Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Dining Out with Food Allergies: Communication is Key!

We just returned from a short summer vacay and I wanted to share a restaurant story.

I know that dining out is one of the most stressful things for people with severe food allergies because you just never know what's in the food.

We visited a wonderful lakefront restaurant on our trip, one we had been to many times before. It was a very hot day and my daughter wanted a Greek salad. (She's big into salads lately).

We communicated our daughter's allergy when we made our order and asked the waitress to check on the item. It was listed as having "Greek dressing" which in our home never contains any peanut oil or pine nuts, but we still wanted to know.

Our waitress returned and said she had spoken with the chef, which we had asked her to do. She said they didn't make the dressing, it was brought in and one of the chefs thought it might contain peanut oil or some kind of tree nut; they weren't 100%certain. They recommended we use oil and vinegar, that they would bring to our table and my daughter could put this on her salad herself.

My first thought was to be extremely thankful for this waitress. My second thought was--who would think that peanut oil is in Greek dressing?? Once again, this incident confirmed my belief that you always have to check with the chef and never assume that something is "safe" for your allergy.

I'm happy to say that the dinner was delish and we enjoyed a nice, stress-free meal after that. We thanked the waitress profusely and tipped her well--it's nice to give a good tip when they help you out. Kind of like food allergy PR as well as a thank you to the waitperson.

As you visit restaurants, never be afraid to speak up and as your child gets older, have them speak up as well. You have no way of knowing how the food is prepared unless you ask.

Here's another recent post I wrote about dining out.


Sarah S. said...

This story is a helpful reminder to ask every time. I recently ordered a salad and planned to share some with my peanut and egg allergic 2 year old. The waiter brought out the big bottle of dressing for me to read the ingredients. I was so appreciative and thanked him profusely! We had a wonderful and safe meal:)

Anonymous said...

Wondering in general your experience getting salads at restaurants. Everywhere we go, that is the one type of food that waitstaff consistently tell us to avoid because many have nuts or are prepared in an area with nuts.

Anonymous said...

Hi Jenny,
We are always weary of traveling - especially out of the country and on cruises. Wondering if you or any readers have any experiences traveling safely with nut allergies on Cruises, to Canada, Mexico, Europe, Asia? Are there certain cruise lines/destinations you recommend? Thanks, Cathy

Jenny said...

Hi Anonymous--regarding salads, we don't order them if any on the menu contain peanuts or tree nuts because of the cross-contact risk. I also avoid restaurants that have a lot of peanut or tree nut items on the menu, also for cross-contact risk reasons. This seems to help.

Jenny said...

Hi--The cruise ship question! We have not taken a cruise with our kids. I know from other people that you must communicate with the cruise ship beforehand about your allergies. Get to know the chef and that will help. But follow the restaurant rules that you would anywhere--desserts are not safe, lots of sauces and Asian food must be avoided. Readers--any cruise ship recommendations?

Anonymous said...

This story could not be more true! Dining out is a chore but consistently speaking with the chef is key. We have ordered house salads that came with walnuts...not exactly how I or most restaurants make them. My 14yr old no longer enjoys the process of telling the cute 17 yr old waittress that he has a peanut allergy. Depending on their attitude or response I have seen him decide not to eat because he didn't feel safe. We have the FAAN chef card to hand out and even after 14 yrs it still amazes me how dumbfounded people are by this common allergy. I wish science would get close to solving it however I do believe that our children will be stronger, more compassionate and able to adapt due to their allergies.

Lisa said...

I have a nut allergy. I'm afraid of granola, hummus, flaxseed and lots of healthy foods. Where can you look to see if they contain nuts? Some don't indicate on the labels..but you just assume there are nuts in granola and whole grains???? HELP