I used to love eating out, and still do, but it is never as easy or spontaneous when you are dealing with a food allergy. Deciding where, or even if, to go out for a meal can feel very daunting.
It takes a lot of research and communication with the restaurant and even then, choices can be extremely limited. Sometimes it can feel like it’s just not worth the effort but fortunately, things are getting better. Restaurants are becoming more aware and there are some great new apps out there that can make it all a little easier.
Restaurants are becoming more aware
Restaurants are becoming far more accommodating to customers with special dietary restrictions and food allergies. This has resulted in many restaurants offering vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free items. The biggest challenge is one of education.
Eight items, milk, eggs, wheat, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish, and regular fish, account for about 90% of all food allergies. Often chefs will simply make dishes without those allergens and place it on the menu. Unfortunately, they fail to consider two important aspects.
The first is with added ingredients, especially sauces and dressings. Many allergens, such as wheat, nuts, and fish, are frequently used in both, sometimes as thickening agents. Restaurants with chefs who prepare everything from scratch are the best able to tell you what ingredients were used. In chain restaurants ingredients will sometimes arrive pre-mixed and the label will not include all of the ingredients.
The second big problem is cross-contamination. For many a very small amount of the allergen is all that is necessary to trigger a reaction. Bakeries, ice cream parlours, and restaurants (especially Indian, African, Asian, and Mexican), are particularly prone to cross-contamination.
The good news is that restaurants are beginning to take food allergies more seriously.
Professor and restaurant manager John W. Fisher says “the awareness of food allergies has definitely increased within the food service industry, and many restaurants now take steps to not only train their staff about the need for accommodating those with a food allergy, but also train them on what to do if an allergic reaction occurs.”
However, remember to look out for dishes where “hidden ingredients” are likely and to know alternate names that are commonly used in ingredient lists.
Food allergy apps
The other good news for those with food allergies is the number of apps that can help out.
Dine Gluten Free – This app lets you find places that cater to those on a gluten free diet. The app includes maps and directions and a database of products and recipes.
AroundMe – This app is especially helpful when travelling. It will show restaurants and even hotels nearby where your allergies will not be an issue. The app is very useful for trip planning as well.
Hungry House – This restaurant search app is just one example of how the food sector is responding to the issue of food allergies and allows user to search by price, genre, and dietary restrictions.
Food Maestro – This app is indispensable when shopping. The app contains a database of more than 100,000 products available at markets across the UK. Users set up the app with their dietary restrictions and preferences. A quick scan of the products bar code reveals which allergens are present.
Biteappy – This is a really nice app for frequent travellers and for holiday-goers. The app helps the user find restaurants and eateries anywhere in the world based on the users preferences and restrictions.
*This is a collaborative post written by a guest contributor and edited by FreeFromFarmhouse*