Worst foods to order in a restaurant when you're gluten-free
While there are lots more gluten-free options available in restaurants than even a few years ago, you still need to know what foods present the most challenges, questions to ask, and alternatives to look for if you have a problem digesting gluten. While people with milder gluten intolerance may not notice accidental gluten ingestion, people with celiac disease who need to be on a gluten-free diet to keep their illness in check can get seriously sick from it.
With celiac disease, an autoimmune disease thought to affect one in ten people worldwide, ingestion of gluten (in wheat, barley, and rye) leads to damage of the small intestine, as the body's immune response attacks the microvilli, small fingerlike projects that help the body absorb nutrients. Short term symptoms may include bloating, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and other GI issues, but in the long term, untreated celiac disease may cause malabsorption and may contribute to other health conditions.
As a dietitian, I help people on restricted diets navigate restaurants. For this story I also spoke with Wisconsin-based Registered Dietitian Alicia Slusarek, who has celiac disease herself. For a worry-free meal, she recommends, "Choose a restaurant with a certified gluten-free kitchen or a restaurant with gluten-free foods indicated on the menu." Not possible? Then "you'll likely be customizing a dish to be gluten-free when it generally is not." Risky, yes, but not impossible. Read on to get the scoop on the worst choices — and what to order instead.