This was originally published as my Holistic Outlook column in The Times Herald Record.
On a new regimen and trying to avoid certain foods? Initially, dining out may seem a huge obstacle, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are five tips to get comfortable and get what you need, plus some extra protection in the form of enzymes*, just in case.
Relax. I’ve been gluten–free for more than a decade and eliminated various other foods temporarily. As far as I can remember, I’ve never been to a restaurant where I couldn’t find something to eat. It’s only gotten easier over time, as chefs and servers become accustomed to dealing with allergies and food sensitivities. You are highly unlikely to starve!
2. Engage an ‘accomplice’
Engage an ‘accomplice’ once you’re at the restaurant. Enlist the support of your server. Be friendly, confiding and direct. Be discreet if you like, but speak up. Try something like, “Would you help me? If I eat ___ , I could get really sick, and I don’t want that to happen at your restaurant. Could you help me figure out what I can have?” That lets them know you are serious and relying on their expertise. People like to feel important. Trust me: You won’t be the first person who’s asked; they probably know their way around the menu and its ingredients. If your server is not certain, request – nicely – that they check with the kitchen. You can also ask, “I was looking at this on the menu. Is there some way to prepare it that doesn’t include ___?” If the answer is no, accept it graciously.
3. Don’t apologize
Don’t apologize. Don’t feel bad, embarrassed or defensive. If you’re uncomfortable, you’re more likely to make others uncomfortable, including your server and your companions. Say it with a smile and no regrets. Don’t make a big deal, but do take care of yourself.
4. Don’t assume
Don’t assume. It’s obvious that grilled chicken with vegetables is a safe choice, so why ask, right? Nope. Ask. What if it’s dredged with flour or comes covered in sauce? It’s always better to let them know what you need to avoid and verify it with the kitchen, too. I’ve been surprised more times than I can say by hearing that even a simple steak isn’t prepared gluten-free.
5. Call ahead
Call ahead. If you are planning a longer-term stay (hotel, cruise, lodge, all-in-one, etc.) call ahead and let them know your restrictions. Again, I guarantee you will not be the first to raise the issue. They probably have alternatives to offer, but may be able to plan better, and you, to dine better, if they have some notice. Be your own advocate. After all, you’re the one who will live with the consequences.
Use 2 capsules of ProtectZyme right before your meal, designed to minimize the adverse effects from occasional consumption of gluten, dairy, soy, and egg proteins in individuals who are sensitive to them.
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2 thoughts on “Dining Out with Food Sensitivities”
Those are great tips. I’ve found that most servers are more than willing to help my son find dishes he can eat and the chefs prepare foods the way he can eat them. One waitress brought us out the whole menu list with ingredients for each item so my son could make sure he wouldn’t eat something he would have a reaction to! We also go online before we try a new restaurant to check out their menu. Restaurants that make their foods fresh to order are your best bets.
It’s true, Traci, most servers are very accustomed now, and more than willing to help. Quite a difference from a decade ago, when no one knew what I was talking about!
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