Eating at Restaurants When You Have Eczema & Allergies
What are some other things can you do to avoid potential allergy triggers when eating out?
When most people read a menu in a restaurant, they think, "Don’t want that, don’t want that… Oh that looks good, I’ll have that." For someone with allergies, reading a restaurant menu runs more along the lines of, "Can’t have that, can’t have that… Maybe I could make that work…."
If you suffer from major allergies or have food related eczema triggers, your diet can be severely curtailed. When you’re at home, that’s not necessarily a problem. You know the products that are in your fringe and cupboard and can be sure that they are safe. But when you venture into the unknown to eat out, you lose control of ingredients and you’re put entirely in the hands of the chef and the restaurant’s staff.
Thankfully, restaurants today are far better equipped to handle food related allergies than in years’ past. Most restaurants have procedures in place to greatly minimize the chances of a trigger food ending up on your plate. Servers are usually trained to accommodate dietary restrictions and to take those restrictions seriously. However, they can only do so much.
Here are some tips to help you navigate eating out when you have allergies:
1) Choose the right restaurant
This may seem obvious, but it does need to be said. Make sure that you choose a restaurant that is appropriate for your diet. If you have a seafood allergy, then a seafood restaurant is obviously out. Even if they can somehow avoid cross contamination and including any seafood byproducts on your plate, you would still be completely surrounded by the allergen in the restaurant. Similarly, if you have a peanut allergy, eating in a Thai restaurant where so many of the dishes include peanuts is not a wise decision. That kind of situation should be avoided at all costs.
2) Call ahead
Feel free to call the restaurant before you leave the house to confirm that they can cater to someone who has food allergies. That will give the restaurant some notice, and you’ll have peace of mind that they’ll be able to take care of you. Odds are that larger restaurants will have more experience dealing with food allergies and might have a little more flexibility with their menus.
3) Beware of hidden triggers
Just because you order something that doesn’t appear to have your trigger as an ingredient doesn’t mean that it isn’t hidden somewhere in the preparation. What kind of oil do they use to cook with? What spices? That’s why you need to alert your server to any allergies that you have prior to ordering. They will then be able to confirm with the chef that none of those triggers appear in the recipe.
4) Ask for alterations
If there is something on the menu that you love, but has an ingredient that you’re allergic to, this doesn’t mean that you can’t have it. Just ask if it’s possible for it be left out of your order. For example, if the pasta comes with cheese and you are lactose intolerant, ask them to hold the cheese! Your server will be able to tell you what kinds of alterations are possible for a dish.
5) Always be prepared for an emergency
Even if you take all of these steps, it’s important to be equipped to deal with a worst-case scenario. Things can still go wrong. That’s why you need to be prepared with whatever allergy medication you use. Always keep an Antihistamine or injectable Epinephrine on your person, just in case.
It can be a little bit more work to eat at a restaurant when you have food allergies. There are a few extra steps that someone with a major food allergy or eczema trigger does have to take when planning to eat out, but it’s worth the effort. But don’t worry. In all likelihood, your meal will be delicious and the only thing you’ll need to worry about is the check!