Guide to Restaurants

Going out for meals is a huge social activity, but can be quite hard for those who have food allergies/intolerances.

At the beginning of my new life being free of dairy, corn, sugar, I found it so frustrating to eat out. I would tell the waiter, no butter or oil (in case it was corn oil), then he would come back and the veggies would be smothered in butter. So, I would have to send it back…or I would eat it not really knowing and go home feeling sick.

Because I felt sick so much in the past, going to restaurants made me feel even more anxious because I was afraid that the kitchen wouldn’t listen to me or take my issues serious enough. Therefore I tried to avoid them as much as possible. I wouldn’t go out with friends to eat out and we would hardly ever go out as a family. If I did go out to a restaurant and explain to them what I couldn’t eat, even if they did make it right, I usually went home feeling sick anyway because I would get myself so nervous.

Now that I have gone gluten free, eating out is the hardest it has ever been. But I have realized that I can’t just say I have an intolerance to dairy or gluten, I have to state that I have an allergy. When you tell a restaurant that you have an allergy to a food, they take the highest precautions in the kitchen, as they wouldn’t want to be liable for anything.

Before going out to restaurants, I will call ahead to inform them of my allergy and if they would be able to do a simple grilled chicken, with steamed vegetables and rice. Usually the answer is yes.

I have found that at big chain restaurants, like Casey’s or pub style places, all of their food is already prepared, so asking for a plain grilled chicken is out of the question, as it has already been marinating for quite a while. I recommend going to smaller chain or independent restaurants…but make sure to call ahead first!

Once you’re at the table, tell your waiter/waitress your situation and just double check that they have your order correct. If you’re at a restaurant that has gluten free, dairy free or vegan options, then you should be fine…but it doesn’t hurt to double check.

If your food comes to the table, and you have a feeling that maybe your veggies have butter mixed in them…ask someone to try them for you…if they do taste like there’s butter on them, don’t hesitate to tell the waiter and ask to have a new plate. Yes, it’s a hassle…but what isn’t your health a little more important?

Before I go out to a new restaurant, I also check online to see if the menu is posted. In most cases it is, and in most cases there is nothing on the menu that I can have. That is when I will make up my own menu item: plain grilled chicken, steamed veggies w/ no butter and rice. The kitchen is happy to provide.

If you are invited out to a social gathering at a restaurant, and there is no way that you will be able to have a different menu item, eat before hand and just order a tea or a simple garden salad. Sometimes I will do that.

In the past I would always feel so self conscious doing that- thinking about what people would think of me because I wasn’t eating…but then I realized that if people are wondering…then they can just ask me why I’m only drinking tea!

Restaurants want to make their customers happy, and they want revenue, especially in this economic time. So, don’t feel hesitant to make up your own menu item, it really isn’t a hassle…and it’s just something simple that probably takes less time then one of the items on the menu.

Nowadays there are many restaurants with gluten free, dairy free, vegan options beside the menu item. There are also separate gluten free menus at some restaurants. There are even full out gluten free restaurants that I am yet to try!

There are so many people with food allergies these days, that restaurants have to accommodate. So do not feel afraid to eat out, and be assertive when ordering!


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