Dining Out with Your Celiac Child

      First of all, before you start taking your celiac child to restaurants for gluten-free eating, it’s important that you and your child are already familiar with the gluten-free diet, what your child can eat, what he must avoid, and how to protect him from cross-contamination. This way, you’ll know what to order from the menu and what questions to ask the server or chef.

     Make sure before you take your celiac child out to dinner that the two of you eat a high-protein snack about an hour before you think you’ll be ordering your food. The hungrier you are, the more likely you will make a mistake. If you absolutely must go to the restaurant hungry, bring a gluten-free snack for your child and a snack for yourself.

     Choosing the right restaurant is an important part of successfully eating out gluten-free. There are many celiac-friendly restaurant directories online. I recommend calling the restaurant when it’s not busy and speaking with the manager or chef, or both.  If you’ll be dining Italian, call ahead to see if you can bring your own pasta along. Many Italian restaurants are happy to do this.

     Learn how to speak to the server. Make sure he is standing near you and can hear you clearly. Although celiac disease isn’t an allergy, it’s usually easiest to explain to your server that your child has food allergies. Always tell your server to tell the chef that your child is allergic to wheat. If your server doesn’t seem to understand, you’ll need to speak with the manager or chef. You’ll need to ask the server or chef a lot of questions.

     Ask your child to pick out several items on the menu that look good, and let him know that you need to ask questions about these first because they may not be safe to eat. Make it clear that his first choice, or even his second choice, may not be okay to eat. Have your child pick out simple dishes without sauces.

     Finally, make sure to warn the server about cross-contamination and its dangers. Let him know that your child’s food must be prepared on a clean surface with clean utensils. Most chefs will not realize the risks of cross-contamination unless these are made clear to them.

     Going out to eat with your celiac child requires some work and planning ahead, but you’ll find that you and your child will get the hang of it in no time!

Tina Turbin

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