In 2018, over 200 million U.S consumers visited a sit down, dine out restaurant. When you consider that 4% of adults in the U.S have a food allergy, that makes dining out for a lot of people quite the challenge. When yo have food allergies, one wrong ingredient can be deadly. So, how do you enjoy a nice dinner outside of the home when you have food allergies? Here are some helpful tips for ordering in a restaurant when you have food allergies.
The first thing you can do is ask around. Chances are, you’ve established a community of people who either share in your journey or also struggle with food allergies. Whether this community is online or in your local community, asking for suggestions and advice is always a good idea. You can even ask your Allergist or other medical professionals. Try to avoid:
- Buffets—the chance of cross-contamination is high with foods so close together.
- Bakeries—Many of the food items in bakeries are made with common allergens.
- Restaurants with Pre-Made Foods—Labeling is subject to human error.
Consider trying chain restaurants as they probably have a standard set of food safety precautions in place across the board. You can also call ahead and speak with a manager.
Speak with managers, waitstaff, and kitchen staff about your allergies. Awareness is a safeguard. Plan to go to the restaurant during their off-hours. When a restaurant is busy and crowded people get frazzled and that can lead to mistakes. Don’t be afraid or embarrassed. You’re protecting yourself or your loved one from something potentially deadly. If you’re not sure about something on the menu, ask to see an ingredient list. Avoid fried foods as the fryer is a common cross contamination point. Most importantly, be prepared. No matter how careful you are or how secure a restaurant claims to be, never leave home without your EpiPen.