People with food allergies can enjoy restaurant dining, but they must take extra care in choosing a restaurant and in ordering their food. Temptation abounds at restaurants, where the menu features colorful, beautifully presented dishes and food is everywhere. In order to avoid allergic reactions from restaurant meals, choose a restaurant wisely and be aware of the common pitfalls in eating out.
It takes education and discipline to eat at a restaurant for the person with allergies. Many of the suggestions for healthy restaurant eating apply for people with allergies and food sensitivities.
Consult an Allergist
People who react to foods should consult a board certified allergist, or doctor, for a diagnoses and advice. The doctor may suggest over the counter medications or prescription medicine to help control allergic reactions. Over the counter antihistamines can often help relieve symptoms.
The doctor can diagnose which foods cause allergic reactions and will probably advise avoiding or limiting certain food groups.
Choose Restaurants Wisely
Some restaurants are worse than others for people with allergies. Following are tips for what to look for in a restaurant.
Use Caution: Avoid Restaurant Likely to Expose to an Allergen
Buffets are tricky because the foods are very close together and allergens can easily spread from one dish to another. Serving spoons may pass from one tray to a different tray, causing cross contamination.
Bakeries keep their baked goods in display cases, next to each other. Cross contamination of baked goods occurs easily and can cause reactions in people with sensitivities to ingredients, such as peanuts and eggs.
Fast Food Restaurants may use flavor enhancers and preservatives that cause allergic reactions. Even healthy salads are coated with preservatives that help them stay fresh looking. Fish and seafood is often deep fried along with the French fries, causing cross contamination.
Asian: Chinese, Japanese, Thai
Asian Restaurants often serve healthy dishes, with vegetables as a main ingredient. Unfortunately there is risk of cross contamination, as the food is cooked in close proximity to other dishes. Shellfish is popular in Asian cooking, so that the same pan that stir fried a shrimp dish may to used to prepare a chicken dish, risking cross contamination.
Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) is another risk in Asian restaurants. They may hold back on adding MSG upon request, but often use prepackaged soups as a base, so diners still gets a dose of MSG with their food. Asian restaurants often use peanut oil for stir frying, so the person with peanut allergies should beware.
Seafood Restaurants cause an obvious risk for people with allergies to fish and shellfish. Even people that order a non-seafood entree risk exposure because the seafood is likely to come into contact with other food in the kitchen.
Home Cooking Restaurants
A restaurant that cooks food from scratch is an excellent choice for the allergic person. Sadly, home cooking is not that easy to find in this world of chain restaurants that serve prepackaged food. Restaurants will often claim that food is cooked from scratch, when that is not strictly true.
Fine Dining Restaurants
Fine Dining is more expensive, but the food is more likely to be prepared from scratch and the ingredients usually meet a higher standard of quality, meaning that they rely less on artificial flavorings.
Organic Food Restaurants
Restaurants that serve organic foods are more likely to be aware of the health concerns of diners and more open about ingredients in dishes.
Information in this article is not intended as medical advice. For health and dietary concerns, consult a medical professional.