You don't need to avoid going to restaurants if you need to avoid gluten, which is a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. Many restaurants are now including gluten-free menu items according to local demand.

While some foods are more obvious sources of gluten, there are other less obvious sources of which you should be aware before you venture out to eat.

What's wrong with gluten?

While many people can enjoy products that contain gluten, there are three groups of eaters that avoid it by choice or necessity. These are

  1. Those who avoid gluten by choice. These individuals follow a diet free of gluten because they believe that gluten causes a host of non-specific health problems and a general feeling of malaise.
  2. Those with a gluten intolerance. These eaters have a specific reaction to gluten, and it may cause intestinal distress and other digestive issues.
  3. Those with Celiac Disease. Sufferers may develop malnutrition, because consuming gluten renders their small intestine unable to absorb nutrients properly.

​The main food groups that contain gluten

  • Breads and other baked goods, including cakes, pies, and other desserts. 
  • Pastas and other noodle dishes. This doesn't apply to rice noodles in Asian restaurants. These noodles contain rice gluten, which is not a true gluten and need not be avoided.

Less obvious sources of gluten

Even if you avoid the obvious sources of gluten, it may still be present as an additive or used in food preparation. Possible hidden sources of gluten include

  • Fried foods: Many fried foods are coated before frying to give the food a crispier outer texture. Wheat flour is often used in breading and other coatings.
  • Sauces: Dark colored sauces are usually to be avoided, because wheat flour is often used as a browning agent. Substitute white or light colored sauces.
  • Gravies: Wheat flour may be used as a thickening agent in gravies.
  • Alcoholic drinks: While not a food group, they are still consumed in restaurants. Rye and barley are used in some alcoholic drinks.

If you have a serious intolerance or Celiac disease, you may choose to go to specialty restaurants that cater to those who have special dietary needs. These types of eateries are expanding in scope as more consumers become aware of health issues related to food.

If you suffer from any of these problems, but don't have these type of restaurants in your area, don't despair. Just talk to the owners of your favorite restaurants.They want all of their customers, especially their repeat customers, to be satisfied, and will accommodate those with special dietary needs.