If you are new to gluten-free living, you probably know dining in restaurants can be risky. Here are my best tips and tricks for safe gluten-free dining, from navigating the menu to communicating your dietary needs to your server to evaluate whether a restaurant is safe for you to eat at.

A photo of a waiter putting napkins on a table inside of a restaurant.

When you go out to eat, you are taking a risk of whether the kitchen will use safe gluten-handling practices to prevent cross-contamination. If you are on a gluten free diet, you want to feel safe dining in restaurants as much as anyone, but it is not easy! Know how to identify pitfalls that can make a restaurant unsafe for someone with Celiac disease or gluten intolerance.

I wanted to write up all of my tips and tricks for you because dining out risks getting glutened. It is hard to find celiac safe restaurants. I would love for you to comment below about how you evaluate restaurants.

If you are new to Fearless Dining, start here with this Guide to Gluten Free Living, which has a ot of great information for those who are new to gluten-free. It includes information on where gluten is hidden, where to buy gluten free foods, how to live gluten free, and some easy-to-make gluten-free recipes.

Safe Gluten-Free Dining

The best way to find restaurants with gluten-free options is to use the Find Me Gluten Free app (free!) or word of mouth from friends. This can help you find a Celiac friendly restaurant, making gluten-free dining a little easier.

When you look for a new restaurant to try, I recommend contacting the restaurant during the day, before the dinner rush or other busy meal times. This way, staff can concentrate on your questions. Talking to the manager can give you a good idea of how familiar the staff is with gluten-free and the safety precautions they take for their customers.

  1. Read my Top 10 Scary Things Restaurants Have Told Me, and you will see what many restaurants do because they don’t understand gluten-free. Celiac.org also has great Gluten-Free information.
  2. It is important to alert both your waitperson and the manager to your gluten allergy. You need to advocate for yourself, and these safe gluten free dining tips will help you!
  3. Print out these Allergy Cards to share with the restaurant. The Food Allergy and Research website has free printable allergy cards in several different languages for you to use.
  4. The biggest rule about dining out is to ask questions! There is no such thing as a stupid question!! If you do not speak up, the restaurant will not know you have a medical reason to avoid gluten.
  5. Trust your gut. If a response from the waiter, chef, or manager doesn’t sound quite right, do not take the risk.
A notebook with top tips written in it.

The Most Important Questions To Ask:

Please note these are standard questions. The answers you get will help you evaluate if the restaurant can keep your meal safe from cross-contamination with gluten. Note that someone with Celiac disease may need a higher level of caution than someone with gluten intolerance.

  1. Where does the kitchen prepare gluten free meals? Do they have a separate section of their kitchen that is kept allergen-free? If they do not have a separate area, do they put a liner under the prep area when they prepare your food?
  2. Does the kitchen staff use separate cutting boards, utensils, knives, pots, pans, and dishes for gluten free orders?
  3. Do the cooks wash their hands and change to new gloves before preparing a gluten free order?
  4. How does the kitchen keep your plate separate from the others if it ends up under a food heater? Cross-contamination can happen if your plate is below plates containing gluten.
  5. If the cook wipes a spill on your plate to make it look nice, do they use a fresh towel?
  6. Is there a separate fryer for gluten free foods? This is a huge problem that many who are new to gluten-free often miss. It is impossible to clean gluten out of a fryer.
  7. How about breakfast? Is there a separate toaster for gluten free bread? Do they use a separate grill or section of the grill for gluten-free orders? Do they sterilize the waffle iron or have a dedicated one for gluten-free orders?

My Favorite Gluten-Free Dining Resources:

This post was updated from an old August 2013 post with more detailed and current information.

Have a tip for gluten-free dining?

I would love to hear what you do to keep safe when dining out. Please leave a comment. Thank you!