If you or your child has food allergies, you know how difficult it is avoiding allergens while eating out. In recent years, awareness in restaurants and employee training has been improving, but dining out will always remain nerve-wracking for those with food allergies. With careful planning, however, it is possible to truly enjoy a meal at a restaurant.
Increasing your safety while dining out begins at home. The first step is to know what menu items to avoid. Do research to find out where hidden ingredients lurk. It isn’t obvious, for example, that Caesar dressing includes anchovies or that licorice candy contains wheat. A restaurant employee with the best intentions may inadvertently serve a food containing an allergen. This is why it is important for you to be well informed about foods that may cause an allergy for you or your child.
Make or have made a card listing all of the items you or your child is allergic to. This can be handed to the server a the start of the meal.
You can also read up on the allergy policies of some restaurants online. Before making reservations, call to verify their policies and procedures. It may help to make a reservation during a time that is less busy so that your allergy requirements receive more attention.
Having a back-up plan is also a good idea. Choose a second restaurant with sound allergy policies or simply bring along food so that you or your child don’t end up hungry and frustrated.
Pack essential items to take with you to the restaurant. While medical ID jewelry should be worn at all times if you have food allergies, it is imperative to wear a medical bracelet or medical alert necklace when you dine out. Also important to have with you are two epinephrine autoinjectors in case of an allergic reaction. Disinfecting wipes are good to have so that you can wipe the table and chairs of allergen traces before sitting down.
As soon as you arrive at the restaurant, hand your server the card listing your allergy information. Talk with the server about the restaurant’s food handling practices. When choosing an item to order, scan the menu for potential cross-contamination. For instance, some salads may be served with nuts. There would be potential contamination with other salads. If ordering a fried item, ask about other foods that may be fried in the same fryer.
Although a restaurant may be doing its best to serve you food free of allergens, an allergic reaction is always possible. This is why it is so important to be wearing medical ID jewelry when dining out. In the case of an emergency, the medical responders will be able to easily identify your specific allergy, medications, emergency contact phone numbers, and other important information from your ID jewelry and card.
Share your dining experience with others who live with food allergies. This will help them make safe decisions when choosing restaurants for themselves.