Eating out with food allergies can be challenging. Our recent food order at a restaurant went something like this:
“Can I have the children’s sausage and mash but with chips not mash and adult sausages as you don’t have allergy information for the children’s ones.
Then can I have the lamb shank with no gravy, chips instead of mash and peas instead of buttered cabbage.”
This is a fairly normal situation for us but can sound fussy and pedantic to others. In this case we had a very helpful waitress who had checked ingredients, made suggestions and was overseeing the order to make sure it was prepared safely.
Eating out with food allergies can be a big hassle and also very worrying, as you are putting your trust in others. We try to lead a normal life as much as possible and eating out with J is part of that. However it is important to never become complacent and so here are 6 steps we take to keep him safe.
Research the menu
Most places now have menus available online and many chain restaurants also have comprehensive allergy information as well. If not, ask them to email you one. Researching the menu in advance takes a lot of the pressure off when you get there, means you can plan ahead and speak to the staff about options.
It is always a good idea to call ahead and speak to the staff about your requirements. This will give them a chance to prepare, you a chance to ask any questions and mean more can be done to adapt menus or put extra procedures in place.
Keep it simple
The more ingredients there are in a meal, the more difficult it can be to make allergen free. Simple meals with separate elements – like a roast – are often the easiest to go for. Anything with fresh, basic ingredients rather than processed items sourced elsewhere – like sausages – are easier to check.
Don’t be afraid to double check everything when ordering and when the meals arrive. If you are not happy with the waiter’s response then ask to speak directly to the chef. It can help to have all your allergies written down in advance.
Trust your instinct
Sometimes you just don’t feel that people either understand, or are taking your allergies seriously. If this is the case, trust your instinct and don’t eat it. It is not worth the risk to try and be polite or worry about making a fuss.
I think it is important to give feedback to restaurants, both good and bad. If they have done a great job then let them know so they keep doing it. If it has not been good enough then talk to the manager and you can also report them to the food standards agency through your local council.
What steps do you take? What are your top tips for safely eating out with food allergies?