I'd like to welcome our Guest Blogger, Amie Valpone, HHP, AADP Culinary Nutritionist and author of The Healthy Apple Blog. Amie is based in Manhattan and specializes in gluten free and dairy free culinary nutrition. As a Culinary Marketing Consultant, she offers many services to clients, including nutrition consultations, personalized healthy menu planing, personal food shopping services and supermarket tours, pantry makeovers, kitchen cooking parties, kids Birthday parties, and in home demonstrations. She joins us today to talk about something near and dear to our hearts...how to best navigate dining out while following a gluten-free diet -- without sacrificing taste!
A gluten-free lifestyle doesn’t mean that you have to say good-bye to your social calendar. You can still enjoy care-free meals at your favorite restaurants. And eating gluten-free doesn’t mean depriving yourself from your favorite foods, either. Instead, think of it as a way to focus on healthy ‘clean’ eating with naturally gluten-free foods that are fresh and delicious. When you are planning a trip or dining out, be sure to keep yourself safe by planning ahead.
• Make a list of the gluten-free foods you can enjoy as well as those foods that contain ‘hidden’ forms of gluten. This way, you can refer to your list when you are faced with a dining dilemma.
• Vacations and traveling often poses challenges because of the vast array of different ethnic cuisines. Be sure to ask your server and the chef about the ingredients used in all sauces, marinades and dressings, as these are common spots to find gluten. To keep it safe, stick with plain food when dining out. Try a piece of poached fish or chicken, baked tofu or a plate of freshly steamed vegetables with avocado, sea salt and pepper.
• Call the restaurant or stop by during the non-busy hours to talk with the chef and managers. I usually call the restaurant around 3 o’clock, just between the lunch rush and the dinner crowd. Touching base with the chef before you arrive for your meal will alleviate any questions you may have and will help you enjoy your dining experience, giving you the peace of mind that your meal is safely prepared.
• When you arrive at the restaurant for your meal, be sure to also alert the wait staff that your meal requires special handling. Then, proceed to order your meal with exact ‘gluten-free’ instructions such as, “Please prepare poached halibut with no sauces, marinades or dressings, simply a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, sea salt and pepper along with a side of baked sweet potato and steamed green vegetables.” Be sure to make the server aware of your allergy or intolerance to gluten and that you become very sick if your instructions are not followed exactly.
• Many restaurants now cater to us gluten-free folks and offer gluten-free meals and menus. In addition to the database of user-submitted restaurant reviews on GlutenFreeTravelSite, they also have a list of chain restaurants that offer gluten-free menus. I’d also recommend contacting your local celiac support group.
• Pack portable snacks in your bag at all times during travel to ensure you have a gluten-free nibble on hand when you are faced with a world of gluten-only options. I like to pack homemade trail mix with cashews, almonds, dried cherries and dried cranberries along with chopped vegetables such as carrot sticks or cherry tomatoes, gluten-free crackers, pretzels and portable hummus. These snacks are delicious, ‘clean’ foods that are easy to carry and easy to eat when you’re “on the move.”
Just remember to plan ahead, familiarize yourself with the restaurant’s cuisine, and know the foods you can have to ensure a safe, enjoyable and delicious meal. The fun of traveling and vacationing is to enjoy yourself, your new surroundings and the unique cuisines. Don’t let your gluten-free lifestyle intimidate you and keep you from living your life to the fullest and eating the foods you enjoy. Just be sure to stay focused on meals and snacks comprising of lean proteins, heart-healthy fats, vegetables and fruits. Here are a few of my favorite ‘clean’ dishes that are easy to whip up and delicious anytime of the day.
• Edemame Guacamole with rice cakes
• Greek yogurt with agave nectar, slivered almonds, nut butter and gluten-free granola
• Fresh crudités with salsa and avocado slices
• Baked corn tortillas with bean dip, shredded cheese and chopped vegetables
• Organic turkey slices wrapped in steamed kale with cooked jasmine rice
• Banana, Swiss chard, spinach, apple and flax seed smoothies
• Chopped grilled chicken with walnuts, dried cherries, curry powder and spinach
You can read Amie's reviews of a couple of her favorite "gluten-free friendly" places on GlutenFreeTravelSite.