Eating out with food allergies
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The thought of eating out when your child has food allergies can be very daunting. As a mum of two children with multiple food allergies, I know how anxious it can feel to allow someone else to prepare their food. However, I also believe we have to encourage them to lead a normal life, give them the tools to speak up and not allow their allergies to hold them back.
A few simple steps and a bit of planning can help you and your family to eat out more safely and confidently with food allergies.
Do your research
It is possible to eat out spontaneously with allergies, but it is always easier and more reassuring to do some research first. You may want to start with somewhere that has been recommended as allergy friendly, or that has a comprehensive allergy menu or ingredients list online. Take time to look at the dishes available and choose a few that may be suitable for your child.
Get in touch
The next step is to get in touch with the restaurant via phone or email. Talk to them about the dishes and whether they are able to cater for your allergies safely. You may want to ask about how meals are prepared, cooked or the risks of cross contamination in the kitchen. It is good to gauge their knowledge and willingness to accommodate you at this stage.
Keep it simple
The simpler the dish, the easier it is to keep it allergy friendly. Try to stick to dishes that don’t have too many components or sauces and need the fewest changes made to the original ingredients. If you are dealing with allergies outside the top 14, check for any spices, marinades or stocks that may be used. Most children will be more than happy with a simple chicken and chips or pasta dish!
Use an allergy card
Once you arrive at the restaurant, talk to the waiter and if possible, the manager or chef. Using an allergy card is a great way to make sure they have a written record of your child’s allergies that can be passed on to the kitchen. Encourage your child to hand over their card or tell the staff about their allergies, so they are involved in the process and build their confidence.
Double check the details
It is a good idea to take some baby wipes and clean the table or highchair before your child sits down. This will minimise the risk of any contact reactions. Once the food arrives, double check it is free from your child’s allergens and check for any garnishes that may have been added. Never be afraid to ask the waiter to double check any details with the kitchen if you are unsure.
Trust your instinct
If something doesn’t feel right, it is always OK to walk away. It doesn’t matter if you have made your order, or even if the food has been brought to the table. If you don’t trust something is safe or that the staff understand the risks, don’t let your child eat there. Always trust your instinct.
Following these steps and always carrying your medication along with an allergy card, will help you be prepared to eat out and show your child how to manage their food allergies effectively.