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Choose Wheat-Free Items from a Restaurant Menu

Even with the best of intentions dining out wheat-free, you'll inevitably find yourself in a situation where calling the restaurant or looking online ahead of time isn't possible. Knowing what to look for on the menu, what to avoid, and what questions to ask the waitstaff becomes essential.

Crack the code: Menu keywords to avoid

A lot of restaurant menus have… creative ways of describing their food. Although some food descriptions are confusing, others can be downright misleading and are giant red flags for wheat-free eaters. Always ask your server, the manager, or a restaurant kitchen employee (try at least two of the three) to disclose everything that's in a food you're considering ordering.

As you're taking in the menu, watch for the following terms that are typically code for gluten. You should avoid them unless you can confirm they're gluten-free. (Some of these are cooking techniques that may be used with wheat-free substitutes, such as almond flour, coconut flour, or crushed pecans.)

  • Battered

  • Breaded

  • Coated

  • Creamy

  • Crispy

  • Croutons

  • Crumbs

  • Crunchy

  • Crusted

  • Dusted

  • En Croute

  • Encrusted

  • Fried or deep fried

  • Grated (cheese)

  • Marinade

  • Parmesan (as in chicken parmesan)

  • Raspings

  • Soufflé

  • Seasonings

  • Stroganoff

  • Wellington

If a restaurant doesn't have a gluten-free menu, you might want to order the most basic meal on the menu. Or, see whether the kitchen will create a plate for you with a piece of meat and a vegetable. If you go the create-your-own-plate route, confirm that everything is wheat-free and meets your level of satisfaction. Some restaurants actually do a good job of making the simple meal tasty.

In this day and age, most restaurants can do a good job of providing you with an outstanding wheat-free experience. If you're not satisfied with your meal, chalk it up as another restaurant that can't meet your needs.

Ferret out more info about the restaurant

Of all the steps you can take to assure you get the wheat-free treatment you deserve from a restaurant, the most important one stems from the conversations that you have with the chef, manager, and waitstaff. These exchanges are your opportunity to see how much the employees know about the preparation and service of wheat-free food.

Try asking the following questions when you speak to the chef, manager, or waitstaff at the restaurant. Your conversations may generate new questions as well:

  • Do you have a gluten-free menu?

  • Do you know what gluten-free truly means?

  • What level of gluten- and wheat-free training do you and your staff have?

  • Are you equipped to serve someone with a wheat or gluten sensitivity?

  • Do you have a separate area where you prepare gluten-free foods?

  • Do you change your gloves after handling other food?

  • What steps do you take to make sure that cross-contamination with wheat/gluten doesn't occur?

  • Can you show me the list of ingredients in the salad dressing, condiment, or sauce I'll be eating?

  • Would you double-check with the chef to make sure my gluten-free order is gluten-free?

It never hurts to ask. The more questions you ask, the more information you get, and information is crucial when you're avoiding wheat.

Sometimes your questions won't be answered to your satisfaction no matter how many or which ones you ask. When you don't trust the answers you're getting or someone can't answer your questions to your liking, leave and go somewhere else. It's just not worth the risk.

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