Eating out with coeliac disease

Coeliac disease is a serious autoimmune disorder that affects the functioning of the immune system, which can result in the malabsorption of nutrients. Individuals living with coeliac disease must be aware of the importance of a gluten-free diet. Life with coeliac disease can cause some stress and anxiety when eating out, however it doesn’t mean you need to stop going out and enjoying new restaurants and foods. There are some steps to take prior to visiting a restaurant that will put your mind at ease.

Step 1: Which food items are safe for coeliacs

Understanding gluten containing and gluten free foods is an essential aspect of living with coeliac disease. Restaurants may label gluten free options on their menu; however the information may not always be correct. This is where it is important to have an understanding of what foods are generally safe to eat, and whether traces of gluten may still be present in the meal.

Gluten containing grains that must be omitted from the diet include:

  • Wheat: spelt, atta, durum, burghul, Khorasan etc.
  • Rye: pumpernickel.
  • New Triticale: a hybrid of wheat and rye.
  • Barley.
  • Oats.

The most common foods made using these grains include bread, pasta, pizza, biscuits, cakes and cereals.

Get to know the 10 most common food allergens in Australia.

Naturally gluten free grains that can be enjoyed safely may include:

  • Rice.
  • Corn/maize.
  • Buckwheat.
  • Quinoa.
  • Millet.
  • Amaranth.

Other naturally gluten free foods include:

  • Potatoes.
  • Dairy: milk and cheese.
  • Fruits and veggies.
  • Pulses: legumes, beans, nuts and seeds.
  • Eggs.
  • Meat: beef, chicken and fish.

The most common foods made using these grains include bread, pasta, pizza, biscuits, cakes and cereals.

Step 2: Inform the staff of your gluten intolerance

When arriving and ordering at a restaurant you should always flag to the waiter and/or chef that you have coeliac disease. Many restaurants have an understanding of the importance of ensuring they take care when serving someone with coeliac disease, but don’t be afraid to explain the importance if you suspect it’s not being taken seriously.

Ask questions about marinades, sauces and gravies used as they may contain gluten, which is commonly used as a thickening agent. Asking the chef for the ingredients list or a gluten free menu can also help you make an informed decision.

Step 3: Beware of cross-contamination

Cross contamination is a major issue for people with coeliacs disease and occurs when a gluten free food item is contaminated with a gluten containing food item. This can occur directly or indirectly, for example, a chef using the same knife to cut gluten containing bread and gluten free bread.

It is critical that the restaurant is made aware of this and the potential consequences and prepares your food in a way that avoids cross contamination.

You may ask the staff whether they have separate preparation areas when handling a gluten-free meal, use sanitized utensils, gloves, surfaces, cookware and different cooking oil when preparing your food.

Some venues are able to cater for gluten-free diners however some establishments may not be able to cater for coeliac disease or avoid cross contamination, which is why planning ahead is essential.

Step 4: How can I plan ahead?

Doing some research before you eat out is beneficial to enjoy your dine-out meal, worry free! Common ways of researching ahead of time include Google searches, coeliac disease Facebook groups, checking a restaurant’s website, and calling the venue before dining.

We highly recommend that you check whether the venue is listed on Coeliac Australia’s Accredited list and check the Coeliac Australia website to find some other useful resources. You can also review the restaurant menu on the Foodini app which will show you restaurants that offer gluten free menu options, alterations available to make the meal gluten-free and whether the venue is Coeliac Australia Accredited.

Dining out with coeliac disease can be tricky, but it should not stop you from going out to restaurants and enjoying meals with friends and family. By being prepared, doing your research and making informed decisions, you can reduce the risk of being “glutened” and continue to live life to the fullest.

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