If you are new to the gluten-free lifestyle, you either know by now, or you don’t.

If you do, you’ve probably replaced your attractive little handbag or masculine leather wallet with a fanny pouch (does anyone actually where those anymore?), a diaper bag (minus diapers or baby in tow), a backpack, and a small duffle… just in case of emergencies. And this isn’t for your trip to Hawaii, this is just to get around town during the day, right?

In all honesty, eating out gluten-free is tough. I pack a lot of food (you thought I was joking about the diaper bag, right?) and have to always think ahead concerning what or where I will eat. If I travel, I like to do one of the following things (or all of them!)

1. Go online and check out the hotel or location I am visiting for gluten-free food availability or nearby organic foodstores/restaurants that serve gluten-free foods

2. Mail a box to myself at the hotel with a supply of gluten-free (dairy-free, sugar-free) foods

3. Pack a box with said foods and check it onto the plane/other travel medium along with my luggage

4. Pack an extra box, cooler, or bag with food and bring it with me in the car.

So yes, it’s tough being gluten-free and traveling… or just living life, even. When your boss orders everyone bagels for that 9:30 meeting and you’re stuck sipping gallons of flavored water and chowing down your fourth lara bar, it doesn’t feel so great.

Luckily, because of the growing number of food allergy diagnoses nowadays, along with the growing awareness of food sensitivity or intolerance, more and more food stores and restaurants are making gluten-free (dairy-free is less available at present) an option!

So, aren’t you glad you’re dealing with it in this day and age? I sure am!

A lot of folks, however, are not aware of which restaurants are gluten-friendly (or I suppose it would be the opposite of that… lets say celiac-friendly and anti-gluten :)) and find it very difficult to travel, go on a date with a friend (or special someone), or order in when you don’t feel like cooking or you’ve got friends coming over rather last-minute…

Well, here are a few options. I’ve included the classier ones as well as your typical chain foodstores that you should be able to find pretty much anywhere…

Austin Grill has a gluten-free menu that looks pretty darn good (check it out online)

Bonefish Grill is one incredibly delicious option… it’s definitely on the pricier side, but well worth it in my opinion. Just make sure (with all of the higher end restaurants) that you ask that your selection be cooked with olive oil, not butter (if you are dairy-free) – they were quite accommodating when I made this request! I was very impressed with the service. You can download their gluten-free menu ahead of time by clicking the link provided.

Carrabba’s Italian Grill now includes a gluten-free menu! (Also available online)

Outback Steakhouse went gluten-free long before any restaurant that I know of. Rumor has it that the owner’s daughter was diagnosed with Celiacs several years ago, and he proceeded to create a gluten-free menu. I’ve heard great and glorious things about their selections, too! (Also available online)

Uno Chicago Grill also has a link on their webpage with available gluten-free menu options.

As long as you aren’t calling your local McDonalds, you should always be able to call in to a restaurant or look them up online to see what they have available for you to eat. Don’t be afraid of calling in and asking if they can cater to your needs! It’s become a normal thing for individuals to speak with the manager or chef about the increasingly complicated needs of those with food allergies.

I was at a company party recently, and the catered food was nothing I could eat. I mentioned something to one of the waitresses, and she promptly asked me for a list of my food allergies (which I gave her) and took it to the chef, who created an entire meal for me sans-gluten, dairy, or sugar! I was in awe, and so thrilled!

So don’t be afraid – if you need to ask, go for it!

Oh yes – as for the restaurants frequented by the less health-conscious (or possibly just on-the-go), here are some options that you can look for: *note: this is the gluten-free list – diary-free you will have to check out on your own…

McDonalds

Breakfast: The good news about McDonald’s breakfast items is that the scrambled eggs, Canadian bacon, sausage, cheese, and hashbrowns are all gluten-free. The bad news is that most of the above come as part of a McGriddle sandwich, bagel, or biscuit – none of which are gluten-free. So, those with gluten intolerance need to order breakfast sandwiches without the bun-like item. Another good option, according to my sources, is the regular “big breakfast” without the side biscuit: it’s a plate of scrambled eggs, sausage, and a hashbrown.

Lunch and Dinner: Lunch and dinner under the Golden Arches are harder to manage because all of the buns and all of the chicken products either contain, or could have come into contact with, the forbidden gluten. French fries with ketchup and side salads with dressing thus become the focus on a meal – not very substantial. While it’s possible to order a hamburger without the bun, it proves to be a little trickier and messier than the breakfast sandwiches because of all the condiments. For a semi-filling meal, it has been suggested that you order a side salad with dressing, a heaping order of fries, and a fruit and yogurt parfait (without granola).

Wendys

Wendy’s proves to be somewhat easier than McDonald’s for the gluten-free eater despite the fact that their fries aren’t considered gluten-free. While there’s still the same issue with ordering bunless burgers, there are far more sides from which to choose, including the famous chili, baked potatoes with multiple toppings, strawberry yogurt (sans granola), side garden salad, side Caesar salad, and mandarin oranges. There’s also the meal-sized southwest taco salad that includes beef, cheese, veggies, chips, and sour cream.

Taco Bell

There are only a handful of choices at Taco Bell – four to be exact – for the gluten-intolerant. Luckily, there’s just enough to make a meal, provided the eater isn’t too picky. The two more substantial items are the tostada and the Southwest steak bowl, and the two side items are the pintos-n-cheese and the Mexican rice.

KFC

KFC provides a chart on their website for food allergens and sensitivities. Gluten is one of the allergens listed. Pull down the menu under ” Nutrition” and then choose “Allergies and Sensitivities”.

Panera Bread

Panera was always one of my favorite restaurants. Unfortunately, I don’t get a chance to eat much their anymore! (It is Panera BREAD…) However, this is partially because of my multiple food allergies. If you’ve only got gluten to worry about, they actually have a number of choices! (And I do eat there, on occasion. I think the smell of fresh bread is enough to drive me up a wall, however…)

Salads: (including salad dressing… FYI source of modified food starch is corn) Greek Salad, Fandango Salad, Ceasar Salad (minus croutons), Asian Sesame Chicken Salad (minus Won Ton noodles), Classic Cafe Salad, Strawberry Poppyseed Salad (w/without chicken), Fuji Apple Chicken Salad, California Mission Chicken Salad, Orchard Harvest Chicken Salad (my favorite!)

Salad Dressings: Balsamic Vinaigrette, Ceasar, Greek, Poppyseed, Raspberry Vinaigrette, Asian Sesame Vinaigrette, White Balsamic Vinaigrette, Roasted Garlic & Meyer’s Lemon Vinaigrette

Soups: Moroccan Tomato Lentil, Santa Fe Roasted Corn, Vegetable and Sirloin Beef, Vegetarian Black Bean, Vegetarian Lentil, Mesa Bean and Vegetable, Cuban Black Bean, Vegetarian Roasted Red Pepper and Lentil, Vegetarian Butternut Squash, Creamy Tomato, Spring Vegetable with Chicken and Rice, Low-fat Vegetarian Southwest Tomato and Roasted Corn

Beverages: Coffee; Juice, both apple and orange; Lemonade; Milk; Soda, fountain and bottled; Tea, regular and Chai Tea; All lattes & IC beverages; Strawberry Smoothie

That’s all for now – if you have any questions, I’ve got lots more info up my sleeve…

All of this talk of food probably made you hungry. So go ahead and make some reservations – dine out gluten-free tonight!

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