Wow – the human race does eat out a lot!!! Birthday, Mother’s Day, friends from out of town, kid on the honor roll – we use the slightest excuse to celebrate with food 😉 However, dining out can be nerve-racking for someone with multiple food allergies. But, eating out has become so synonymous with celebration, relaxation and socializing that being armed can sometimes be a better solution than being paranoid because feeling part of the larger community is also very important. The moment we leave our kitchen, the outside world is fraught with potential food pitfalls but there are some pointers I have found useful. I will keep updating this list too because I seem to learn something new every day about managing allergies. Readers – do add to this list from the lessons you have learnt managing your own or a family member’s food allergies. The more we know, the better we can keep allergic reactions at bay…
- Always have medicines handy (Epinephrine shot and Antihistamine dose): One cannot repeat this often enough – we just cannot afford to forget EpiPen and Benadryl even once. Ensure that the medicines have not expired and they have been kept under temperature conditions specified on the packaging. Be armed with meds even if you are not planning to eat anything outside.
- Even safe is unsafe: Even eating something that you have not been allergic to in the past does not mean that you will not have a reaction today.
- Do your homework: When possible, check out ingredient listings, menus and potential choices beforehand. Call the restaurant or the parent company if ingredient listing is not available. You will be surprised what things can go into even a simple dish! Even a techno-phobe like me switched to a blackberry so that I have instant access to online menus, nutritional information and ingredient information.
- Stick to known and simple dishes: As a lifelong vegetarian, I had no clue that chicken could be marinated in yogurt. Therein I made the mistake of giving baked chicken marinated in yogurt to my son who is allergic to dairy. So, when in doubt stick to the relatively simple and the known!
- Beware of generic terms in ingredient listings: An ingredient like ‘spices’ may include allergenic items like sesame, mustard, sunflower seeds etc. The term ‘dry fruits’ includes one of the most dangerous food allergens – nuts…scary!!!
- Remind the server: Do not expect the server to remember that you have allergies when ordering dessert just because you had mentioned it an hour back when ordering entrees and appetizers.
- Be wary of every dish: Something as innocuous as a fries may have been deep-fried in peanut oil or a loaf of bread could have milk in it! Why have we stopped making simple food?!? 😀
- Mentally alert: Despite all these measures accidents may happen any time and that’s why it is good to be mentally prepared for the worst. I remember seeing on a TV show about self-defense that under moments of extreme stress people react at the lowest level of their training. So the more prepared we are, the more likely that we are to take quick and correct action.
Safe eating out…