Thursday, May 14, 2015

How Do Foodies with Food Allergies Eat in Restaurants?

Is it possible for a person with food allergies and intolerances to dine out in a restaurant with normal people and not have a reaction? Seriously I want to know.

As someone who is lactose intolerant and it is so severe I’m getting tested for a probable dairy allergy I’m leaning towards no.

And that makes me very, very sad.

can food lovers with allergies still eat in restuarants


Especially when my food intolerance has forced me to become a picky eater. Husband and I don’t tolerate picky eaters (food allergies, vegetarianism, etc. excluded of course.)  We have experienced the being flip flopping picky from time to time as a control issue with different members of The Ten but by now they know at our house you get what you get and you don’t throw a fit.

Guess what? Lately, after being grateful a restaurant has an allergy free menu, I want to throw a fit because every item on it contains milk or there is only a single item I can eat while being insanely jealous that gluten free patrons get an entire menu especially created for them full of options including appetizers and desserts. Then I feel even worse because I immediately feel guilty about thinking like a jerk for being jealous over someone else’s medical condition they don’t have any control over.

When we had to leave our favorite restaurant I have safely enjoyed in the past for the first time in my life because everything on the allergy free menu had milk. I felt like crying.

I know from being on both sides of the menu what a pain special diets are and I understand the extra overhead that could be involved in stocking special allergy free ingredients that won’t make it on the regular menu due to supply and demand and seasonal availability.

I realize going to a restaurant is a choice. I don’t demand the world cater to me and my medical food issues but it sure would be nice if the Restaurant Menu Powers That Be would take into consideration that there are EIGHT major food allergens (milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shell fish, soy, and wheat) and create interesting allergy free food items for us too. Pretty please? You’ll get more business from food intolerant and allergic people if you do.

Since I am not one to see an unpleasant situation, wring my hands, and have a poor me pity party (minus the 15 minute one I had in my head and mentioned above because I was starving by the time we got to the new restaurant.) I’m going to do something about it.
  • I downloaded three free allergy free restaurant menu apps for my phone so I don’t have to guess about menu items or be That Customer pestering about every single ingredient in every single menu item. The apps aren’t perfect but it is better than feeling like I’ve been punched in the stomach all day every day when I’m on vacation because I guessed wrong. If you have a food allergy app you find helpful let everyone know in the comments below!
    • Allergy to Go
    • Allergy Eats
    • Gipsee in My Pocket

  • Absolutely feel grateful if there is only one allergy free menu item I can safely eat especially now that I’ve experienced needing to leave a favorite restaurant that doesn’t.

  • I’m going to write to the corporate offices of the restaurants I visit, tell them my experience of not being able to eat there, and politely ask if they will create a dairy free option for their menu. They won’t know there is a customer need unless we politely ask.

  • I’m also going to write to the restaurants we visit and compliment them when the menu, manager, wait staff, etc. have gone above and beyond the call because they need to know that too.  Again, they may not know unless we tell them. Good work should always be rewarded.

  • Sadly kiss being a foodie goodbye when I leave the bubble of my house. Our philosophy of travel is to eat new things we can’t get at home. As much as I despise the thought at eating at chain restaurants over local gems on vacation I need to suck it up and/or take food with me Sad smile. This one is going to take a lot of work on my part.

  • Bring food I can eat with me as much as possible when I’m not sure of the menu and try not feel like a cheapskate. I felt like such a miser eating my own food at Universal Studios with their permission. The rest of the trip we didn’t and I got sick because I guessed wrong. 

  • Be more vocal about how I’m feeling when I eat dairy. I’ve felt cruddy for as long as I can remember I didn’t know it was due to lactose intolerance/allergy. I thought it was normal. Now I know it isn’t. I generally keep it to myself since there isn’t anything anyone can do until it passes through my system. Unfortunately, that may make me seem like I’m being a Prima Donna Princess to my family members who don’t see me on a daily basis except when I was a kid eating all things dairy.

  • Politely suck it up and not order if there isn’t anything dairy free in a restaurant and everyone else in my party can eat. Sometimes we meet up with family at a restaurant and the early arrivers already ordered. It’s mean to insist that the other 9 people in our party leave because the dairy free menu item I verified on line isn’t available in the restaurant. I don’t want to come off as a martyr or a Prima Donna Princess Snob. I just don’t want to get sick. How do I keep that from happening?
Do you have a food intolerance or allergy but crave new, usual, delicious food? How do you balance the two?