Tips for eating out gluten-free

A lot of my clients come to me well aware that they need to cut gluten out of their diets. For some it is because they know their body reacts badly to it – they can feel it with bloating and cramps (read gluten intolerance symptoms HERE). Some may have been given a diagnosis of Celiac’s disease (an autoimmune where gluten triggers the body to attack the gut), other autoimmune diseases, like Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, or have irritable bowl syndrome (IBS) or inflammatory bowl disease (IBD), such as Crohn’s.

Going Gluten Free isn’t a cure-all and it isn’t going to help everyone, but for many people in the above groups, it is definitely worth a try to see if symptoms diminish.

However, the number 1 reason people tell me that they can’t go gluten free is because of eating out. Many of my clients are “90%” gluten free – but that doesn’t work (read HERE for reasons why).

I am gluten-free because gluten causes my thyroid disease to flare-up. My husband and son are also gluten free, and therefore, by default, so is my daughter. I’m also dairy, egg and soy-free (as these also caused adverse reactions, common for those with Hashimoto’s).

So, eating out can turn into a whole lot of aggravation and not a lot of pleasure. This is particularly the case with gluten-free kids. They want to have a good time and I don’t want to deprive them, but most kids menus have ZERO vegetables, or if they do it’s a token portion of grey peas with fish and chips. Everything on a kids menu comes with chips (which OK are technically gluten free…), and/or in batter or in a bun. I have to admit, this does annoy me – what example are we setting our kids about healthy eating? Anyway, that’s not what this post is about…

I have noticed recently that more restaurants are onboard with gluten free eating. I think this is probably because of a change in legislation surrounding food allergies.

My biggest gripes about eating out with intolerances/allergies are:

  1. The lack on information on menus – if the chicken comes with a cream sauce, write it on the menu!  If the kids sorbet comes on a bed of biscuit crumbs (even when you have told the staff he is gluten-free), write it on the menu!
  2. Being handed a ring-binder folder of spreadsheets documenting all possible allergens that may be in the kitchen, which doesn’t correspond to the meals on the menu, is not helpful. I didn’t come out to study.

Think you should be Gluten Free?  Check out my online Go Gluten Free coaching package. Provides you with the information and tools to go gluten free and determine if you have a problem with it.  CLICK HERE for more info. 

It’s true, while others are getting drinks and catching-up with old friends, I am usually scanning the various menus and spreadsheets for something to feed my family.  Do I get irritated every now and then when something turns up coated in breadcrumbs or slathered in butter, when I have spent half of my evening discussing gluten-containing ingredients with staff? Well yes. And for that I am sorry.

But, is being gluten free worth this hassle?  YES, absolutely.

So, my Top Tips for eating out Gluten-Free:

  1. Announce your intolerances when you book the table or at least upon arrival.  I still don’t enjoy doing this. Sometimes I just want to be “normal” and to not have the wait staff surreptitiously pointing at me and talking.  BUT, it can save you a lot of hassle at the restaurant. Some places like you to choose your meal ahead of time. This slightly takes the spontaneity out of the event, but could save you from being ill – it’s a trade off (as ever).
  2. Be prepared to be flexible. There may be one dish on the menu that they can adapt for you. It probably won’t be your first or even second choice, but try to go with it.
  3. Be aware of menu misinformation. Thinking I can get away with not announcing my intolerances has got me into gluten-trouble many times. I have fallen into the trap of ordering what reads on the menu as a simple chicken and vegetables or nut roast with seasonal veg.  This usually comes with some hidden allergen, like breadcrumbs in the nut roast or vegetables cooked in butter – see point 1, it’s best to announce your intolerances.
  4. Know your allergens/gluten-containing foods. Even though wait staff and chefs are now supposed to be trained in this, do not rely on them. On many an occasion I have been offered a “gluten-free” meal, which contains barely or rye or even breadcrumbs! Sausages, unless specifically stated, will contain gluten.  Crisps/chips with flavouring usually contain gluten. Most sauces and gravies also contain gluten, though some are thickened with cornflour. If you are in any doubt then avoid it.
  5. You can usually get an extra side of vegetables – ask!  I have noticed that once over the shock and fear of having to deal with someone with an intolerance/allergy, restaurant staff are keen to make a good impression (especially if they have handed you a folder and asked you to piece together your own meal). I often ask if I can swap things, such as a a side of garlic bread for an extra portion of vegetables. This is also often the case if they have to take something gluten-containing out of the main meal.
  6. As a last resort, if you are very worried that there won’t be anything you can have, then eat a small meal before you go out. Then order a starter or salad.

It can be hard, and challenging and frustrating, but sticking to your gluten-free diet when eating out is really important for your health. If in doubt, don’t have it.

Need some help with your Gluten Free diet?  Email me caroline@flourishwellness.co.uk or CLICK HERE for my Go Gluten Free package

The truth about Gluten

We have all now heard of Gluten. But do we all know what it is and why we ‘should’ be avoiding it?

Cutting gluten from my diet was a huge factor in my recovery from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (though I didn’t know it at the time), in shrinking my goitre and significantly reducing many of my Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis symptoms.

But, many people think that going “gluten-free” is a fad and that it’s just the latest dieting craze, and for some that is true. For others it is the difference between health and disease – and sometimes that disease is Cancer, sometimes it’s Crohn’s, which could mean losing your intestine, and sometimes it is an autoimmune disease that could continue to attack your body.

Many people don’t know if they should be avoiding gluten or not. These people tend to dabble in gluten-free living. They perhaps buy some items from the “free-from” ranges that now adorn supermarket aisles and feel somewhat virtuous when they manage to consume a gluten-free sandwich (if, of course, it holds together long enough it eat it). But does eating mostly gluten-free count? And what exactly is gluten anyway?

What is Gluten?

  • Gluten is a complex of proteins found naturally in the seeds of cereal grains.
  • The gluten protein types that can cause adverse reactions are glutelins (glutenin) and prolamins (gliadin).
  • These proteins are also responsible for the unique properties of gluten, which make it so appealing for baking – trapping air to enable dough to rise, giving elasticity to bread and dough as well as a chewy texture.
  • Gluten-containing seeds include: bulgar wheat, durum wheat, barley, rye, kamut, faro, graham, semolina, triticale, einkorn and spelt.
  • Gluten is used as a protein supplement (particularly in Asian cultures e.g. seitan), as a thickener in sauces, flavourings, medications, stock cubes and sweets.
  • Gluten is much more widespread in the Western diet, where processed food is more common and widely available.

Check out some of my gluten-free recipes HERE and HERE

What is Gluten Intolerance?

The term “Gluten intolerance” is often used to describe three conditions:

  1. Celiac (coeliac) Disease: Autoimmune disease, where the body responds with an overreactive adaptive immune response, triggered by gliadin and primarily concerning the small intestine. It may manifest several hours or days after consuming gluten. This response harms the delicate villi structures and lining of the intestine responsible for nutrient absorption. An inflammation response may also occur leading to leaky gut syndrome – where large proteins pass through the gut lining, and often leading to chronic poor health and the development of other intolerances. Celiac disease can be confirmed by a blood test for the relevant antibodies and biopsy, though negative results do not mean that you don’t have it.
  1. Wheat Allergy: Strictly speaking is and allergy and not an intolerance. This is an immediate and often severe histamine reaction to the presence of wheat (not specifically gluten). People may develop hives, shortness of breath and swelling – this is known as Type 1 hypersensitivity and is a different type of immune response to that of Celiac disease. 
  1. Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity (NCGS): This is the least well defined of the gluten intolerances. Currently, people who test negative for Celiac disease and who do not present with wheat allergy, but still feel unwell upon eating gluten are labeled with NCGS. They likely also have a “leaky gut” and a host of symptoms associated with a malfunctioning digestive system. People particularly susceptible include those with an autoimmune disease.

Should I quit Gluten?

Cutting gluten from your diet if you aren’t gluten intolerant is unnecessary, but many people are unsure. If you suffer from digestive issues –irritable bowel syndrome symptoms, bloating, cramps, discomfort, weight problems, if you have dry skin and rashes or if you feel very tired after eating gluten and have difficulty concentrating – it’s likely you have a problem with gluten. In which case, going gluten-free will:

  1. Help you achieve good long-term health
  2. Alleviate symptoms
  3. Increase your energy and improve your mood

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Going gluten-free can be overwhelming as it’s in so many things and many of us include it in every meal and snack. You may wonder what on Earth you can eat on a gluten-free diet!

On June 24th I am launching my Go Gluten-free online coaching package. This is a 4-week package that will guide you safely through the tricky transition to gluten-free living. I provide you with information and tools so you can make informed decisions about your health and then implement lasting change. I also enable you to conclusively determine whether you are gluten intolerant and I’ll be on hand to answer your questions. Read more HERE or send me an email: caroline@flourishwellness.co.uk

25% Early Bird Discount if you register by June 17th! Just £30 to transform your health!

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Look after your health and be well!

Caroline x

P.S. Did you read my post “Is your immune system attacking you?”, you might find it useful in reaching your health goals!