Every Tuesday and Wednesday during the month of May, we’ll be hosting a gluten-free guest blogger from around the web in honor of Celiac Awareness Month. Today we’re pleased to welcome Jennifer Harris from Gluten Free Go-To Guide, who celebrates how far the restaurant industry has come since her diagnosis in 1997.
This year I celebrated the 18th anniversary of my celiac disease diagnosis. I am thankful to be a fully functioning human being who works year-round to advocate for those following a gluten-free diet. It took hard work and copious amounts of research to follow a gluten-free diet in 1997, so it is more than satisfying to see the increase of gluten-free options in stores and online.
In the last few years, I have noticed an increase in restaurants embracing the gluten-free diet and working to provide options that remain safe from start to finish. This process now takes cross contact and ingredient sourcing into consideration. The restaurant industry realizes that the gluten-free diet, while some treat it like a fad diet, is the only treatment for those diagnosed with celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Restaurants are taking the time and spending money to work with consultants and/or third party agencies for menu and ingredient reviews and to develop safe handling procedures.
Unlike when I was diagnosed in 1997, gluten-free options are now marked on menus, or a separate menu exists to make ordering easier. Restaurants are training their staff to know all of the ingredients in a dish and how it is prepared. We no longer have to wait to speak with the chef prior to ordering for fear that our dietary needs will be lost in translation. Gluten-free food isn’t available only at sit down restaurants, now it can be delivered, purchased through a drive through and from food trucks.
Chefs don’t see us as a nuisance; rather they accept the challenge to provide a higher level of quality. Gone are the days of being limited to salads, vegetables, and potatoes because restaurants are filling their menus with gluten-free substitutes for pasta, bread and buns, pizza, soy sauce, breadcrumbs, fried foods like chips for nachos, fried chicken, and French fries are made in dedicated fryers, and real desserts (not crème bruele and ice cream) are becoming more common. Restaurants feel a sense of pride at being able to safely serve gluten-free diners and they strive to add even more selections.
We can now enjoy a complete dining experience with appetizers, salads, soups, and entrees options proudly featured in each category. Gluten-free beer, gluten-removed beer, and cider can be found on bar menus by the bottle and on tap.
The best news is the rise in dedicated gluten-free bakeries, cafes, and restaurants as more people are getting diagnosed and demand is on the rise. Communities are coming together to support and not shun those following a gluten-free diet.
Thank you to all restaurants making dining a fun and anxiety-free experience. Keep up the good work and know that if you take the time to build it, the gluten-free community will come out and support it!
Note: The views, opinions and positions expressed by our Celiac Awareness Month guest posters are theirs alone and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Gluten-Free Living or its staff.
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