The thought of eating out daunts many of us that have a food allergy or intolerance. It can turn what should be a pleasurable experience into a stressful one. But fear not, because it doesn’t have to be this way. See below for the top tips when eating out with an allergy or intolerance.
Preparation is key! If you can research where you’re planning on eating out online you can check their allergen information and to see if they have allergen-free options or even better a separate menu. However, this isn’t always the case with many restaurants/cafés not having their information online.
In this case I would call ahead of your visit and ask to speak to a manager or chef about what they could provide for you. This can then eliminate most of the pre-meal anxieties and allow you to enjoy a relaxed meal.
However, it’s not always possible to prepare in advance, plans change last minute and you’re not always in control of them. But fear not, wherever you go out to eat should always be able to provide you with a full allergen list (14 in total). Depending on your allergy/intolerance, for example if you require a gluten-free meal some restaurants may have a separate menu or labelled dishes on their menu as gluten-free. However, for some of the other allergies such as nuts, lupin etc. it’s always better to ask the food server or manager to check with the chef who can then refer to the list of allergens.
Some restaurants are better than others for educating their staff on different allergies; some staff do panic because they don’t want to make a mistake. If you ever feel uncomfortable of the advice someone is giving you always ask for a manager and/or the chef.
A good restaurant will always be able to accommodate the needs of its customers and should be more than willing to make adjustments to their menu as much as they possibly can.
If you feel afterwards that perhaps the staff would benefit from training or they should have had things labelled more clearly on their menu, then give the restaurant some feedback to they can learn and improve for the future.
I would also sign-post readers to a fantastic website called Can I Eat there? This was founded by Nicky Granger whose child has 9 severe allergies. http://www.canieatthere.co.uk/ on this website you are able to create an account and save your dietary preferences. This is in partnership with Allergy UK to ensure continuity.
Haley Bell is a recent Human Nutrition graduate from Ulster University with interests in childhood obesity and health promotion. Haley believes that evidence-based nutrition is the best way forward. Haley is also a member of the Nutrition Society and part of the organising committee for the next Student Conference. LinkedIn: https://uk.linkedin.com/in/haleybell1