I remember the first restaurant I visited after learning I was gluten intolerant and going gluten-free. It was a sushi restaurant. I was brand new to eating gluten-free and still learning the ins and outs of the lifestyle. Sushi, I thought, was my safest bet. Fresh fish. Rice. No worries! Wrong. Let’s see where the rookie faltered. For starters, I didn’t let my server know that I had a gluten intolerance. I discussed cross-contamination in this blog, but it’s always good to let the restaurant know your sensitivities, even if you’re ordering gluten free items, so the kitchen can be extra careful. Also, had I let someone know, they may have alerted me to known gluten-containing items, such as soy sauce. Ahhhhh, the soy sauce. Gluten free 101, but I hadn’t yet reached that chapter. Most places that use/serve soy sauce have a gluten-free alternative called tamari. Be sure to ask for it. I did not that night. That was only the beginning. Cucumber salad – imitation crab on top, contains gluten, I ate it all. Even the sushi roll I got (salmon and rice) most likely had our sneaky little friend hiding somewhere inside (the vinegar used in sushi rice, the wasabi, and pickled ginger on the side often contain gluten).
Needless to say, avoiding gluten in the not-so-obvious places can be challenging. That was one meal, at one restaurant, and many different gluten land mines to avoid. Your refrigerator and pantry may be harboring some of these hidden gems right now! Here is a more detailed list, but some of the common offenders include: ketchup, salad dressings, blended seasonings, ice cream, and soups. Outside of your kitchen, medication, vitamins, cosmetics, hair products, and supplements, to name just a few, can also contain gluten. I know, at this point it feels like, what IS safe? The answer is: plenty. I was so overwhelmed at the beginning of this journey. That night, after that sushi dinner, while feeling miserable, I definitely asked myself, “What is the point?” The point is that I have eaten sushi again since then. And ketchup. And soup. And felt great. With gluten-free awareness higher than it has ever been, it’s easier now than even a year and a half ago when I started, to know exactly what items are safe for those living a gluten-free lifestyle.