How To Order in a Restaurant with a Food Allergy

These days, eating in a restaurant is getting easier and easier, so don't be afraid. With a little caution, common sense and the tips below, eating out will be a breeze.

  1. Plan ahead. Check to see if the restaurant has a website. Lots of chain restaurants have there menu evaluated for allergens, posting this information with their menu on their website. You can print these out and take them with you. If it is a nicer place, they usually will have this information in the restaurant.

  1. Call ahead. If the restaurant is local and they don't have an allergen-evaluated menu, then call the manager. If you call ahead, you can assess the restaurant's level of knowledge and concern about food allergies. If they are not very helpful, best to not to take your chances.

  1. Bring a card that lists your allergens in detail. Many places on the Internet have lists that you can print out, or you can make one. Such lists eliminate a lot of confusion.

  1. Even if you have been in a restaurant before, always remind your waiter of your food allergy. While you may have found something safe to eat at your favorite place, it's still best to raise the topic of your allergy; often when they know someone has an allergy, restaurants specially prepare your food, taking extra measures against cross-contamination. Also, ingredients often change in restaurants due to supplier changes and cost of ingredients. So it is always best for your waiter to have your safety fresh in mind when you are there.

  1. Ask for ingredient lists. Sometimes the manger has a book of ingredients for the restaurant's dishes, and sometimes a restaurant just has the labels on the food packaging. Ask to see them if you are at all concerned.

  1. Remember to talk about cooking practices and cross-contamination. Many foods are safe for you until they come in contact with other foods. How and where the cooks prepare these foods is important. Make sure you ask.

  1. Don't be afraid to walk out. Trust your instincts. Once in a while you may find yourself in a place that cannot or will not help you. Don't take any chances; leave and eat somewhere else.

  1. Go back to places that do accommodate you. This should go without saying, but supporting businesses that accommodate people with food allergies will encourage them to keep evaluating their menu or educating their staff. Your loyal support may encourage other places to follow suit.

  1. Tip well. If your waiter is particularly knowledgeable and helpful, then he is worth his weight in gold, don't you think?

Don't be afraid to eat out. Just be cautious and kind, and use common sense. Learning to eat out will make traveling easier, and will give you that needed break from cooking. It can also give you ideas on new foods to make at home.


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