Dining Out and Ordering Safely

By Heather Legg

It’s hard enough trying to figure out what to cook at home and accommodate allergies, what about going out to eat? IF fear strikes when you think about going to a new restaurant with your allergic child (or yourself), you are not alone. With all the food allergy sufferers out there, allergy awareness has become more and more widespread in restaurants, but there are still precautions to take. Here are some guidelines for dining out:

• First line of defense, most think it’s your server. That is often the case, but we’ll get to that in a second. To get even more ahead of the game, call ahead and take that as your first line. Call before you arrive and ask about their food allergy policy. If nuts are heavy on the menu and that is your allergen, you may choose to go somewhere else. Also, you can get a vibe for how they handle allergies.
• Now, your server. When he or she comes to greet you, explain your allergies, even before he explains the specials. Express the severity of the allergy and the nee of complete avoidance. Ask about oils, shared utensils and cross contamination. If your server looks bewildered, ask for the manager.
• You may choose to speak with the manager as well, express your same needs and tell them you aren’t trying to be difficult, it is a true health matter.
• Make sure if they do make a mistake, like bringing avocado on your salad when you are allergic to it and stressed that it be left off,  that they don’t just take it back to the kitchen and pick it off, returning the same salad to you. Some suggest keeping the tainted food until the new one arrives just to make sure.
• If you are dining with others, especially those not accustomed to your allergy, you can request that they stay away from your allergen, too, if that is a factor to you. Remember you can’t always control what others do, but you can suggest!
• Be aware of what foods your allergen can be in and be contaminated with. If you are allergic to seafood and there is fried shrimp on the menu, be careful ordering anything else fried, the oil may be shared.
• Ask about oils and added ingredients that may not be listed on the menu. Often peanut oil is used.
• Attitude counts. Be nice! If your server needs a little education, take the opportunity. After the meal, give a special thanks to anyone who went above and beyond.
• Don’t be afraid to dine out! Take precautions, do some research, and find the restaurants right for you and enjoy them.

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