Gluten-Free Dining Tips (It’s Not Just About Calling Ahead)

September 1, 2011 at 10:12 am 6 comments

[NFCA’s September newsletter (released this morning!) is filled with tons of great articles and information. In fact, we had so many articles, I couldn’t fit them all in. When I read these tips from Jennifer Fugo, I couldn’t wait another month to share them. So, I’m posting them here. For more tips from Jennifer, see her newsletter articles on Gluten-Free Smoothies and Choosing Healthier Gluten-Free Products. – Cheryl]

As if eating gluten-free on a daily basis isn’t stressful enough, dining out can easily push anyone over the edge.  I totally get why – you feel like you can’t trust what people say, you feel singled out and thus, playing the role of the ‘difficult one’ at the table.  Try as you might, the baggage of stress that you carry around with you isn’t going to make your dining experience any easier.  That’s why I share with my clients these four simple tricks that will help you develop the calm mindset of a savvy gluten-free diner.

Dining out won’t just decrease in stress simply because you’re armed with a list of ‘safe’ spots and you call ahead to speak with the manager.  Sure, it’s helpful to do these things – and you should do them – but the fact that you always need to be ‘on guard’ can ruin your ability to be fully present and sociable. Plain and simple, the true key to savvy dining comes down to your mindset.  Here’s what to do:

1)  Get a grip.  That’s right, you’ve got to rein in what we call the ‘monkey mind’ in yoga.  As your thoughts run wild increasing the sense of impending doom, there’s no way you’ll be able to be your wonderful self that friends, family or colleagues expect.  Your level of anxiety and fear will be mirrored back in chaotic and maddening ways.  No level of assurance will calm you down, thus making your entire time unpleasant.

Whether you want to spend a few minutes meditating or simply envisioning a peaceful and successful meal filled with pleasant conversation, you’ll be better off walking in with a calm mind than one that’s already annoyed.

2)  Breathe.  Simple, but effective.  Notice how you breathe when you experience stress – shallow and rushed.  Give yourself a few minutes before entering the restaurant or excuse yourself to the restroom to breathe deeply into your lungs.  Focus on the breath moving in and out of your nostrils.  Finally, smile with the intention of enjoying time with friends and family, or being professional and on point with colleagues.

Gluten-Free Guru Jennifer Fugo

Jennifer Fugo

3)  Get off on the right foot.  When interacting with the restaurant staff, remember that people are generally more likely to be helpful and go out of their way for you if you’re friendly, pleasant and polite.  For example, ask the server how they are today and tell them you appreciate their help.

4)  Share an appetizer.  If you know there’s a great gluten-free appetizer that’s safe for you, order it.  Don’t wait for everyone else to suggest options you can’t eat.  Having a shared plate of food, even if it’s just in the beginning, helps people bond and feel an authentic sense of community. Gracefully take your portion first to avoid any possible contamination as the plate passes around the table.

– Jennifer

Want your favorite restaurant to go gluten-free (and do it safely)? Tell them to get gluten-free training through NFCA’s GREAT Kitchens program.

About Jennifer Fugo

Jennifer Fugo is a certified Health Coach working with busy individuals seeking balanced dietary changes.  Named by Philadelphia magazine as a “Gluten-Free Guru”, Jennifer knows firsthand the challenges of overcoming food sensitivities as she is intolerant of gluten, casein and eggs. For more articles, recipes & upcoming events, visit Jennifer at


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  • […] Read More… ShareFacebookTwitterStumbleUponLinkedInDiggRedditPrintEmailLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. Restaurant ← Gorton’s Seafood has announced that its Grilled line of fish is now gluten free, with a variety of flavors and grilled fish species including Grilled Salmon, Grilled Tilapia, All Natural Grilled Fillets made from Alaska Pollock, and Grilled Haddock […]

  • 2. sicl  |  September 13, 2011 at 11:55 am

    HA! shared appetizer is a good idea, but not at a table shared with gluten. A table mate offered me gluten free ingredient item on her knife used to butter her gluten containing bread… I am not about to try and educate while socializing. It is easier for me to not go, not eat, or bring my own.

  • 3. sandy treverton  |  September 17, 2011 at 7:03 pm

    You really hit it right on with how it feels to eat at a restaurant being gluten free and great tips. Thanks again

  • […] really have a dedicated fryer? Through GREAT gluten-free education, all the guests at the table can enjoy the ambience, company, and great food you set before […]

  • 5. Mavie  |  August 16, 2012 at 3:32 pm

    This was very helpful! I have to say though, my friends are all really great…they look out for me, stand up for me at restaurants…so wonderful. It’s the family that kills me. It’s like I’m insulting them by not eating their food! My grandpa once said, “The brownie won’t kill you..” Ok gramps, I’ll eat it, then you can listen to me scream in pain all night. No thanks. Family events are the most stressful to me. (By the way, NONE of my family will get tested.)


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