Can Dining Out Be Fear-Free With A Food Allergic Family?

Last updated on June 3rd, 2017 at 09:06 pm

Too often, we allow our fear of unknown ingredients to limit out lives with food allergies. Understandably, this could literally be life or death in some cases. But at what point is it time to decide to use that fear to empower us? How can we overcome the endless what-ifs and begin to piece together a safety net for our dining needs? Face it- food is a huge part of everyone’s life and it’s something we simply cannot escape.

Join Them Remember that saying If you can’t beat them, join them? This can also be true in regards to setting up your dining strategies, even with food allergies. Today’s support and technology allows for a huge assortment of allergen and ingredient research even before you step foot inside of any type of eatery. There are multiple places to go and safe lists to see so why not utilize what’s out there?

  • Pick a Safety Zone– before you even leave your home, start your research. Never go out to a new restaurant on a whim, not even if someone else assures you that they are pretty sure it’s safe. You need to be your own food detective and advocate to remain as far from your allergens as possible.
  • I’ve said it before and I will say it until the day I cannot speak anymore- Always, Always Have All of Your Necessary Allergy Medications With You At All Times. You know it takes seconds for a reaction to happen so being prepared is always the smartest and most proactive way to stay one step ahead of a reaction.
  • Try a Test Run– always lean towards less is more. Obviously, the less you ingest of a possible allergic food the less the reaction would be compared to devouring an entire meal full of allergens. Start with a sample and work your way up. Don’t want to waste money? Enlist a friend who doesn’t have any food allergies to share your meal item.
  • Don’t Go Alone– when trying new foods, it’s better to be with someone else in case of an emergency. Often people who have an allergic reaction that comes on rapidly are not able to communicate their needs or administer their epinephrine as needed. The buddy system is also a safety system (plus eating alone is never as much fun as eating with friends).

Options At Your Fingertips Are you not quite sure how to explain your allergy needs to your restaurant staff? Why not order custom dietary allergen cards. This is a discreet and easy way to ensure all of your allergens are communicated to your wait staff in more than eighteen different languages. Clear and concise communication is key to making sure everyone is on the same page and ready to work together for utmost safety with your meals.

Just about every person has access to some type of portable information (phones, laptops, etc.) allowing us to gain the information that we need anywhere, anytime.  Use your technology to see what other people are saying about their dining experiences. Food apps, such as DineSafeApp have become one of the best ways for both restaurants and their patrons together.  It’s no wonder that with the current estimate of 1 in every 3 people being diagnosed with a food allergy warrants up-to-date and precise ingredient and menu information.

Make it Personal Being your own advocate also means being your own concierge. Do not wait until you arrive to talk about your specific dining needs- make an appointment. Chefs are almost always more than happy to set up an appointment to speak with you before you even try their meals. This also gives you the added benefit of reading the body language of the person that will potentially be feeding you. Are they hesitating? Do they answer your questions without really giving you a complete and educated answer about food safety? Do they seem as if they may not have as much food allergy knowledge as you were hoping? All of these are signals for you to pick up on prior to your meal and before your food even touches your lips. If you have any doubts, you may consider seeking out a different location that will feel as if the chef knows what you need them to know. It’s your life- you are allowed to be picky.

Listen To Your Heart, Not Your Stomach The fact is, we all want to desperately feel normal. We all want to be able to get into the car and eat somewhere that everyone else eats without thinking twice about it. We all just want to have that meal that we see on television or on the menu. What you are feeling is completely normal but it may not be safe. Simply put, is the price of that meal truly worth the price of your life?

About the Author

Tracy Bush is the founder and President of Nutrimom, Inc., also known as Nutrimom - Food Allergy Liason, a consulting business that specializes in providing guidance and support for anyone that has been diagnosed with food allergies. Tracy helps others with simple steps, such as finding safe, wholesome foods to supplement allergenic foods, where to shop and how to maximize their budget while adjusting to their dietary change. You can view additional information about what she does as well as her new e-book "The Stepping Stones to Food Allergies" at www.AllergyPhoods.com. Tracy is a member of the PedSafe Expert team

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