Tips for Dining Out for Food Allergy Sufferers

March 04 2015 – Robert Fiumara

With an estimated 15 million of United States citizens suffering from food allergies, dining out options can be limited and challenging, not to mention downright dangerous.  How can someone with food allergies still enjoy a night-out with friends, family, and great food? 


Industry experts say the most important thing about dining out with food allergies is to be vocal about letting your servers and chef know you suffer from food allergies.  But it’s not just about avoiding certain ingredients in the dishes you choose – it’s also important that your chef avoid using the same cookware and utensils in dishes that have your allergen, so that no cross-contamination occurs.  In the past, food allergy sufferers would be hard pressed to find restaurants and chefs who were willing or able to accommodate their dietary requirements.  Fortunately (and unfortunately for sufferers), food allergies and dietary restrictions are commonplace so most restaurants are quite used to any special requests.


Remember that if you do make a special request, kitchens will need extra time to prepare and cook your meal.  Busy or peak seasons may require even more effort from the kitchen so it’s best to stick to what you know if you’re going out to dine on a special occasion like Valentine’s Day.  In contrast, if you’re hosting a meal and you have a diner who has a special dietary restriction it’s important to remember these three rules:  reduce, replace, or eliminate. 


Common food allergies include eggs or nut but you can easily replace eggs if you know what the egg is being used for.  For example, in baking eggs are often used as a leavening agent but can easily be replaced with applesauce and baking powder.  If you have a diner who has an allergy to one type of nuts, like almonds, try leaving out the nuts altogether or using another type of nut such as a peanut or even a seed, such as sunflowers.  If you need to replace the healthy oils in nuts, you can use avocados or canola oils.  Always remember that when you’re donning the coat of a chef, even as an amateur, you always have to take into consideration the safety of your guests.  As a diner who might have food allergies, it’s important not to hide your allergies and be vocal and upfront about them.


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