Don’t be surprised if you don’t get complete support from your friends or community. The gluten free diet comes attached to many biases and misconceptions. I’ve been called something I’d rather not repeat by a college professor because I don’t eat gluten. So there are definitely many people who just don’t get it.

That’s okay. It’s not your job to pacify them or to educate them on the what and why of a gluten free diet, unless you want to. The only real job you have is to feed your body the best foods you can and that doesn’t include gluten. That job gets a little more difficult when you’re out of your kitchen and in the “real world”.

So let’s break it down into the two most challenging situations you’re likely to face when you’re on a gluten free diet; dining out at a restaurant, and eating at other people’s homes.

Dining Out Gluten Free

Eating out requires a level of diligence that you’re probably not used to. Depending on where you go, you may find that the wait staff are friendly and knowledgeable. Finer restaurants tend to tell their staff what they put in the food and the food is actually prepared in the kitchen so they can leave specific items out if you request it.

At most chain restaurants they get a lot of their food prepared. This means that there’s really not much more for them to do than drop it in the fryer or throw it on the grill. It’s pre-seasoned, pre-breaded and pre-made.

If you have a choice, look for restaurants with gluten free items on the menu. As more people realize the benefits of a gluten free lifestyle, restaurants are responding and offering menu items that fit your needs. If you’re unsure, give the restaurant a call beforehand. Ask if they have gluten free menu items or items that can be made gluten free.

It’s important to know where there may be hidden sources of gluten. For example, salad dressings and sauces often contain gluten. Many foods are dusted with flour before they’re sautéed or fried. In fact, baked potatoes are often coated with flour to make the skins crispier. Ask questions and be prepared to eat the simplest dish on the menu.

Eating Gluten Free at Someone’s Home

When eating at someone’s home, you’re their guest. You can let them know that you are gluten free but don’t expect them to create a menu just for you. Consider making sure you don’t arrive hungry and come prepared. Bring a dish or two that you are sure you can eat. If you aren’t sure if there will be something you can drink, bring that too. It’s also okay to ask the host or hostess a few questions about what’s in the food. If they’ve had it catered, they may not know. Again, the simplest dish is often the safest.

Once you’re comfortable with your new wheat free lifestyle you’ll be more relaxed when you’re eating out or with friends. You’ll feel better and you’ll have confidence in your choices even when other people don’t understand them. And you might be surprised how many people follow your lead and start living gluten free too.

Next time I’d like to talk a little bit about some common questions you might get from people who aren’t familiar with gluten free and wheat free lifestyles. You might have some of the same questions so it’s a good time to explore the answers.