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Tips for staying gluten-free while dining out

Updated: September 4, 2013 2:24PM



Sarah Berghoff McClure was diagnosed with celiac disease in February 2011. In that time the 16-year-old has learned a lot about living with the disease.

Like all teens, McClure likes to go out to eat. And she gets it that other kids — and let’s face it, some adults — with celiac can be “kind of embarrassed” when it comes to ordering assertively.

Get over it, said McClure who is a co-author of the cookbook Cooking for Your Gluten-Free Teen (Andrews McMeel, $19.99). “You have to be out there, bossy, aggressive,” she said during a telephone interview last week. And here’s why: “You’re just trying to protect yourself from being violently ill.”

Someone with celiac has to question the waitstaff extensively, often insisting on talking directly to the chef or restaurant manager to determine if a gluten-free dish truly is available.

One of the things those unfamiliar with celiac don’t always understand is the problem of cross-contamination. A knife that’s dipped into, say butter, and then run over a slice of bread, can introduce gluten to a dish. If it’s rested on an otherwise clean counter, it could bring gluten to a celiac sufferer’s food.

McClure recommended that those with celiac always bring something along, such as a protein bar, in case there isn’t anything suitable on a menu. “So it can hold you over until you get something you can eat.”

It’s a good idea to check out a restaurant’s menu online before sitting down with the menu, according to McClure. That way if there are questions, a person can call ahead and speak to the chef or a manager.

One restaurant chain that “gets” celiac disease is P.F. Chang’s, according to McClure. “They know what they’re doing.”

Cheating? Not worth it. While celiac disease sounds like a challenging diagnosis, not following a strict diet could lead to the more serious Crohn’s Disease or even stomach or bladder cancer.

Just stay on the diet, said McClure. “You have to stay on it to feel healthy.”

Sue Ontiveros



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