A food allergy or intolerance (especially a newly diagnosed one) can be extremely socially isolating.
The thought of trying to get a ‘safe’ meal that you haven’t carefully prepared and cooked in your contamination free kitchen, can cause a lot of anxiety.
Basically, having a food allergy or intolerance creates an additional mental burden on top of everything else we have to deal with on a daily basis.
But we know that food has a much bigger role in our lives than just providing us with our macro and micronutrients.
Food IS a how we connect with one another. It is invariably involved when there is a celebration or commiseration. Which is why I think it is important to find that balance between staying safe and comfortable and enjoying eating.
I have lived with food allergies my whole life (and now have some intolerances thrown in for good mix!), so I thought I would share with you my tips for eating out with a food allergy or intolerance. They have got me by so far, so I figure they may also be of use to you 🙂
tips for eating out with a food allergy or intolerance
- Do your research beforehand – ask in Facebook support groups, get recommendations from other people who have allergies or intolerances or check out articles that have rated different restaurants and cafes on their ‘allergy friendliness’ (here is one I prepared earlier!).
- To make things easier, pick cuisines that are ‘safer’ for you. For example, Thai and Vietnamese are more likely to be a challenge for people with nut allergies. And Italian can be tough for people with Coeliac Disease.
- Try and check out the menu in advance for dishes that are suitable for you or look like they could be modified.
- Wherever possible, give restaurants and cafes prior notice of your food allergy/intolerance so that they have a chance to accommodate you. When making a booking, make sure you add your dietary requirements to the booking. If it is a walk-in only place, give them a call beforehand to ask if they can accommodate your requirements.
- If you are not able to let the restaurant or café know in advance (because I know spontaneous eating experiences do happen), make sure you let them know as soon as you get there.
- Trust your gut instinct – if you don’t feel satisfied with the answers to your questions or you feel like you have not been properly understood, don’t choose the meal or don’t stay at the restaurant.
- Check your meal when it arrives or before you leave the store – I have, on multiple occasions, stressed my nut allergy only to get my takeaway food with peanuts sprinkled on top.
- Don’t assume that ordering a dish that classically doesn’t contain your allergen or trigger food is guaranteed safe. I have been caught out with something as simple as smashed avocado having cashews mixed through it.
- Be assertive but don’t be a jerk. Ask the questions you need to in order to feel comfortable but keep it polite. Yes, I understand that if you are eating out, you should expect good service and have your needs met. But you are more likely to get exceptional service and have people go out of their way to accommodate you if you work with your wait staff.
do you have any tips to add to this list for easing the tension when eating out with a food allergy or intolerance?