One of the things my family misses most about having a member with food allergies is eating out. This not only affects my immediate family, but it also affects my whole extended family because we can't go out for birthdays or other celebrations.
It also means when we go on holidays it's not a real holiday like other families where we just book a hotel and eat out for a few days. We need to book an apartment, find a supermarket, buy all of the food and cook every night. Some of you will know what I'm talking about! Just trying to find gluten free food can be hard but if you add to that a dairy allergy or intolerance, a soy allergy, nut allergy and a fussy kid, it's almost impossible to eat out!
In all honesty we don't actually eat out that much as a family. We do like to go to Grill'd every few weeks so I can have a night off and Alex has a lowcarb bun with just meat and some chips. If we go on holidays we do get a bit more adventurous and try to find somewhere he can eat from and sometimes we're lucky. There actually are quite a few places that will cater for families likes us, trouble is we don't know where they are.
Today I thought that I'd go through some of the things I look for when we're eating out. If you've got some tips I've missed out please leave a comment below - I'd love to hear it! Also keep in mind that my son is at risk of anaphylaxis to peanuts, cashew and pistachio. He has many other allergies but they are not life threatening. We do not avoid products with "may contain traces" statements on them either and I know for families that do this would certainly affect their level of caution.
These are my top ten tips:
1. Never, ever eat unless you have your epi-pen and antihistamine with you
2. I usually pop into the restaurant ahead of time or call before I take my son and see if they can accommodate us. Make sure you do this at an off peak time so they have time to chat with you
3. Ask lots of questions! If you feel unsure keep asking and choose somewhere else if you get an uneasy feeling
4. Ensure anything cooked in the deep fryer is free from cross contamination of the allergen. This applies to egg, gluten, wheat, dairy, fish etc. I always look for a business that has a dedicated fryer just for cooking chips and that the chips are gluten free. I also ask what oil they use to ensure there is no nut oil. I have been to a restaurant that cooked fresh chips in fresh oil just in a pan because their fryer was not suitable (I was VERY impressed and we now dine there whenever we are in the area)
5. Eat early when they're not busy. That way they'll have more time to cater to your needs
6. Avoid buffets - the risk of cross contamination is too high
7. Be sensible. There is no way I would take my son with a nut allergy to a Chinese restaurant. I think it's unreasonable to expect them to do nut free when they would be using peanut oil and nuts on many of their dishes. Another example would be going to a seafood restaurant if you have a seafood allergy. Obviously most restaurants will serve nuts and seafood but if it's the core of what they do it will be much harder for them to accommodate you
8. Ensure that if you go to a restaurant that's part of a chain that you check at every restaurant. Different owners or managers may have different policies. I have actually come across this where our local restaurant are great and willing to help and one in another part of the country were unwilling to serve our son
9. Consider using an allergy dining card. You can get yours free here.
10. If you find somewhere great, spread the word! Thank them as you leave (we usually give a tip as well), give them a great review on their Facebook page and tell your friends. This will encourage them to keep it up!
Bon Appetit! Lisa x