Enjoy Wheat-Free International Cuisines - dummies

Enjoy Wheat-Free International Cuisines

By Rusty Gregory, Alan Chasen

The more wheat-sensitive you are, the more you need the restaurant staff to understand your situation. If the language barrier is too great to overcome, you can politely leave and find a restaurant where you can communicate your needs effectively.

One of life’s greatest pleasures is enjoying food from diverse parts of the world. But when dining out in ethnic restaurants, the greatest challenge can be the language barrier, particularly if you need to ask questions of someone who doesn’t speak your language.

Even though you may be able to eat a wheat-free meal at different ethnic restaurants, that meal may still trigger health effects like insulin spikes. Minimizing sugar and vegetable oil consumption in addition to wheat helps prevent the long-term effects of spiking insulin levels and inflammation.

Good wheat-free options for dining out

Here is a list of what to be on the lookout for when you eat at ethnic restaurants:

  • Chinese: Steering clear of soy sauce (which contains wheat) is the name of the game with Chinese food because almost every Chinese dish contains it. A chicken or beef stir-fry without the gluten-filled sauces is sure to satisfy.

  • Greek: Greek restaurants can be problematic because of the wheat pastas and thickened sauces used in many dishes. Greek menus have a variety of grilled meats you can order with a Greek feta salad. Just watch out for the marinades.

  • Italian: With all the pastas, bread, and sauces associated with Italian food, managing a night out in Little Italy can be challenging. When you’re looking for a safe wheat-free option, the caprese salad and antipasto appetizer and a grilled lamb, beef, or sausage dish should do the trick.

  • Japanese: You can definitely enjoy the gluten-free world of Japanese food if you like sushi. With the exception of food dipped in soy sauce and batter, you should find plenty of wheat-free options available to you, such as grilled fish.

  • Mexican: The major offenders of the Mexican cuisine — flour tortillas, chips, and certain sauces — make up a large portion of the Mexican food restaurant experience. Try the fajita salad or fajitas without the tortillas.

  • Thai: Thai restaurants offer many wheat-free options, primarily because a lot of Thai food is naturally gluten-free. Be sure to ask whether the soy sauce used is gluten-free. If it’s made in-house, it may well be, but if it’s a Chinese-style soy sauce, it probably has plenty of gluten. One delicious dish found at Thai restaurants is grilled fish (without the sauce) and vegetables.

Making the best of fast food in a pinch

With the need for speed in today’s hustle-and-bustle lifestyle, fast food restaurants are more popular than ever in spite of the widely held belief that the food is unhealthy. To the industry’s credit, several restaurants have attempted to create healthier menus. However, the fast food industry still often uses low-quality meat and oils and lots of wheat and sugar in its items.

Not many fast-food restaurants approach their menus with a low-wheat or wheat-free mentality. The few foods deemed gluten-free are typically prepared in unhealthy vegetable oil in non-dedicated frying pans and baskets, which leads to cross-contamination with wheat foods almost every time.

With the exception of a few places (such as Chick-Fil-A, Wendy’s, and Arby’s), most of these eating establishments are very limited in their wheat-free items. Eating wheat-free at a fast food restaurant is like rowing a boat upstream; it’s a whole lot of effort with little return.

You can probably find some items on most fast food restaurant menus that can be altered to the point of being wheat-free, such as salads and bunless hamburgers. In any case, you must ask many questions about how the food is prepared and its gluten-free status.

Note, however, that many establishments aren’t educated as to what wheat-free/gluten-free really means. Explaining how to alter your food in a way that fits your needs may be difficult and time consuming.

Although settling for fast food isn’t the best possible situation to be in, the following fast food restaurants have varying degrees of gluten-free options:

  • Arby’s

  • Au Bon Pain

  • Burger King

  • Chick-Fil-A

  • Chipotle

  • Culver’s

  • Dairy Queen

  • Domino’s Pizza

  • Godfather’s Pizza

  • Jason’s Deli

  • Jack-in-the-Box

  • Long John Silver’s

  • Panera Bread

  • Sonic Drive-In

  • Starbucks (primarily drinks)

  • Subway

  • Wendy’s