Eating out is the most difficult part of living with celiac disease. Once you have been diagnosed with this chronic illness, eating out is forever changed. It will never be the same as it once was. This is an, unfortunate, stark reality check for those living with celiac. It sounds harsh, I know. But, it is true. There is no spontaneity with eating out anymore.
- Selena De Vries is dedicated to helping individuals who are struggling with digestive issues find food freedom. Selena understands that celiac disease not only effects one’s physical health but also effects one’s emotional health. Using an integrative approach in the management of digestive health conditions, she provides support for those with celiac disease/gluten sensitivity and nutrition coaching for other digestive health conditions.
Having celiac disease doesn’t mean that you can’t eat out. You just need to change your expectations and learn a new way to dine out. It can still be enjoyable (if you let it) but it will take effort to ensure it’s as safe as it can be.
The question to ask yourself is this “Are you going to let this bring you down or are you going to rise to the challenge?”
I have celiac disease and I can tell you, I have had my fair share of pitty parties. I’ve had GF food brought to me and, upon, extra questioning, it was indeed not GF and I was left to eat nothing while everyone else enjoyed their dinners. I’ve had to eat pretty close to burnt food when my food was left in the oven too long and there was nothing else to eat and I was starving.
Point being, celiac can suck sometimes. I know you guys get that. But, I try not to let it get the better of me. I know it can be hard. But, there are much worse conditions to have. Being able to mostly manage this disease with food is a blessing in disguise, as difficult as it can be at times (don’t scream at me for saying this!). That’s not to say that we don’t need additional treatments to help control celiac disease, as we most definitely do, but food will always play a starring role in managing our illness.
So, if you are at the place in your diagnosis where you feel you are at the place to venture outside your home to eat out, this post may have some helpful starting points for you.
Top 3 Tips for Eating Out at Restaurants
1 – Download eating out resources. There are three great resources I recommend getting in Canada
- Gluten Free Finder: This is the gluten free food program endorsed by the Canadian Celiac Association that teaches restaurants how to serve individuals with celiac disease appropriately. You can search for restaurants that have gone through the verification process by visiting the website.
- Find Me Gluten Free: This is an iphone app that you can apply filters to, to find gluten free friendly restaurants for those with celiac disease.
- I suggest using the filter for “Celiac” and then reading the reviews. I, typically, will only choose restaurants that have 95-100 percent reviews for those with celiac disease.
BC specific resources: Considering I am from BC, I had to include some great resources for BC.
- Honeycomb app You can input filters for this one as well that includes celiac safe protocols for food prep.
- The Celiac Scene This is a website which has many gluten free restaurant recommendations that would be safer choices for those with celiac disease.
2 – Call the establishment you are thinking of eating at, at either 10am or 3pm to ensure it is not busy and they have the time to answer your questions, thoroughly. Ask to speak to the manager and ask the following:
- “I have celiac disease and I am thinking of dining at your establishment. Do you have a gluten free menu?”
- “What do you do to prevent cross contamination in the kitchen?”
Listen to your gut reaction here. You are looking for some of the following responses:
- They use separate equipment or wash equipment before making a gluten free meal for someone with celiac disease
- They use new ingredients from the back to prepare your meal
- They have an allergen binder to make it easy for staff to identify allergens (gluten is often included in these, not just wheat)
- They wash hands or change gloves prior to preparing a meal for someone with celiac disease
- They make your order in a separate part of the kitchen
- They have a 100 percent gluten free deep fryer
- They have a separate gluten free toaster or toast GF bread on a clean pan or in the oven
- They have a clean gluten free grill for grilling protein sources
- They have a GF menu or can easily adapt some menu items to be GF
3 – Go online and look at their menu.
- Choose what you think you may order and identify any potential gluten concerns and cross contamination concerns. Bring these concerns up by either calling ahead and talking to the chef to ensure they can accommodate.
- The biggest tip I have: The GF menu is a STARTING point to narrow down your choices. It does not make the item inherently safe. Questions should still be asked to ensure the item does contain obvious sources of gluten and to reduce chance of cross contamination.
Selena De Vries is a Registered Dietitian living with celiac disease who specializes in the dietary management of that condition. She will be hosting a ‘virtual office hour’ on the Canadian Celiac Association Facebook Group every Friday from 12 – 1pm Pacific Standard Time (3pm – 4pm Eastern Standard Time). Selena will post at 12pm stating she is online. Ask your nutrition related questions in the comment section within her post. Arrive early and post your question!
Selena is licensed to practice as a dietitian in British Columbia and her services are available to anyone in Canada.
Living in the Okanagan or anywhere in British Columbia? View Selena’s services or book an appointment!
Celiac Total Health Package – 5 sessions
- Includes one initial assessment, 3 follow ups and a meal planning assessment along with a one week meal plan. Selena will recommend labs/procedure to identify any underlying nutrient deficiencies, will provide you with all the education you need to feel confident going gluten free and get you feeling better throughout our appointments, and most importantly, help you prepare and choose healthy GF products and get healthy GF meals on the table that the whole family can enjoy. Book your appointment or contact Selena with questions.
Eating Out With Confidence – 3 sessions
- Are you avoiding eating out due to the fear of being ‘glutened?” If so, this package is for you. Selena will provide you with education and resources that will improve your confidence in eating out safely. You will also get access to her on the go! For example, if you are eating out at a restaurant and need help in ordering your meal to reduce risk of being contaminated, she will walk you through what you need to ask to ensure your meal is at low risk of being contaminated. Book your appointment or contact Selena with questions.
Meal Planning Initial Assessment – 1 hour In-person – Online, video chat or by phone
- If you are struggling with getting healthy meals on the table that everyone can eat, this is for you. Selena will conduct a meal planning assessment and based on your input, she will put together a sample one week meal plan along with brand name food recommendations. You will get recommendations that makes healthy eating (with food restrictions), convenient, healthy and delicious. Book your appointment or contact Selena with questions.
Celiac Initial Consultation – 1 hour 30 minutes In-person, online, video chat or by phone
- Please book if you have been newly diagnosed with celiac disease or if you have celiac disease but are still struggling with symptoms. Selena will conduct a nutrition assessment & will provide an emailed lifestyle plan within 24 hours detailing the nutrition plan going forward. Supplements and lab tests will be recommended on an individual basis and the lifestyle plan will also include educational handouts, recipe ideas, and brand name food recommendations. Allow a minimum of 3 days advance booking as a 3 day food journal is required prior to the appointment. Book your appointment or contact Selena with questions.
Celiac Dietitian on Demand – 30 minutes – Online, video chat or by phone
- This is not for newly diagnosed celiacs or those who are struggling with digestive symptoms. If this is you, please book the initial consult (either celiac or digestive health). This is for you if your symptoms are fairly under control and you have brief questions. For example, a question on supplement use, the inclusion of GF oats in the diet, if you are grocery shopping and want to confirm if a brand name product is gluten free and safe to consume, if you are at a restaurant and want to know how to order an item that will be at low risk for being contaminated, or if you have questions on GF travel. Book your appointment or contact Selena with questions.
Initial Digestive Health Consult – 1 hour 15 minutes – In-person, online, video chat or by phone
- Please book if you are struggling with digestive health concerns or have been diagnosed with a digestive health condition (if you have been diagnosed with celiac, please book the celiac specific consult). Selena will conduct a nutrition assessment & will provide an emailed lifestyle plan within 24 hours detailing the nutrition plan going forward. Supplement, lab tests and lifestyle recommendations will be recommended on an individual basis and the lifestyle plan will also include educational handouts, recipe ideas, and brand name food recommendations. Allow a minimum of 3 days advance booking as a 3 day food journal is required prior to the appointment. Book your appointment or contact Selena with questions.
45 Minute Follow Up Appointment – In-person, online, video chat or by phone
This service can only be booked after an initial consultation has been completed. We will identify how the individual is doing on goals, barriers they may be facing, and steps to take going forward. Book your appointment or contact Selena with questions.
- “I contacted Selena when I still wasn’t feeling well a year after my celiac diagnosis. I’d read so much on the Internet I thought I knew everything I needed to know. I was wrong.
- Selena has important advice on how to do GF properly (it’s not as straightforward as I thought) and for regaining your health. She is organized, punctual, and professional. And she has celiac disease herself , so she gets it.
- I think a lot of us, by the time we’re diagnosed, have had more than our share of health care practitioners and may not want to bother with a dietitian.
- Selena played a crucial role in my recovery, and I would highly recommend her, whether you’re newly diagnosed or just trying to feel better.”
- ~ Charlene (long-distance celiac disease client)
- HEALTHBEAN NUTRITION specializes in digestive health. We deliver easy to digest, bite-size pieces of information so our clients can, finally, achieve the healthy & happy digestive system they’ve been striving for. Learn more ...
- HEALTHBEAN PHILOSOPHY– Selena employs elimination diets and/or a specific diets in accordance with her clients’ conditions, and only when deemed necessary. She reserves advice about the gluten-free diet for those who require it – not those choosing to follow the diet as a lifestyle choice. Expect clear, concise instructions on the appropriate diet for you and, maybe even some myth busting! Learn more …
Selena knows first-hand how her undiagnosed celiac disease affected her physical and emotional health. After telling her that, “Well, you have celiac disease,” her MD suggested she, “google the diet,” and out the door she went. Sound familiar?
That’s why Selena established Healthbean Nutrition. She is dedicating her education, personal insights and her own recovery to helping her fellow celiacs make this enormous lifestyle transition – and find joy in eating again! Learn more …
Selena’s Road to Diagnosis
- “When I was going through university, I was exhausted, ALL the time. I had to drag myself out to hang out with friends, and if I had it my way I would have spent most days in bed sleeping. It was not unknown for me to sleep 12-16 hours a day. Call me crazy, but I related it all to the busy-ness of school. I was even checked for anemia at one point (common with celiacs) and I was ‘fine.’
- The symptoms continued through school and the brain fog was undeniable. I distinctly remember during my dietetic internship (like a medical residency except everything is nutrition based) at Kelowna General Hospital sitting in the office, charting on a patient and, literally, feeling like my brain was so fuzzy that I could barely keep my eyes from nodding off. It was awful.
- Another thing I didn’t pay much attention to, was bowels. I was always constipated. Never the other way around. Never. And, I also remember mentioning this to my gastroenterologist just before the endoscopy and he said ‘oh, well with your very low antibody levels and constipation, there is a very low chance that you are actually celiac but we will proceed with the endoscopy since you’re prepped and ready to go.’
- The piece of paper I received after the endoscopy said to follow up with my GP. I did follow up with my GP and the report came back positive for celiac disease. My GP said “well, you’re celiac. But, you’re a dietitian, right, so this should be easy for you!”
- Perhaps I had a leg up in the nutrition part of it, but I think we all know that the gluten free diet is not a walk in the park. And, although, I am so appreciative of the medical care I received, it did open my eyes to the lack of knowledge within the medical community when it came to celiac disease and the lack of support offered to individuals with celiac disease.
That’s how Healthbean Nutrition was born!
- *Information and perspectives posted on The Celiac Scene are intended to provide general information, without independent verification on the part of The Celiac Scene for the accuracy of the information provided to it. The information is specifically not intended to be a substitute for medical diagnosis or treatment by your physician or other health care professional. Always consult your own physician or other health care professionals about any medical questions, diagnosis, or treatment, especially before trying any diet. Healthbean Nutrition does not accept any liability for any injury, loss or damage incurred by use of or reliance on any content contained herein.