5 Tips for Dining out Gluten & Dairy Free

Updated: Apr 20, 2020

When I began my journey on a gluten and dairy free diet, it wasn’t easy and eating out was even harder in the beginning. I wanted to make perfect choices all the time but let’s face it, unless I was preparing the food myself there was always a risk of eating something that contained the two. Just to be clear I am not celiac so if I eat something with gluten, I will not have an immediate reaction, however I have made the decision to remove the two from my diet to help keep my inflammation under control. And in case you are wondering, yes I do eat from time to time things that have gluten and dairy. I do eat out a few times a month and over time I thought about what tips would I tell someone who was now gluten and dairy free and the below are 5 guides that have helped me and I hope they assist you too.

1. Look at the menu beforehand

This is a simple way to help you make an effective meal choice. Looking at the menu ahead of time will save you time and energy and frustration.

2. Call the restaurant and speak to management

A lot of restaurants offer gluten free/dairy free options but will still prepare foods using the same fryer, pans and or other kitchen equipment thus resulting in cross contamination. In addition, something as simple as a salad may come with bread or the dressing/gravy may contain flour, which may be used to thicken the sauce. Therefore, I recommend you call ahead and speak to the management about how their foods are prepared. Just because it says gluten free or dairy free doesn’t mean it is.

Sample questions to ask:

- Do you use separate fryers, grills etc. to prepare your meals?

- Are your meats and sauces soaked in anything containing gluten, soy or teriyaki sauces?

- Are your fried foods coated in flour before frying?

- Do you use fresh or imitation seafood (a lot of imitation seafood meats contain gluten n dairy products to help bind the meat)

Often times you will find establishments are helpful and will do their best to accommodate and recommend alternatives to ensure your dining experience needs are met. And don’t forget to inform your server when you arrive so they too are aware.

3. Know it may be in things you would not expect

Gluten and dairy can be tricky to spot at times, as it can be hidden in sauces, pre-mixed spices, flavourings, broths, and even in beverages. When I started to dine out, I had a little cheat sheet on my phone to help remind me of where it could be without me realizing it.

4. Be prepared to try something different

Being gluten and dairy free doesn’t have to be boring or restrictive. Use it as an opportunity to try different genres of food. You may find yourself pleasantly surprised, I know I was, especially being a picky eater, I had to be willing to step out of my comfort zone and try different things especially when it wasn’t necessarily my first choice.

5. Ask if something can be specially prepared

Let’s face it, you may find that you cannot eat anything off the menu, or you may just not be sure, so don’t hesitate to ask if something can be made special for you. What you don’t ask for you don’t get. Work with management and the chef to see if they can accommodate your request and ensure they use separate utensils and equipment to minimize the risk of cross contamination.

The above are suggestions to help you along your gluten n dairy free journey. Remember to be thoughtful when making inquiries. Don’t be afraid to try something new and or be prepared to make adjustments. Be diligent and do not be discouraged.