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Eating Out

Step-by-Step Guide to Dining Out with Food Allergies

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Dessert and other minefields: I almost never eat dessert out. I recommend skipping it as a rule since there is a lot of potential for unknown ingredients in cakes and pies. Even sorbet can be contaminated if a communal scoops is used, or an almond cookie shows up as the garnish.

Use caution with drinks, as well. Mixed drinks have been going retro and that includes a “flip”, a frothy head that’s made from egg whites.

A final minefield: romantic lighting. You need to see your meal order. If the room is too dark, there are free downloadable flashlight apps for your smartphone – use one. Don’t eat what you can’t see.

Let them know: If the meal had problems, or if you began to get mild symptoms, let the staff know. Within 24 hours, write a note or e-mail detailing the issues. Management should respond quickly.

But in most situations and with your advance and onsite communications, the dining experience will have been a success. The only eventfulness? The great food and conversation. Be sure to thank the staff for attentive and hospitable service, and pay the ultimate compliment: tip well.

Step 4 Follow Through

Send a thank you note: It’s old-fashioned, but I often send a handwritten note for an excellent and safe meal. E-mail works fine, too. Any thank you is welcome, and encourages accommodation for others.

Review online: If you had a terrific experience, your online praise will help others to locate a gem. A review on’s Forum or on an allergy-safe or gluten-free restaurant site helps fellow community members to find a great, safe meal.

Become a regular: The best thank you is to become a loyal patron. Besides, the rewards of dining regularly at a restaurant are many. I call it creating the Cheers experience (from the 1980s TV show). Once you become a fixture, like the character Norm, all kinds of special things can happen. They may even name a drink after you. Don’t laugh, that happened to me; it’s called the Simply Sloane!

Sloane Miller is an author (Allergic Girl: Living Well with Food Allergies), blogger and advocate who coaches food-allergic individuals. Learn more about her at

Related Reading: Allergic Living’s Guide to Smart Dining

First published in Allergic Living magazine.
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