If you go out to eat with our family, DON’T be in a hurry.
- my sons eat slowly? No, definitely not.
- they eat a lot? Well yes, but that’s not the reason.
- we ask a lot of questions? That’s it!
Yes, we ask questions and A LOT OF THEM. We are not trying to be annoying or difficult but we aim to have an enjoyable meal without an allergic reaction.
Our investigation, particularly with a new restaurant, begins prior to our arrival and continues throughout our meal.
So are you wondering how to eat out safely with food allergies?
Here are some of our DO’S and DON’TS.
5 Essential DO’S of Dining Out
DO Your Homework
- Review the restaurant menu online prior to arrival.
- Look for an allergy or gluten free menu.
- Call to inquire about food preparation/ingredients during a slow time for the restaurant, such as in between meals.
DO Speak with the Chef or Manager
- Upon arrival, ask to speak with the manager or chef about safe food selections.
- Inquire about possible food substitutions.
- Consider carrying a chef card to alert staff about your allergies.
DO Take Epinephrine Auto-Injectors
- Even if you have dined at the restaurant previously, always take along at least two doses of emergency medications in case of an accidental exposure.
- Keep medication with you, not in the car.
- Administer epinephrine as prescribed from your physician in case of a reaction.
DO be Cautious of Buffets
- The chance of cross contact is particularly high given the design of buffets due to food spilling into adjacent dishes and patrons exchanging utensils between dishes.
- Consider eating from stations that are separated from others.
- Get food when it first comes out of the kitchen or ask your server to bring your food directly from the kitchen.
DO Keep it Simple
- When in doubt ask for broiled, baked, steamed or sautéed food which can often be prepared in a separate pan.
- Be careful of sauces and gravies.
- Fried foods can be unsafe due to the type of oil used as well as contact from many types of food placed in the fryer.
5 Crucial DON’TS of Dining Out
DON’T Assume a Food is Safe
- Your nose doesn’t always know!
- Don’t rely on sight or smell to determine if a food is free of an allergen.
- Always inquire about the ingredients and preparation surfaces.
DON’T Feel Obligated to Stay
- If the restaurant staff is hesitant about providing safe food, rude or makes you feel that they can’t accommodate your food allergies/restrictions, choose another restaurant.
- There are plenty of restaurants that respect and are willing to accommodate their guests with food restrictions.
- Ask friends for suggestions of accommodating restaurants.
DON’T forget to Bring a Safety Stash
- Consider bringing a supply of safe food to eat as your meal when dining with others.
- Be aware that some restaurants may not allow outside food.
- You may want to keep a few food items on hand to supplement your meal.
DON’T Eat at Peak Hours
- When the kitchen is extremely busy, there may be a higher likelihood of cross contact or miscommunication.
- Avoiding peak hours, especially when visiting a new restaurant, may allow the chef or manager more time to spend with you in order to deliver a safe meal.
- When dining during non peak hours, you may have more time to explore the menu as well as discuss safe food substitutions.
DON’T Assume All Chain Restaurants are Equal
- Chain restaurants often have similar or the same menus, however the level of food allergy awareness may differ from restaurant to restaurant.
- Restaurants may purchase products from different vendors with varying manufacturing standards.
- Chains may have different menu items or specials.
Whether the thought of dining out with food allergies evokes feelings of delight or distress, I hope these 10 Do’s and Don’ts helped tantalize your taste buds for a safer and more enjoyable experience.
Do you have any dining DO’S and DON’TS? Please share in the comments below!
Donna DeCosta, Founder FoodASC.com
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