, they will remember you and your experience will only become safer and happier for everyone!
Follow these 8 simple steps are you can eat out with a bit more piece of mind! Just because you have Celiac or other food allergy does not mean you HAVE TO bring you own food everywhere you go (like I always did and still do most times). But you can eat out safely and enjoy the same experience as you family and friends. (Always have a back-up plan just in case, or make sure to always have snacks with you if things don't go according to plan!)
So tell me:
+ What safety measure do you take when going to eat out with food allergies?
+ Any horror stories to share? The worst is when you tell your server you can't have gluten and they say, "Don't worry, this dish does not have eggs!" Yea, that is when you get up and leave 😉
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