Eating out will inevitably prove to be a struggle at some point in our food allergy journeys. Whether it’s experiencing food allergy anxiety or having a hard time finding a safe restaurant, it’s safe to say that we have all experienced difficulties eating out with food allergies at one point or another.
I have also been in that same place many times before. Today, I am going to share with you my guide on how I safely eat out with food allergies, and how you can, too!
As a little disclaimer, make sure to ask your allergist if you have any questions about eating out with your food allergies. Although these tips work for me, everyone is different in what they need to do to eat out safely.
Here is some nut-free soft serve ice cream that I have safely eaten with my food allergies!
How to find out if a restaurant is safe for you to eat at
Finding a safe restaurant for your allergens is crucial for you to be safe eating there. After all, what would be the point of going to a restaurant you can’t eat at? Here are some of my tips:
1. Check the Spokin app for reviews
The Spokin app is a wonderful food allergy app that has all sorts of reviews of food products, restaurants, and more from other people with food allergies! I always start by looking at what other people say about the restaurant on the Spokin app. This really helps to ease my anxiety when it comes to new restaurants since I know that other people with food allergies have had a good experience there.
2. Check the restaurant’s website for an allergen menu
A bunch of restaurants have really helpful allergen menus online. They typically aren’t in plain sight on the restaurant’s website, so you might have to do a little bit of looking around in order to find it. I find these menus very helpful in seeing how many of the dishes contain my allergens and if there are any dishes that could accommodate my food allergies. Many chain restaurants are especially good at having allergen menus on their websites.
3. Call the restaurant
If you can’t find any allergen information using the above two tactics, I would recommend calling the restaurant. Find the restaurant’s phone number online and ask if they would be able to safely accommodate your food allergies. Now would be the time to ask about cross-contamination or what their food allergy protocols are. If they sound unsure or are very vague in their answers, it might be a good idea to find a different place to eat at. Never eat at a restaurant that makes you feel uncomfortable!
What to do at the restaurant
Ordering and eating new food at a restaurant can seem intimidating, but it doesn’t need to be. Here are some things to keep in mind while you are there:
1. Make sure to state your allergens
Make sure to state your allergens when ordering your food! This allows the waiter/waitress to note them for the kitchen or stop you from accidentally ordering something that contains your allergens. This is also helpful for any allergen procedures that the restaurant may have in place.
Another helpful tip is to have an allergy card that you give to your waiter/waitress. Essentially, this is a small card that lists your food allergies. It can be helpful for the chef that is making your food, especially if you have multiple food allergies. There are also allergy cards that can be translated into other languages, which is super helpful when traveling!
2. Ask specific questions about the dish you are ordering
Sometimes it is necessary to ask specific questions about the food that you are ordering or about the allergen procedures in the restaurant. For example, when ordering fried food, I always make sure to ask what oil they use since sometimes they will use nut oil to fry it. This helps to make sure that no little details about what is in the food you are ordering are accidentally skipped over or forgotten.
3. Ask to speak with the chef
It might be a good idea to ask to speak with the chef to go over any food allergy procedures that are in place at the restaurant. The chef can typically best explain their procedures and help you choose a dish that is safe for you to eat. It also helps with food allergy anxiety to know that the person making your food understands your allergies and will help make sure that you are safe.
General tips for eating out with food allergies
1. Make sure to bring your EpiPens!
Always bring at least two EpiPens with you! It is so much better to be safe rather than sorry.
2. Bring a friend with you
If you are nervous about trying a new restaurant, bring someone along with you! This helps to ease my anxiety since I know that if something goes wrong, someone will be there with me that knows what to do in the case of an allergic reaction.
Those are my tips for eating out with food allergies! Eating at new restaurants can be so much fun, and with these tips, you can do it safely, too. I hope you found them helpful!