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Can I Eat That? Dining Safely When Gluten-Free

By Kathy Craddock, Owner, Kickshaws Downtown Market and Kickshaws Kitchen.

Being gluten-free can be tough. It doesn’t take long to realize exactly how social food is after you have had to eliminate something or things.

When my family first went gluten-free, like most folks we started trying to recreate just about every favorite meal at home into a gluten-free version. I’m sure having a baker mom made it was a little less painful for our kids, but family events, restaurants, church potlucks- everything else was very hard.

Over time we have fine tuned how to safely navigate a world chock full of allergens, so that we too can enjoy eating out with friends and family.

Call Ahead
If you’re heading to a family or friend’s house, talk to them to let them know your allergen issues. I always feel that this can be a great learning experience for close friends and family who really want to try to accommodate you.

Take the time to explain that gluten is the protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. In folks who have Celiac Disease (more than three million diagnosed Americans) or Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity (yes, this is a very real and diagnosable condition, it is NOT in our heads), gluten wreaks havoc on our digestive systems. Even the tiniest spec (think- the dust that settles when you blend together a cake mix) can cause damage and in many cases silently, or without any outward and obvious symptoms.

In our marketplace today there are tons of safe gluten-free mixes and pre-made products. If your host wants to really accommodate you, make suggestions of a few items that might be safe. For us, I hate to ask anyone to try to accommodate me, especially since my food issues are quite varied. I always treat an outing as a potluck and take a dish that I know we can eat safely or eat before heading out.

Is everyone headed to a local restaurant? Call the restaurant up and ask them about their possible gluten-free options. Don’t be shy, ask all the questions and be sure that you can safely eat. There is nothing more awkward than sitting there with the server, surrounded by your friends and telling them… “oh, I will just have a glass of water.”

Ask Questions
No matter where you go, ask these three questions:
1 – What is in the food?
What is in the sauces, garnishes, seasonings? Remember anything that contains wheat, rye or barley. Oats, unless certified gluten-free also have a high rate of contamination. If your server doesn’t know ingredients, ask them to check.

2 – Where is it prepared?
Ask about the surfaces where your food is being prepared. Is it the same place where flour is used, bread is sliced or other gluten containing items are assembled? Is there a clean surface that can be used or prepared to avoid cross contamination?

3 – How was it prepared and plated?
The last chink in the chain is typically plating foods. Are the plates and utensils kept in a place that they would not have flour settle on them? Is the person prepping your meal using fresh gloves when handling your foods?

Be Bold… and Polite
Don’t be afraid to ask the questions, eat ahead, bring a dish or any other way to be sure that you and your family can eat safely.

In society today there does seem to be a sheer lack of manners, especially in the world of dining. I have heard people so much as say “you eat what I have or don’t eat at all.” Of course, that is any hosts option, but that doesn’t mean you have to eat it. Politely tell them, “thank you so much for having us, I just have a few food allergies I have to be careful with.” Please, keep yourself safe and don’t compromise, it is the only way to allow your body to truly heal.

For more tips on dining safely, Celiac Disease and Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity visit our shop online at www.kickshawsfxbg.com. Check out safe dining apps like Gluten-Free Finder, Find me GF, Dine GF and Allergy Eats.

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