When you have food allergies, one of the most challenging scenarios is when you don’t trust the food you are being given is safe, but you also don’t want to make a scene or force an awkward situation. Being able to keep calm and maintain control in these uncomfortable scenarios is vital when managing food allergies.
For me, eating in restaurants with friends and family often creates the most anxiety-inducing situations. This is also a challenge with my life stage, because I’m a teenager and enjoy social outings with my friends.
A few years ago, I was eating at a restaurant with my family and was served a dish of broccoli that had (what I thought to be) breadcrumbs on top. Among many food allergies, I have celiac disease, and cannot eat gluten. Despite the fact the waiter said it was garlic and not breadcrumbs, I was hesitant. Therefore, I employed some strategies I’ve developed over the years in order to remain calm, so I could enjoy my meal without allowing negative thoughts to take over.
Having a plan for HOW you handle these challenging scenarios can enable you to have a less stressful dining experience.
Below you’ll find my top tips:
Ensure everyone you are eating with is aware of your allergies and food restrictions in advance. It’s important that regardless of what YOU ARE eating, you are comfortable with all items on the table. Additionally, this allows them to act fast in case of a reaction—because they’ll know what is happening.
Convey your restrictions clearly to your waiter or waitress. If you feel they don’t understand the severity of your allergies, don’t hesitate to ask for a different server or a manager to ensure your allergies are explained to the kitchen correctly. Additionally, you can supply the wait staff with a chef card that clearly states your allergens.
When your food is delivered to the table, reconfirm it is safe for you to eat. It’s always a good idea to double check, especially because wait staff often serve many tables at once.
Consider having a friend or family member try your dish first to see if they taste your allergen. This method isn’t foolproof, but I’ve found it helps me feel a little more at peace.
If you still feel nervous, try a very small bite of your food, and wait a couple of minutes before proceeding, so you yourself can confirm there are no issues. This is where food allergy management tools like the Allergy Amulet will help to take some of the worry off your plate!
Keep safe snacks on hand. If you are truly uncomfortable, trust your gut and don’t eat the food you are concerned about. That way, worst case, you won’t go completely hungry.
Ultimately, having an awkward dining experience is much better than having a life-threatening allergic reaction. And always remember to keep your emergency medications like antihistamines and epinephrine at the ready!
— Hayden Miller
Hayden is a junior in high school and is an Allergy Amulet intern. He suffers from many food allergies and sensitivities. He’s been anaphylactic to peanuts and tree nuts since birth and developed celiac disease at the age of nine. Hayden hopes to help others minimize food allergy anxiety and prevent allergies from getting in the way of enjoying daily activities.