3 Lessons to Prevent Freak-Out Moments When Ordering Gluten-Free

3 Lessons to Prevent Freak-Out Moments When Ordering Gluten-Free

By Mara Alexander

Have you ever had one of those “freak-out” moments when trying to order gluten-free at a restaurant?  Very rarely do I get so frustrated at a restaurant that I want to cry and run away at the same time.  But today I had one of those moments.  Both the tearing up and almost wanting to run out of the place.  I had phoned the manager of a chain Italian restaurant earlier in the morning to let him know that I would be coming for lunch and to make the necessary preparations for me to have a gluten-free pasta meal.  He understood that I would be available to stay at the restaurant for lunch for 1 hour, but no longer. When I arrived and reminded them of my order, they had not made the necessary preparations.

3 Lessons to Prevent Freak-Out Moments When Ordering Gluten-Free

At first, I patiently waited for 40 min; upon the first time of bringing out the gluten-free pasta, it had fried glutenous chicken on top of it.  Not what I ordered, so I sent it back.  Then I patiently waited another 20 minutes.  When they brought it out a second time, and I took a bite of it, the pasta was so crunchy that it felt like I was eating it raw.  At this point, I asked to speak to the manager again.  I was so frustrated that I just wanted to cry; I was already late for an afternoon meeting and I didn’t have time for them to boil another set of pasta again.  The manager was kind and ended up not charging me for my husband’s meal or my drink; he also prepared some grilled chicken in a to-go box for me.


Mara and Kevin Alexander enjoy many safe gluten-free dining experiences together.

Mara and Kevin Alexander enjoy many safe gluten-free dining experiences together.

So, lessons learned here…

1. Be as patient and caring as possible, especially keeping in mind that many people in the food industry are not well-trained on what gluten is and what cross-contact can do to someone with Celiac.  Some restaurant staffers have never even heard of gluten.  Efforts are being made nationwide by many Celiac foundations and gluten-free companies to provide education to both chain restaurants and local restaurants.  It is still a learning curve for many in the food industry, so continue to be patient and don’t be afraid to educate those in your favorite restaurant.

2. While being patient and caring, you also have to be firm and unemotional in what you want and how it should be prepared.  Let the manager and waitress know that when you sent that salad back to the kitchen because it had croutons on it, that they cannot just take the croutons off of it and give it back to you.  Be very firm in explaining that they need to make a fresh salad and that even a few crumbs can cause a reaction in your body. And be firm without being emotional.  Being calm goes a long way.

3.  As much as possible, don’t be in a hurry and try to allow for extra time in your dining process.  The best time to order gluten-free in a restaurant is during their least busy times.  Most restaurants this would be avoiding the 12-1pm lunch rush and the 6-7pm dinner rush.  If you know that you have to go during rush hour, try to keep a protein bar with you to tide you over.  Remember:  the hungrier you are, the less patient you may be. Filling up on a gluten-free protein bar will add to your energy and your patience.

So being patient, caring, firm, calm as well as keeping your energy up will help you to have a safer gluten-free dining experience.


Mara Alexander is the Founder of GlutenFreeWorld TV©, a Certified Health Coach through the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, a Certified Health Consultant and a Professional of the Academy of Healthcare Management.  She can be emailed at mara@glutenfreeworld.tv


6 Responses to “3 Lessons to Prevent Freak-Out Moments When Ordering Gluten-Free”

  1. Devra says:

    Great post! Thank you for sharing your story and giving these tips. =)

  2. Christine Beckman says:

    I, too, can sooo relate to this behavior. Its very sad that we have to be advocates to such a degree, just so that our order comes out right. But, then again, I have over the top service and attention at other places of dining – when mentioning that I need to be gluten and wheat free due to my Celiac Sprue. I am glad that you took the time to share your experience with others. So that they too may not feel like they are the only ones that have had to experience such behavior. Thank YOu.

  3. Amanda says:

    Great post! Especially the last tip! I always try to eat in restaurants at the least busy times and eat something small beforehand just in case something like this happens!

  4. W.O.W. says:

    This is Steve from Guidos. I have opened the first fully dedicated gluten free deli in the U.S. The name of the deli will be W.O.W (with out wheat). We will also cater to people with food allergies. No nuts shell fish soy ECT. We are located in Okemos. I’m the only certified GF cook in MI. through the NFCA. We will have a full line of deli meats with no nitrates nitrites msg food coloring or added hormones. We are trying to be Sustainable as possible by using the fresh’s ingredients from local venders We will have pies cup cakes sandwiches burgers fries onion rings ice cream cones bread sticks and yes we still have the best pizza in the U.S. all made on site some of them will also be dairy and egg free. My employees are either celiac or have food allergies. This will insure that there is no way that we can cross contaminate your food. In three years I have made almost 10.000 gf pizzas in a dual kitchen and 0 complaints about being sick. I can now make everything in a dedicated GF kitchen but cross contamination still exists with dairy,soy,egg,ect.I find myself still needing dedicated cooking equipment to avoid cross contamination. This is a lot of fun for me I like the challenge of preparing food for everyone no matter what your dietary needs are. I’m currently rated #1 in the U.S. according to customer feedback at the gluten free registry.com out of 27,000 restaurants that offer gluten free.

  5. Christine Byrnes says:

    Great post Mara, you wealth of knowledge and experience are so helpful. Thank you!

  6. Jordan's mom says:

    I am writing to support Steve from Guido’s and W.O.W. (with out wheat) in Okemos, MI. My 19 year old son was diagnosed with Celiac Disease about 6 years ago. It was around that same time that Steve opened his Guido’s restaurant about 5 minutes from our house. We have had more yummy GF pizzas, stromboli, and Motz Sticks than I can count. There are other pizza restaurants in town that have GF pizza, but none are certified and they all use frozen pre-made crusts. Steve makes his own GF dough and it is delicious! He is always super conscientious with the GF orders. Our whole GF community is grateful that Steve cares enough to take the time and effort to learn about GF and become certified. Now with his W.O.W. deli, there is even more reason to love him. He has an extremely loyal following here. If you live near enough or have reason to travel to Okemos (East Lansing area), it is absolutely worth a meal or two or three. And just in case anyone is skeptical, I am in no way affiliated with Steve and his restaurants, other than being a very grateful and loyal customer!

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