If you, your family or friends are new to gluten and allergy free living, here are some suggestions to quickly bring you up to speed on how to follow a gluten free diet or handle food allergies:
Symptoms, Diagnosis & Testing
Safety & Safe Ingredients
Eating Out and Cooking
Learning Curve Associated with Special Diets
There is a learning curve for individuals who are guests in eating establishments managing gluten and allergen free diets as well as for the restaurants who cater to them. The process of gaining the necessary knowledge to successfully handle special dietary requirements is similar for both parties.
The learning curve associated with special diets includes the following four key steps, for individuals and restaurant professionals alike:
To gain awareness, you, as an individual, need to first educate yourself to understand exactly what you are allergic to or what special diet you are required to follow. You may be asking, “What have I been diagnosed with? Where do I begin my research? What resources are available to me and what do I do next?” These are all common questions associated with learning about your new way of life.
On the other side of the table, restaurant professionals go through a similar experience. “What type of special diets may be required by our guests? What do we need to learn to better understand their needs? What resources are available to help us?”
The next step in the learning curve is information. As an individual, you must learn what you can and cannot eat on a fundamental level. Once this is understood, it is important to investigate where problematic allergens can be hidden in foods and what you need to do to adjust for this unexpected variable.
Likewise, restaurant professionals follow a similar thought process. “What can this guest eat and what is not allowable? What ingredients and food preparation techniques can be an issue and how can we adjust to suit their requirements?” The parallel is undeniable.
Once this understanding is accomplished, the third step is knowledge. Individuals need to apply what has been learned to safely eat in restaurants, as well as at home. Furthermore, you must learn to communicate your special requirements and determine an effective strategy for ordering safe meals in order to develop a comfort level with various cuisines and dishes.
As a restaurant, you have a different set of concerns to address, such as how to train both front and back of the house staff. You also need to determine how to accurately convey this information between all employees involved in the process and identify what protocols need to be in operation. Through effective training efforts, an establishment can teach their staff how to assist special diet guests by guiding them through the menu, taking into consideration ingredients, preparation techniques and hidden allergen concerns.
The final step of the learning curve is empowerment. As the guest, you need to know where and what you can eat, as well as what modifications can be made to easily accommodate your dietary requirements. Once this is achieved, you can focus on enjoying your eating experiences while remaining diligent about the foods you eat.
For the restaurant, the focus becomes how to simplify menu options to adjust for special dietary needs. This allows the restaurant to concentrate on providing safe and delicious meals for their guests, while ensuring a high standard of service, ultimately resulting in repeat and loyal business.
Excerpted from the Award-Winning Book Series—Let’s Eat Out!
Dining Out Gluten-Free and Worry-Free
“In order to feel safe eating out everywhere, it’s all about education, preparation and communication,” says Kim Koeller, president of GlutenFree Passport and author of the award-winning Let’s Eat Out! series. “Educate yourself on what you can and cannot eat, be prepared to inquire about at least 2 or 3 potential menu items and know what questions to ask about the dish based upon ingredients, culinary practices and food preparation.”