Gluten-Free? Is this a Preference or an Allergy?

“WHAT kind of question is that?”

This is my response when asked this question,

“Are you gluten-free as a preference or for an allergy?” repeatedly at multiple restaurants.  Really . . . allergy or preference – what is that supposed to mean!?


Overall, navigating restaurants with a gluten-free allergy has become much easier now than in the past.  Many places now offer gluten-free options to get you in their doors.  Most are doing a great job to keep their customers safe.  But, you can be fooled once you are inside.

When the waiter, or the manager looks at you with the deer in the headlights reaction, this is probably not the place for you to eat.  I had one guy yell back to the chef – “Hey man is there any gluten in this!”  Yikes!  I was quickly out of there!

Talk to a manager to be sure the food is gluten-free and prepared in a safe manner, being aware of cross-contact.  A true gluten-free restaurant will understand the need to prepare your meal in a separate designated area in a clean pot/pan.  A waiter can usually give you good feedback.  But, I always go a step further and speak to the manager or even the chef.  It is NEVER worth guessing if the meal will be safe.


I called an Italian restaurant to see about gluten-free options before arriving.  The girl on the phone assured me they could make anything gluten-free, stating that they served gluten-free pasta every night. When I asked what kind of pasta they served (meaning rice, corn, quinoa), she told me white pasta . . . seriously!  When I asked if they prepared the gluten-free foods separately, “Oh  . . . hhhmmmm”, she had no idea.  She was definitely NOT the manager.  When I asked to speak to one, she said they were not available.  This restaurant was definitely NOT for us.

Be prepared and call ahead, but, always ask for the manager!  It will save you time, a headache and possibly a reaction to the food.

Don’t ever take a chance and order something just because you are in a restaurant.  Never put your health on the line – go somewhere else.

My reactions can last one day to a week depending what I ate – not ever worth the risk!  What so you think?

What shocked me the most was this question from the staff at the restaurants –

“Is this a preference or a true allergy?”

I couldn’t believe how many places asked me if being gluten-free was my preference or an allergy.  Personally this is no one’s business but your own.

Then I understood why they asked . . .

At first some places quickly stated, “We can make anything gluten-free”.

Once sharing that we had a true allergy with Celiac Disease, they changed their response to “oh, you will want to be careful with what you order.”

One waiter explained that if it’s “just a preference, we could eat safely.

Translated = if you are truly gluten-free, please don’t eat there!

Be safe – the last thing you want is a reaction, especially if you are traveling!

You may also note that many gluten-free menus state that they cannot be held responsible if a reaction occurs.  Typically this is used to cover them legally.  Again, always talk to the manager.  Feel good about what you are told before ordering.


Of course, many restaurants are right on top of their gluten-free offerings.  One such place we found was Joe’s American Bar & Grill, your basic American eatery.  For us, the waiter was great and well-trained.  As soon as we told him there was an allergy at the table, he sent over the manager, who was very knowledgeable about the foods and how they were prepared.  He even served my delicious meal himself.  I was impressed.

This is your health.  You have the right to be gluten-free because you have Celiac Disease or a gluten-intolerance.  And, you have the right to be gluten-free if you are trying it out as a new lifestyle.  It is your business if you live gluten-free for a preference or an allergy.

You will find your favorite, safe places to eat.  Research and try out your area.  While traveling, do your homework, call ahead and talk to the manager. Don’t let anyone make you feel bad for having a food allergy or asking questions.  Restaurants should be concerned to feed you a delicious, safe meal.  If not, that is not the place for you to eat!

Tip:  Always have a good snack packed with you in case you need to wait or need to find another place to eat, just as a safe back-up.

Most importantly, relax, sit back and enjoy your gluten-free safe meal.

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Cartoon Chef at Blackboard photo by Mister GC; Menu Photo by Graphics Mouse: Spaghetti photo by tuelekza; Cartoon Girl Serving Steak photo by isophere, all courtesy of

This information is provided for educational and informational purposes only, to educate you about gluten-free living and as a self-help tool for your own use. It is not meant to diagnose, treat, prevent, or cure. Use this information at your own risk based on your own judgment. Always seek the advice of your own Medical Provider regarding any questions or concerns you have about your specific health or any medications. This information is not allowed to be reproduced, replicated, or sold.

Stop Hidden gluten for good
Jennifer gluten-free living

Hello, I'm Jennifer

Health Coach, Wellness Cooking Instructor, Blogger, Busy Celiac Mom and Educator of Gluten-Free Wellness,

teaching you that living gluten-free doesn’t have to be stressful or overwhelming!

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