Dining Out With Food Allergies
We all know that preparing every meal at home for your kids with food allergies, day in and day out, can be a daunting task, however as parents of kids with food allergies, we often times gotta do what we gotta do to ensure our kids safety and well being. But hey, even allergy moms (and dads) need a break from slaving away in the kitchen every once in awhile. So can dining out at a restaurant with food allergies a viable option? For most families, the answer is YES IT CAN…! Here are some helpful tips to help make it a wonderful and safe experience.
LOOK FOR RESTAURANTS THAT ADVERTISE ALLERGEN FREE-DINING
More restaurants are offering gluten- and wheat-free meals, non-peanut options, and other allergy-friendly dishes. To make the choice easier on you and your family, pick one of these restaurants for a night out. There are guides on-line that are available now to help you do just that like Allergy Eats.
FIND MENUS ON-LINE OR PICK THEM UP TO SEE WHAT IS OFFERED
Do research prior to going to the restaurant by looking up the menu. There might be items flagged especially for different dietary needs. Consider chain restaurants where a corporate policy, special training and menu options might already be in place.
CALL AHEAD DURING NON-PEAK HOURS (2-4PM)
This way you can ask questions, get recommendations from the chef and give them a chance to prepare for your visit ahead of time. Be sure to ask about cross-contamination, trace ingredients like spices and staff training procedures.
- Two particular areas of concern are grills and fryers where multiple dishes are cooked. If allergen-containing foods are cooked on the same surface as other foods, you’ll know to choose menu items that aren’t prepared on those surfaces.
- If you’re not comfortable with the answers or the chef won’t commit to providing an allergy-free meal, choose a different restaurant.
- Try to keep your questions open. Instead of asking whether the soup contains dairy, ask what the ingredients are. That way you’ll get a more complete and accurate answer, and you might spot a hidden allergen that goes by a different name.
TELL THE RESTAURANT STAFF ABOUT YOUR ALLERGIES
As soon as you arrive, let the staff know about the needs of your kids with food allergies. Even if you already mentioned this information when you made the reservation, it’s important to remind the staff once you arrive. Tell the host or hostess and the server who comes to the table to be sure that everyone knows and remembers your special requirements. If you don’t feel confident in your communications to the waiter then by all means, ask to talk to the chef directly! Get right to the source. Most chefs love coming out and talking directly to their visitors.
BRING A RESTAURANT ALLERGY INFO CARD WITH YOU
Passing along your kiddo’s allergy info card will help food preparers remember and understand which ingredients your kid cannot eat and avoid any confusion. Our new restaurant cards feature our AllerMates allergen characters, making communicating you or your child’s allergens as simple and straightforward as possible, not to mention they are as cute as can be!
DON’T USE BUFFETS OR SALAD BARS
There is just no way to ensure that other diners haven’t cross-contaminated food and utensils at buffets or salad bars. Steer clear of this type of dining to avoid contact with allergens.
CARRY YOUR EMERGENCY MEDICINES WITH YOU
Even if you follow all of these rules, it’s always best to be prepared at all times. Keep your kiddo’s allergy medicines close by with the help of our Allergy Medicine Case, designed to hold two Epi-Pens and more. These medicine cases are the perfect size to carry in your purse or your kiddo’s backpack so you always have easy access to allergy medicines in case of an emergency.
Some restaurants will always be a hazard. A seafood restaurant will never be safe for kids with shellfish allergies and a Thai restaurant won’t be able to guarantee a peanut-free dish. When a restaurant specializes in a cuisine that’s based around your allergen, it’s best to just avoid it. Stick to what works.
Iris Shamus Wife, mother to three awesome kids and founder/CEO of AllerMates. Based in New York, Iris and her team create helpful content, answer emails, ship their products and obsess every day about keeping kids safe.
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