Food allergies and restaurants: A survival guide

When it comes to eating out, what most people think about is having a good time around a good meal. For people who suffer from food allergies or intolerances, it can mean a real headache, because of the dangers related to their condition. The good news is, though, that there are many ways to make your evening at the restaurant more relaxing and safe !

What seems like an ordinary plate for most can be a source of headache to people living with some allergies or intolerances.

1. Get some information about the place you’re going to

The first thing I always do when I visit a new restaurant is to consult their website. I try to figure out which dishes I can order, according to my situation. Then, I call the restaurant and ask them how they can accommodate me. I might name some of the dishes I previously selected, for example, and ask if I could eat that. If the person doesn’t seem to be informed, I politely ask to talk to the manager. If nobody seems to know (or care !) about allergies, I strongly suggest you to choose another restaurant, unless you like to live dangerously ! 😉

2. Make sure you give enough details to the waiter

Not everyone is familiar with food allergies. That’s why you must be explicit in explaining to your waiter what you can’t eat. For example, don’t limit yourself to: “I’m allergic to dairy”. Instead, elaborate: “I’m allergic to dairy. I can neither consume milk, butter, cream nor yogurt.” Be careful with dressing and sauces: they are the best hiding spot for allergens.

3. Always double-check

No, it’s not being paranoid. Your health (and life) is important, and it’s your job to be sure everything seems O.K. before you eat it. Don’t be afraid to ask your waiter if you’re not sure about something. Asking “this is the dairy-free dressing you told me, right ?” is always better than being sick (or worse !) in the middle of the dinner. You’ll have a better time if you feel safe about what you eat.

4. Be kind

Don’t be afraid to express your needs, but use the good words. People are always more comprehensive when you’re being positive. Remember, restaurants are busy and staffs are constantly under pressure. Your order requires more attention and time, so they sure will appreciate your kindness.

5. Don’t forget your “survival kit” !

Whether it’s some antihistamines, your Epipen or other medication: always make sure you have everything it takes in case of emergency. On the other hand, feel free to bring some food along. It’s totally acceptable to bring your own bread if you’re gluten intolerant, for example.

With all those precautions in hand, the only thing you now have to think about is to enjoy your night out ! 🙂

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