Dining out with Severe Food Allergies

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September 9, 2012 by Lisa RunFastMama

I have multiple severe food allergies to corn, soy, barley, all nuts, all legumes, trout, lemon, buckwheat, raw potatoes and a few more things that have caused all sorts of reactions from blistering on my hands, severe runny nose, flushed face, swollen throat, itchy eyes and stomach issues.  I carry Benadryl and two Epi Pens on me at all times.

That being said, it is very difficult to eat out and trust someone else that my meal will be safe for me.  I could not even imagine how much more anxiety I would have if it was my kids.  I think Disney would be the only place we would eat out at!  But, it is what it is and I do not let it hold me back from traveling internationally or enjoying the occasional meal out with my family.

Here is a list of things I have learned over the past few years as I have dealt with these allergies:

  1. Trust your instincts.  If something does not seem right about the food, server, restaurant, etc. I do NOT eat the meal.  I have learned my instinct is usually pretty good about these situations, and I would rather offend someone instead of being forced to use my Epi pen in front of the kids, or in a foreign land.
  2. Bring a list with you.  I keep two copies of it in my purse, and it is plain and simple.  It has a general statement that says “Please prepare my food without any extra seasonings (included, but not limited to, salt, pepper, cooking oils and sprays)  I can have pure, extra virgin olive oil.”  I then list all of my allergies.  I always give a copy to the server and have a discussion directly with the chef.  Sometimes I even call ahead to discuss.
  3. I always ask to speak with the chef.
  4. Keep it simple. I scan the menu for things I can have and that can be simply modified by just eliminating ingredients.  There was a cobb salad on the menu at Paradise Pier as well as a dish with avocados.  I knew they had these ingredients on hand so I just requested a salad with lettuce, tomato, boiled egg and avocado with a side of olive oil. Worked great!  I have always found the less complicated I make things, the better!
  5. Check out the menu online before you go.  We pretty much restrict our dining to high-end steakhouses or seafood restaurants.  I know they have pure ingredients on hand and can easily get a plain steak, or piece of fish, with a side of steamed plain veggies and perhaps a baked potato if I am lucky.  It is pretty much my go to meal.
  6. Remind the chef and server about the risks of cross contamination by politely requesting that your meal be cooked in a separate, clean pan, etc.
  7. I always approach the server with a smile on my face and ask if they can help out with my allergy and if I was at the restaurant before, I mention that I have always had luck with their restaurant.

I have had many positive experiences, and every time Hubby always comments how much better my meal looks than his, lol

Bon Appetit!

P.S. This post is based on my experiences and practices only.  They may or may not work for you and your situation.  This is not medical advice, please consult your doctor or allergist for how to handle your situation.

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