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Newly Gluten-Free? What Are Your Dining Out Options?

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Whether you've recently been diagnosed with celiac disease -- an autoimmune reaction to gluten consumption -- or just seem to have unpleasant digestive side effects after consuming large amounts of flour, you may have recently converted to a gluten-free diet. While the rise in gluten-free food available has risen dramatically over just the past few years, dining out can still pose a challenge, especially if you're still learning about the foods you can trust. What are your best restaurant options when newly gluten-free? Read on to learn more about some foods you should avoid and surefire safe dining options.

What are the best foods to look for when dining out while gluten-free?

Many popular restaurants proudly advertise their gluten-free options, helping make your choices easier. However, even minor cross-contamination with flour-containing products or sauces could be enough to trigger a digestive reaction. There are a few foods that should be safe under just about any circumstances -- whether at a restaurant or at home.

  • Rice and rice noodles (without sauce) 

Rice noodles can be a great alternative to wheat or durum noodles, and when served plain or with a gluten-free sauce, shouldn't contain even trace molecules of gluten. White, brown, or multi-grain rice can also be a great base for a gluten-free dish -- just make sure to ensure the sauce and meat breading is also gluten-free!

  • Dairy products

While white gravies can be a tricky prospect due to the popularity of flour and other gluten-containing thickening agents, most dairy options at popular restaurants are naturally gluten-free. As long as you're careful to ask about the ingredients of a cheese-heavy dish (or ice cream-heavy dessert), you should be able to enjoy your meal without worry of an unpleasant reaction.

What foods should you treat with caution? 

Although you'll quickly learn to stay away from yeasty breads and other obvious gluten-containing foods, there are a number of hidden gluten culprits you may not expect. During the early stages of your gluten-free diet, you may become frustrated after suffering a reaction and not quite knowing what caused it.

  • Oats

Oats themselves don't contain gluten, but are often manufactured in factories that process gluten. This means that even if the restaurant follows gluten-free practices, the oats being used may already contain added gluten. 

  • Breaded and fried meats and tofu 

Unless a breaded or fried item is specifically advertised as gluten-free, it's best to steer clear. Most items are breaded in flour or panko crumbs, adding gluten to an otherwise safe dish. Non-breaded fried foods (like french fries) can also be risky if breaded foods are fried in the same oil. Try a new restaurant like Melting Pot Pizza and see if they offer these options.