Too often eating out with food allergies and intolerances is a stressful experience. Often decisions are made simply on a whim. This can be hit-or-miss with potentially dangerous consequences. Using our own experience, we thought it might be useful to share a few tips for eating out with food allergies.
- Bring your EpiPens. First of all, if your allergy is severe enough to require an epipen then don’t forget it! Ideally, you should have a second one in close proximity in the rare case that the first EpiPen doesn’t work. Make sure you know how to use your EpiPen and practice regularly. It’s also a good idea to have antihistamine medicines with you to use as directed.
- Research restaurants ahead of your visit. Use tools like Allergy Out to check out how the restaurant deals with allergic customers. Compare a restaurant’s allergy-friendliness relative to others. We want to make it easier for people to share their great experiences in restaurants. We also want to help serve as a watchdog and show early warning signal for restaurants not up to the proper standards.
- Inform the waiter of your allergies before you place your order. Ask to see the allergy menu if available and be clear in explaining the seriousness of your allergy. Always ask to speak to the manager. The best places should have your order taken and served by the manager, and as a result, prepared in a separate area of the kitchen.
- Don’t be embarrassed to question staff very directly. Ask about their allergy policies and how the kitchen is set up to minimise the chance of cross-contamination. Most noteworthy of all do ask detailed questions about food preparation and methods. Don’t be afraid to walk out if you are doubtful about the allergy controls that are in place or if the restaurant hasn’t satisfied your questions.
- Keep calm. Although it’s easy to say do try to be calm. I once tricked myself into thinking I was having a serious allergic reaction. After calming myself down, I realised it was all in my mind. I was overly stressed and didn’t feel comfortable with how the staff were dealing with my allergy. I found that with research and detailed questions, I was much calmer eating out.
- Be cautious of sauces when ordering. Sauces or sauce-based dishes can be a source of cross-contamination in a kitchen. These issues can, unfortunately, happen if chefs are using the same utensils to deal with various dishes across the kitchen. It might be better to skip the sauce and go for more basic options on the menu.
- Double check your meal when it arrives. Even with the best goodwill and questioning, honest mistakes can happen in a busy kitchen. Finally, don’t forget to inspect your meal for allergens before tucking in!
At Allergy Out, we love food and we want to help you live life to the fullest. Do also check out our post on Mental Health and Allergies. Whilst the tips we shared above have helped us in the past when eating out, we would love to hear more about how you are dealing with allergy awareness when you’re out and about.