You Can Enjoy Eating Out with Food Allergies- Here’s How!

Posted May 21, 2015 | kids, Nutrition & Health Tips

Introduction

Eating out when you have food allergies or sensitivities can be challenging, especially when you are first getting started. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be! You can enjoy going out to eat in the company of family and friends with the help of these tips. (And as someone who has food allergies, I can tell you it all gets easier with practice. You’ll be a pro in no time!)

1) Create your own food allergy card that lists all of your allergens or known sensitivities– This is extremely helpful to both you and the restaurant staff to ensure that you get a meal that will make your stomach happy. When you sit down at the table, let the server know as soon as possible that you have food allergies and present him or her with the card so he or she can make suggestions about what meals to order or what can be modified. If they are not sure, they can take your card to the chef to consult them. This makes it easy for everyone. I do this and I have had many waiters thank me for bringing it with me and some restaurants even asked to keep a copy at the restaurant for when I return. You can make copies of your card to carry with you to give to friends and family members too so they can prepare allergen-free foods for gatherings, birthdays, etc. There are also websites that can make custom allergy cards if you would rather not make one yourself. If you are traveling you can get your card translated into the language of your destination country.

2) Research online or with mobile applications to find allergen free restaurants– Just type “allergen friendly restaurants” into your choice of a search engine and you will find plenty of reviews and websites that will let you know which about what restaurants might be a great fit for you. Another way to find information is using mobile applications. Some of them will use GPS to find restaurants for you to check out that are within close distance of you. This is so helpful when you are looking to get a quick bite unexpectedly. I have listed some helpful websites and mobile applications at the bottom of the page. If you find a restaurant that has good reviews you often go to the restaurant’s website and look at the menu to get an idea of what you may order there. You can also find contact information for the restaurant, which leads me to my next tip…

3) Call the restaurant ahead of time– Call the restaurant and ask to speak to the manager or chef between 2 and 4 pm if possible before the typical restaurant rush hour. Inform them of your food allergies and how you will be affected should you consume any of them and ask if they have anything suitable for you to eat on the menu or are willing to make accommodations. If they say yes and you believe that they understand the severity of your allergic reaction this is a good sign. If they do not agree, you will want to find a new place to eat. Some other questions you may want to ask are:

“Do you have a separate preparation area and utensils to prepare food for special diets?”

  • Their response will clue you in on the measures the restaurant takes to avoid cross contamination.

“Do you carry any specialty products for people with food allergies?”

  • This will show you how contentious the restaurant is about guests with food allergies.

“Will you be at the restaurant while I am there?”

  • This will ensure that proper measures are taken that the meal is safely prepared. If they say they will not be there when you plan on coming in ask if they can alert someone who will be working at that time.
  • Next you can discuss the menu and the ingredients in dishes that they suggest or you find on the menu online to make sure there are no allergens. Make sure to talk about ingredients in sauces and garnishes. Also discuss cooking methods so you can avoid cross contamination issues. Once you come up with a dish together that sounds tasty write it down so you can request it when you make your visit to the restaurant.

4) Avoid getting anything deep fried – Even if French fries are labeled gluten free in a restaurant, ask the server if they have a dedicated gluten free fryer. If they do then, order the French fries! However if they do not, it is risky because the French fries are most likely in the fryer with breaded gluten-containing foods and can easily get contaminated.

5) Add some flavor by bringing your own condiments- From my experience with food allergies and restaurants, most often there are allergens in the sauces and dips so the dish I order is fairly plain. To make it more exciting, consider bringing small amounts of your favorite flavors with you. For instance, you can bring a container of tamari if you are gluten free and going to a Japanese restaurant that only has soy sauce. Get creative. If you can’t have the dressing on a taco salad, ask for some oil, salsa, or extra avocado or bring your own if you suspect they might have ingredients that your body doesn’t agree with.

6) Always bring food allergy medications just in case- If you have severe allergic reactions to foods, don’t leave without your EpiPen, antihistamine or any other medications you need to get things under control should you have an unexpected reaction. Better safe than sorry!

Mobile Applications

Find Me Gluten Free

  • Use this application to find gluten free restaurants near you. It uses GPS to help find places to eat nearby, especially if you are somewhere unfamiliar. Even if you have additional food allergies this is a good application to use to get a sense of how conscientious restaurants are about allergens. You can see ratings and reviews from others and add your own.

Allergy Eats

  • This application also helps guide you to local restaurants that serve food that is free of your allergens.

PrintWebsites

http://www.foodallergy.org/

  • Learn about the latest food allergy research, hear stories from others and find lots of information about managing your food allergies in every aspect of your life, and more on this site. You can also connect to food allergy related events here.

http://glutenfreeguidehq.com/100-percent-gluten-free-restaurants/

  • This site shows restaurants that are committed to being 100% gluten free facilities across the country.

https://allergytranslation.com/

  • This is one site where you can purchase custom food allergy cards that are translated into foreign languages to take traveling. The cards cost $8 and are custom so you can add up to 10 allergens on them.

Favorite Seattle Restaurants:

Razzi’s Pizzeria – Greenwood

When I was diagnosed with dairy, gluten, and basil allergies one of my first thoughts was “bye-bye pizza”, which was very sad to me. However, when I went to Razzi’s I found that was absolutely not true. They have the most extensive vegan and gluten free Italian menu I have ever seen. Also the owner is very gracious and dedicated to his business. He told me if I let them know a few days in advance they will prepare a pizza sauce without basil and they also asked to keep my food allergy card. Not only are they extremely kind, but their food is also incredible!

http://www.razzispizza.com/

The Flying Apron- Fremont and Redmond

This is certified gluten free bakery, which means their facility is audited by the Gluten-Free Certification Organization (GFCO) every year and they test their ingredients for gluten 4 times a year. They make amazing gluten free and vegan cookies, scones, muffins, you name it. They also have coffee, tea and some lunch items. My top picks are their ginger wheel cookies and dark chocolate muffins. Can you say moist!

http://www.flyingapron.com/

Capitol Cider- Capitol Hill

With a completely gluten free menu and one of the country’s largest selections of hard ciders, what is not to love? I have had many wonderful dining experiences here with beautiful food. Another perk is that they have a dedicated gluten free fryer so this is one of the only places where I indulge in fresh fish and chips. Yum!

http://www.capitolcider.com/about/

References:

http://www.foodallergy.org/managing-food-allergies-at/dining-out/calling-the-restaurant

http://www.healthline.com/health-slideshow/top-allergy-iphone-android-apps#5

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