Tips for Eating Out with Food Allergies
Going out for dinner is supposed to be a fun and happy experience to enjoy with family and friends. But, with food allergies, I used to dread going out to eat, because I was always so afraid of having a reaction. It's taken me a while to figure out how to make eating at restaurants a fairly worry free experience, but I've come up with some tricks to try to make the experience as normal as possible. 1. Don't be afraid to ask - When I was younger, I was always scared to ask the server what was inside my food because I didn't want to cause problems, so I was always very nervous about what I was eating. But most of the time, the servers are very helpful and completely willing to answer questions, or ask the chef if they can't answer them. That's what they are paid to do, and it makes your experience much less nerve-racking if you just ask.
2. Call or go online beforehand - This never used to be the case, but most big chain restaurants will often have their menus online now, so you can take a look at what you're up against before getting there. If something really interests you, call the restaurant ask about the ingredients so you know you'll be able to order it.
3. Eat in smaller groups - As I have found with growing up, groups of friends like to go out to dinner to celebrate big events. And this is not the best time to try to figure out what's in the food. Servers and chefs are often a little more on edge with a large group, because they are more concerned about getting the food and drinks out quickly, and often will dismiss your questions. For me, a group of six seems to be the largest while still getting good answers to food questions.
4. Just order side dishes - I have found with large steak houses or chain restaurants with large menus, that it can be easier to just order all side dishes to create a meal. Most places will have meat, starches and different vegetable dishes you can order on the side, so don't just assume you can only order an entrée; with food allergies you always have to be creative.
5. Find stand by dishes - This, to me, is the most important tip. When I go out to eat, I know that I will probably be able to eat the quesadilla or the sandwiches, but usually won't be able to eat the pasta. It's about knowing your food allergies and knowing what restaurants usually have on the menu. If I don't feel like asking questions, I will order the quesadilla, or the burger without mayo, because that works with my allergies. This also goes for standby genres of food. I know that Indian and Greek restaurants are usually pretty easy to navigate with my allergies, but Italian, Asian or seafood restaurants are difficult to find anything.
It's taken me a long time to figure out the ways I can make eating out at restaurants as easy as possible, but it's definitely a fun and delicious experiment. What about you; what do you keep in the back of your mind when you go out to eat with food allergies or food restrictions?