Eating out can be one of the biggest challenges when you first cut out wheat and gluten - the lack of options available and lack of clear labelling can make it difficult. The fact it's such a challenge may lead some people who cannot eat gluten to avoid restaurants altogether, and therefore miss out on social events and special occasions.

However, this doesn't have to be the case. Awareness is slowly increasing, and the availability of tasty and versatile gluten free products is improving – so if you look in the right places and ask the right questions, you will be able to find gluten free menu options you'll love.


Eating gluten free in restaurants

Fortunately, many national chains have clearly labelled gluten free menu options now, including Pizza Express, Pizza Hut, Dominos, Bella Italia, Carluccio’s, Ask Italian, Nando's, Las Iguanas, Le Bistrot Pierre and Wetherspoons.

But if there's no clear labelling, it can be risky. Here are some top tips to make your experience of dining out gluten free as safe and simple as possible:

  • Plan ahead – check the menu online, and if there is no gluten free icon on the menu, call the restaurant. Make sure they can cater for a coeliac or gluten free diet before you arrive to avoid disappointment, and to allow them to make any necessary preparations.
  • Understand the terms – only foods that contain less than 20 parts per million (ppm) can be labelled as 'gluten free'. If a menu item appears not to contain gluten but does not state gluten free, it may not reach this standard, or may be at risk of cross contamination.
  • Avoid cross contamination – ask whether gluten free foods are at risk of being cross contaminated due to the way they are prepared. For example, fries are usually gluten free, but have they been cooked in the same fryer as batter made with flour?
  • Ask the staff – many restaurants now train their staff to understand allergies and coeliac disease, so ask questions and double check if you're uncertain about anything.
  • Be careful with condiments – some condiments such as soy sauce are usually not gluten free, while others such as ketchup and salad dressing vary – check the label. Also be careful of cross contamination if sharing condiments, spreads or dips. Try and ask for separate ones if sharing the same dips as someone with gluten bread.
  • Carry an emergency snack – unfortunately you may find sometimes there is nothing suitable for you to eat, so carry a snack with you to ward off hunger pains. Fruit, nuts, gluten free muffins and snack bars are all small enough to pop in a handbag or stash in your glove compartment. 

What's next for gluten free dining?

 On 31st December 2014, new European legislation came into force requiring all restaurants and caterers to provide allergen information for any non-pre-packaged food.