Dining out gluten-free is tough. There's a lot of hoops to jump through to make sure you're not spending the rest of the evening in the bathroom or bed (worse yet, the bathroom becomes your bed). From explaining to the waiter, speaking with the chef, triple checking that the pasta, pizza, or other food items delivered to your table are truly the gluten-free version, it can become exhausting. Now we throw ourselves a curve ball in trying to find gluten-free fast food. Fast food is ordered fast and made fast. How do we avoid getting glutened on the go? Read on for ten important tips and the research I've completed on fast food restaurants.
No matter what fast food (or traditional) restaurant you visit, always:
- Research ahead of time. Visit the fast food website, review their allergen menu, call or e-mail customer service. However, sometimes there's no time for online research, so let's move on to points two through ten:
- If at all possible, go inside the fast food restaurant to order. While the drive thru is convenient, it opens the door for confusion and potential gluten mishaps.
- Ask to speak with a manager and find out if they provide a gluten-free menu or allergen menu.
- When speaking with the manager, explain that your need for a gluten-free meal is due to medical reasons. You don't want the server to think that your order for a "hamburger with no bun" just means removing the bun from a pre-made sandwich.
- Ask the manager to ensure the person preparing your order washes their hands and changes gloves before making your meal.
- Ask to see ingredient labels - there's no shame in that game. I once had an employee bring me a 10-pound container of nacho cheese so I could read the ingredients. It was gluten-free - I tried to run away with it - sadly mission was thwarted.
- Ask if a dedicated fryer is used for french fries. Confirm that no other fried foods have been fried in the same oil and fryer as fries. If the fryer is not dedicated, it's off limits due to cross contamination.
- Remember that restaurants can change their menus and food preparation at any time. Always ask before you order and if your server doesn't understand your need to be gluten-free, go elsewhere.
- NEVER EVER feel embarrassed or high maintenance - you're advocating for the safety of your meal. Own it!
- Be prepared with a backup plan. I always have a protein bar or snack in the car. Many gas stations now have convenience stores with a wide range of grab and go foods including yogurt, snack packs of grapes and cheese, and salads.
Ready to learn more about your local fast food restaurants and their gluten-free offerings? Check out my Gluten-Free Fast Food posts here.