Picking a restaurant and ordering from it seem like simple tasks. But for those of you out there with food allergies and diseases, I feel your pain. As someone with Celiac Disease, I know how hard it can be for you and those dining with you to make it through a meal without a whole lot of stress and some potentially contaminated food. It has taken me far too many years to develop a stress-reducing method for eating out. So here are some ways I developed to avoid crying at the dinner table:
1. Stop feeling like an imposition
It’s pretty easy to feel like the weird kid on playground who can’t eat cookies when eating around people who aren’t used to your diet. But when you go out with people who don’t know this about you, stop feeling like a problem! I often feel weird having to give a restaurant option list to people wanting to get lunch, but they understand that this picky behavior is a necessity and not a choice. So stop blushing and make some requests.
2. Come up with a list of places you trust
We all tend to frequent our favorite restaurants, why be the exception? When you like a restaurant because they handle your allergy requests well, put them on a little list in your head and go back! In the same way, if you get sick, don’t forget. Repetitive sickness from a restaurant is unnecessary and silly. No matter how good that Chinese food tastes, don’t bother if they can’t manage an allergy-free order.
Here is my local list for gluten-free eating:
Red Robin (Amazing g-free bread!)
Sarkara Sweets (For dessert)
3. Explain your allergy or disease with grace
Often after you order, the person you’re eating with will ask you that dreaded question: “so, what happens if you eat something with (fill in the blank)?” There is no reason to explain the inner workings of your stomach and intestinal tract. Simple answers range from: “I get a bad stomachache” to “I get sick for a week.” People don’t realize that they’re asking an intimate question, so just brush past it and spare everyone the details.
4. Explain to the waiter why you are ordering from the allergen menu
Sadly enough, today people find it chic to eat gluten-free, dairy-free or whatever-free is on the market — anything to lose weight. This, unfortunately, means waiters often don’t take an allergy request seriously. Make sure you explain to the waiter that you will get sick if it isn’t prepared the right way. Don’t be afraid to make them feel responsible for your well-being. A restaurant is only as good as its wait staff.
5. Send it back if you are unsure!
There have been a million times when I have ordered something and it has come out looking “glutenous.” Almost every time when I asked the waiter if it was in fact contaminated, it was. Don’t take risks. Your food goes through a number of people before it gets to you. If one person slacks, you get sick. So if you see something questionable, don’t be afraid to ask.