Eating out with a child who needs a gluten free diet can be tricky.
Well, eating out with children who doesn’t have dietary problems can be difficult enough, but if you need to analyse every item on the menu as well as deal with the usual childish issues, it can be a real problem.
In fact, many adults don’t eat out either, once they realise they need to eat gluten free. According to the latest edition of Crossed Grain (the Coeliac UK publication), 67% are less likely to eat a meal outside of home once they are diagnosed.
This is a shame, for a number of reasons:
- Eating out is one of life’s pleasures …
I really enjoy not just eating a meal I haven’t had to prepare, but one I haven’t had to think of in advance or shop for (how many meals do you know that will suit all three children – not only a coeliac, but also a child who won’t eat vegetables, and one who won’t eat meat?) – and which I won’t have to wash up afterwards
- How to behave in a restaurant is an important skill for children to learn, whether or not they need a special menu.
I know it is hard work, but the more you do it, the easier it gets – honestly!
- Not eating out reinforces the view that ‘there’s no call for gluten free meals’ – if nobody asks for them, then they won’t offer them. That’s the way the market works.
- Explaining to a waitress – or even to chef, if need be – about the gluten free diet makes it easier for the next one along.
I’ve been vegetarian for over 25 years, and the changes that have taken place over that time are entirely due to individual vegetarians asking for vegetarian food and explaining why. Let’s do the same for gluten free!
So, where to eat? More specifically, where to eat out with a gluten free child?
Drum-roll, please … in reverse order:
- McDonalds. Yes, I know … but they have a very good allergen listing, and are reliably the same from town to town. When desperate, you know you can feed a child gluten free at McD’s.
- TGI Friday’s – or indeed any American-style restaurant. These places tend to be child-friendly, the service is good (in that the staff are prepared to amend orders, take notes and check with chef) and often there is a GF menu
- La Tasca. This is a Spanish-style chain, so I guess other Spanish restaurants would be the same. The menu is marked up with what is GF, and because it is basically tapas, you can order a lot of different things – there’s bound to be something that is both gluten free and acceptable to your child!
- My local chippy – Green Island Chippy. So OK, this isn’t so easy for the rest of you to get to … but they deserve a lot of credit for spotting a gap in the market and filling it with gluten free fish and chips, gluten free sausages and chips … They have a dedicated GF fryer, so they can cook gluten free whenever they are open, and they use their own gluten free batter
- Smollensky’s on the Strand. This isn’t just for children either – I’ve spent a lot of time drinking cocktails here, as a younger (child-free) woman. Smollensky’s menu is marked up with gluten free items in both adult, big child and small child size portions – both main meals and puddings. And they give out fantastic goodie bags for the children …
What are your recommendations for eating out? We’re always looking for good new places to try!
This post has been entered into the Problogger group writing project – just for fun. Do go and look at all the other entries …
… and then go out to eat tonight!
I’ve written a book summarising what we’ve learnt over 20 years of dealing with the gluten free diet, and it might be just what you’re looking for. It packs the lessons we’ve learned into what I hope is a helpful and straightforward guidebook. It’s available on Amazon, as a paperback or for your Kindle…