Step-by-Step Guide to Dining Out Safely
See Related: Allergic Living’s Guide to Smart Dining [Read more]
Missing out on great restaurant evenings with friends? Learn how you, too, can indulge.
Step 1: Before You Go
Know your condition: Do your homework: learn, in detail, what you can’t eat, where an offending protein hides, the multiple names for it, and names for it in key languages. If you have shellfish allergy, the French bistro menu may refer to fruits de mer. Hint: they aren’t fruits. Nuoc mam pha? Sounds lovely but it’s Vietnamese fish sauce. Sodium caseinate? Dairy. Durum? That’s wheat. (Look up specific allergies and celiac disease at Allergicliving.com, and see left panel links for “hidden peanut”, “hidden milk”, “hidden gluten”, etc.)
Carry your meds: Allergists recommend epinephrine as the first-line medication for a food allergy reaction. Having an auto-injector with you is especially important whenever you plan to eat, since anaphylaxis can come on swiftly after consuming the wrong food. Consider that restaurant reaction horror stories almost always occur because the patron did not have an auto-injector on hand. Also have a food allergy action plan on you: in your purse, backpack or as a pdf on your smartphone. (See American and Canadian plans.)
Restaurant card: I recommend bringing a chef or food allergy card. These explain your allergies and the types of foods they are found in. Top chefs have told me that these can mean the difference between clarity and confusion in the kitchen. Find them at Selectwisely.com or Allergytranslation.com.
The right attitude: Let’s get you psychologically prepared to dine out. Your mental equipment includes: an approachable demeanor, a genuine smile and lots of pleases and thank yous. These will get you far at a restaurant. Conversely, anger or threatening language or behavior will get you nowhere fast. You will be pleasantly surprised by what a positive frame of mind will bring.
Next Page: Step 2 – Deciding where to dine