Eating out at a restaurant can be extremely stressful when you have allergies or dietary restrictions because you don’t know what is hiding in your food! While eating at home is definitely the better option, sometimes eating out is unavoidable. Plus, it’s nice to get yourself out of the house to enjoy a good meal that you didn’t have to prepare! Below are some of my great tips to help avoiding flare ups when eating out.
- Know where your specific allergens are hiding. Restaurant meals are made with extra ingredient that you normally wouldn’t be using at home because they need to make sure it has lots of flavour, can be preserved for a few days, and doesn’t cost the house too much money. Because of that, they may add butter/margarine to meats to keep it moist, wheat to sauces to thicken it, soy to salt the foods and so on. Even fresh cut fries would have gluten as they cross contaminate in the deep fryer. Even salad dressings may have gluten or dairy as additives, MSG is often hidden in foods and may be labelled as yeast extract. So now that you get the picture, it is essential to learn and research where your ingredients may be hidden. The best thing to do is to ASK the staff and chef at the restaurant if there are any of your allergens hidden in the meat marinade, dressings, desserts, etc.
- Always check the restaurant’s menu ahead of time. Most restaurants have their menus available online which makes it easy to investigate ahead of time, whether or not they have allergen friendly options on the menu. Your best bet would be to opt for simple meals so that you can see the ingredients on the plate where nothing is hidden. I love asking for baked salmon and steamed veggies or baked sweet potato. The more simple the meal, the easier it is to avoid your allergens.
- Notify the staff of your allergies/restrictions. Always tell the staff about your allergies so that they can make sure the food you order are safe for you to eat. You can even call ahead when booking the reservation to notify the staff ahead of time and ask if they can accommodate you. Sometimes restaurants have special gluten free or allergy friendly menus available that are not available to everyone. Sometimes, certain restaurants have rude staff who get very frustrated about special requests so if that is the case, avoid that restaurant!
- Always ask the restaurant how they avoid cross-contamination. Most restaurants that advertise gluten-free options on their menu are pretty good about avoiding cross-contamination however, its always a good idea to double check! Make sure they aren’t using the same utensils to serve you your gluten-free food that they used for someone else’s gluten-laden meal. For example, I’ve seen some restaurants serve the gluten-free bread and wheat bread on the same dish. Or, they may use the same oil to fry gluten-free and wheat items. Always double check! Restaurants want to avoid law-suits so they will be open and honest about their cross-contamination practices. The biggest tip is don’t be shy to ask… which brings me to my next tip!
- Don’t be shy to voice your requests and make sure to stress the severity of you’re allergies. It can feel embarrassing to ask the waiter so many questions and to make all these special requests. However, the waiter’s don’t usually mind and if they are extra accommodating, tip the more to make yourself feel better! If you’re worried about the people you’re dining with rolling their eyes at you, then maybe they aren’t the best people to be hanging out with, even if they are family. Your health is important and if someone loves you enough, they won’t judge! Don’t be shy, make sure to speak up if you have concerns about your meal!
- Always bring your digestive enzymes and charcoal with you. Eating out always has risks because even though you may order the perfect meal, something could go wrong and your food could have gotten cross-contaminated or had something else hidden in it that you weren’t aware of. If you have a full-blown allergy to something, make sure you got your EpiPen. However, if your issue is more along the lines of a sensitivity, ALWAYS take a few digestive enzymes 20 minutes before eating (take them in the car if you’re worried about people staring) to ensure optimal digestion. If you feel yourself getting a reaction shortly after eating, your food was most likely cross-contaminated and in that case, take some activated charcoal to help bind to some of the toxins/allergens.
Overall, the most important things are to make sure the restaurant you are going to has gluten-free, dairy-free options available (or whatever your allergies/sensitivities are), is able to make alterations to the menu options, does not cross-contaminate, etc. Aside form that, you need to chew your food SLOW and WELL to ensure good digestion, take your enzymes, and ENJOY your night out! Try not to stress so much as that will take the fun out of eating out!
Hope these tips helped 😊