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Tips for Dining Out Gluten-Free: The president of Celiac Disease Foundation: Greater Phoenix Chapter shares how to enjoy a positive dining experience

Apr 03, 2012 06:23PM ● By By Nina Spitzer

Dining out can be fun, but, for those with celiac disease, allergies or other medical conditions that warrant a gluten-free (GF) diet, it can be a challenging, frustrating and even dangerous experience. There are no U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines or standards for gluten-free foods in stores or restaurants, leaving the door wide open for possible cross-contamination or ingredient errors. Still, many people are loath to give up the pleasure of dining with friends and family. These tips are no assurance of GF safety, but are still a good place to start for a positive GF dining experience.

Restaurant selection: If possible, select a restaurant with a gluten-free menu or one recommended by others on a gluten-free diet.

Attitude: A positive attitude is always key to creating a positive dining experience.

Do your homework: Review an online menu beforehand, selecting two or three items with ingredients that appear to be GF or can be with slight modification.

Call ahead: Contact the head chef with your prepared list of questions on the menu items you’re considering during a non-service time.

Timing: Make reservations for a time when the restaurant is less busy and the chef less rushed in the kitchen.

Ask the manager: At the restaurant, the manager can most accurately answer additional questions you may have.

Smile: A positive, smiling demeanor is always more fruitful than a demanding one.

Double-check: Before eating, check your plate to assure meal modifications were made correctly.

Tip well: Leave a good tip, and the staff will better remember you and your special needs for next time.

Thank the chef: Send the chef a short thank-you note of appreciation for the special time and attention you received.

Nina Spitzer is the president and founder of Celiac Disease Foundation: Greater Phoenix Chapter and a gluten-free menu consultant. She was diagnosed with celiac disease 16 years ago and has since made celiac support and awareness her passion. For more information, visit

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