Because so many people have gone gluten-free over the past several years, many companies and restaurants have jumped on board and started offering gluten-free foods. This is great because it gives those of us with dietary restrictions more options. However, gluten-free foods often cost more, and while that upcharge is usually legit, sometimes it seems as if restaurants are trying to take advantage of people who, for one reason or another, don’t eat gluten.

So how can you tell when you should be paying more and when an upcharge is just bogus?

Figure out what the gluten-free component actually is.

This can make a big difference. If the gluten-free substitution is for something like gluten-free bread, the upcharge is probably legit. Companies like Udi’s, Rudi’s, and Canyon Bakehouse are making bread from ingredients that are more expensive than other commercial breads. Because of this, it makes sense that they would cost more.

However, a restaurant I visited this summer was offering “gluten-free” tortillas for $2 more. When I asked what they were made of, the waiter told me that they were corn tortillas. Um, no. Corn tortillas do not cost more than flour tortillas. Those $2 wouldn’t have broken the bank for me, but I was annoyed because I felt like I was being taken advantage of. I chose something else.

Look for options that are naturally gluten-free.

In that situation, I ended up choosing a chicken and rice dish so that I didn’t have to worry about an unreasonable fee. Most restaurants will have an entree or salad that you can eat without having to substitute anything at all.

See if you can substitute something else that won’t cost more.

Could you have a lettuce wrap instead of a tortilla? If you’re able to eat sourdough, you could sub that rather than gluten-free bread. Most of the restaurants I’ve visited have been willing to work with me, and some even ask about dietary restrictions the first time a waiter comes to the table. Ask about options that might not be on the menu.

Finally, if you’re able to plan ahead, try checking out a restaurant’s menu on their website before you go there. It’s crazy how stressful something like going out to dinner can be when you have a hard time finding things to eat. This extra step saves a lot of time and stress in the moment.

Happy dining!


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