Food Allergy Advice For Eating Out
March 21, 2014

Food Allergy Advice For Eating Out

As many redOrbit readers know, I have been writing a series (one of the many I am currently engaged in) about the gluten-free lifestyle. I started this in May 2013 because I learned that I have an autoimmune disease called Hashimoto thyroiditis. The more research I did, the more I realized just how important eating a gluten-free diet is for me, and I jumped in. This is not easy. Living with a food allergy or issue (of any sort) requires much diligence especially when you eat out at restaurants.

To that end, WebMD provides some advice for those with food allergies to help them eat out safer. More and more, restaurants have become aware and acted upon the need to provide foods for people with food allergies. Whether that issue be gluten/wheat, eggs, milk/dairy, nuts, or shellfish (these happen to be the most common food allergies.), more and more restaurants are not only aware and accommodating, but offer allergy-free menu options or even entire menus. However, this does not mean that those of us who cannot eat certain foods should stop being diligent.

WebMD’s first bit of advice is to know your food allergy. In other words, know exactly what will trigger an allergic reaction including where those ingredients hide. This is perhaps the most frustrating part of a food allergy or issue. For instance, in my case with gluten, soy sauce and licorice both have wheat added to them. These seem bizarre to me, but it is true. This means that if it is a food I am not 100 percent sure does not have gluten, then I must ask. I must understand my food allergy so that I can be better prepared when restaurants need it.

The next bit of advice follows the first pretty closely. Specifically, WebMD reminds us all to not order offending foods. As such, it is also important to not order the hidden allergens. So WebMD provides a list:

Allergy: Milk/Dairy
Hidden sources: Hot dogs, canned tuna, some chewing gum, margarine made from corn oil (skim milk powder), granola bars, chocolate chips, desserts containing caramel coloring, brown-sugar flavoring, coconut-cream flavoring, natural chocolate flavoring, grilled steak (many restaurants rub steaks with butter after grilling).

Allergy: Eggs
Hidden sources: Milky Way or Snickers bars (nougat contains eggs); any baked good with a shiny surface, including bagels and pretzels; the foam on some coffee drinks; the pasta in prepared foods such as soups.

Allergy: Nuts
Hidden sources: Barbecue sauce, bouillon, chili (nuts are used sometimes as thickener).

Allergy: Wheat/Gluten
Hidden sources: Hydrolyzed wheat protein is sometimes listed only as a flavor enhancer or binder in prepared foods and sauces, alcoholic beverages, hot dogs, ice cream cones, licorice,  soup mixes, coffee creamer substitutes (grain based), butter flavoring, caramel coloring, some brands of butter, couscous.

Allergy: Seafood
Hidden sources: Caesar salad (anchovies); caponata (Italian relish/anchovies); foods fortified with omega-3 fatty acids (fish source), including some orange juice, baby cereals, and soymilk.

Again, the more you know about your food allergy, the less likely it will be that you will ingest it and have a reaction.

Third, WebMD says to know the restaurant. Some restaurants are more equipped and more aware of food allergy issues. For instance, the more well known a restaurant, the more likely it has at least dealt with an issue. Chain restaurants also tend to have a better handle on their menu items’ ingredients. And some restaurants pride themselves on being food allergy friendly. So know the restaurant to better prepare yourself for the meal.

WebMD next states to preplan. So whether you know the restaurant or not, once you know where you will be eating, give them a call and ask about your particular food allergy. If it is a spur-of-the-moment meal outing, then you can print up allergy cards to hand to the server or simply tell the server upfront about your allergy issues. There is even something called “Allernotes” that you can hand to a waitperson. These have all your allergy information.

Finally, always carry your medications and let others know what to do should you have an allergic reaction. This could be the difference between life and death.

Having a food allergy or issue is a pain, no doubt, but it is not the end of the world. Just learn about your allergy and know what to ask, how to answer, and be responsible for what you eat. Though this is easier to do when eating at home, it is not impossible when eating out as long as you remember the above-discussed advice.

Image Credit: Thinkstock

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Email


Rayshell E. Clapper is an Associate Professor of English at a rural college in Oklahoma where she teaches Creative Writing, Literature, and Composition classes. She has presented her original fiction and non-fiction at several conferences and events including: Scissortail Creative Writing Festival, Howlers and Yawpers Creativity Symposium, Southwest/Texas Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association Regional Conference, and Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association National Conference. Her publications include Cybersoleil Journal, Sugar Mule Literary Magazine, Red Dirt Anthology, Originals, and Oklahoma English Journal. Beyond her written works, she successfully created a writer's group in rural Oklahoma to support burgeoning writers. The written word is her passion, and all she experiences inspires that passion. She hopes to help inspire others through her words.

Send Rayshell an email