You can still enjoy eating out while following the gluten-free diet. Here are some tips to help you enjoy your meal.

1. If you can, check with the restaurant before you visit. Ask whether they offer gluten-free foods or can adjust to provide a gluten-free meal. More and more local and chain restaurants have gluten-free menus.

2. Try to arrive during off-peak times when the staff is less rushed, especially if it’s your first trip to a restaurant.

3. When you arrive, explain your needs clearly to the server. Although the gluten-free diet is becoming better known, most waiters and waitresses still won't be sure what gluten is. Say you need to avoid wheat, including flour, bread crumbs and any sauces or seasonings made using them. Mention barley and rye, although these are less likely to be a problem. Point out that oil, cooking surfaces and utensils can't be contaminated by foods that contain wheat, barley or rye. You can buy restaurant cards that can help you explain your needs.

4. Be polite and friendly. You'll be surprised how motivated many servers, chefs and restaurant managers are to prepare a safe and delicious meal. But never take a risk that something might not be safe because you don't want to question or burden the staff. You are the one most responsible for your diet even when you eat out.

5. Order sensibly. Stick with familiar entrees unless you can be sure that a more exotic dish can be made gluten free.

6. Try to avoid sauces, marinades or thickeners unless the server or chef can assure you that they are safe.

7. Bring some gluten-free crackers or bread. It will give you something to eat while your companions sample the bread basket. This is especially important for children.

8. You can order wine or champagne, which are made from grapes. Most beer is off limits, but some restaurants serve one of the specialty gluten-free beers. Otherwise, most alcoholic drinks are gluten free.

9. For dessert your choice will most likely be limited to ice cream, sherbet or sorbet, fresh fruit or real cheese. Some restaurants serve flourless cake.

10. Don't be afraid to eat out with children. Although they are often less adventurous eaters, you can usually find something on the menu that works. Children tend to like plain hamburgers and chicken, as well as baked potatoes and salad. Sometimes you can put together a meal with a few safe items from the sides menu. Increasing awareness means even fast food restaurants are familiar with the gluten-free diet. You can check for gluten-free menu items on the Internet.

Celiac disease is a serious, lifelong, gastrointestinal disorder that can cause a wide spectrum of clinical symptoms such us diarrhea, abdominal distension, weight loss, malnutrition and skin disorders due to permanent intolerance to gluten, a complex mixture of proteins found in wheat, barley and rye.

Check out restaurants with gluten free options on The Celiac Scene.