When you have food sensitivities, whether it’s celiac disease, gluten intolerance, dairy intolerance or something else, going out to a restaurant can be difficult.
Making a mistake on your diet can result in anything from mild discomfort to life-threatening consequences, depending on the degree of your sensitivity or allergy.
While those with gluten intolerance can be affected acutely or seemingly silently, we know that a zero tolerance policy is the only way to go.
5 Tips for Eating Out Successfully
I would love to say that the following tips are foolproof, but we unfortunately do not live in a perfect world. Hopefully they will at least be helpful, and make going out to eat more enjoyable and safer.
1. If you know that you’re going to a restaurant for dinner, call ahead (about 3 or 4 pm) and speak to the chef. (Ideally it would be great to have pulled up their menu on-line so that you have an idea of what they offer beforehand.)
A typical restaurant chef will be in “dinner prep” mode at this time, and therefore has more time to speak with you than when the restaurant is busy serving customers.
Chefs love to nourish people, it’s the reason they became chefs. If you clearly state what foods you are intolerant to and what you do like to eat, it should be fairly easy to work out a dish that he/she can prepare for you.
Get the chef’s name, and give him yours, as well as the time you will be arriving for dinner.
Work out what the waiter should say to the kitchen staff when your order comes in so that the chef will know it’s you. This may be a little labor intensive on the front end, but imagine how nice it will be to simply place your order without having to “grill” the waiter about your food restrictions!
Note: If a) you don’t have time to do the above, b) you end up going out unplanned, or c) it just didn’t work to speak to the chef or maitre ‘d, then you’ll have to be more aggressive in the defense of your health.
2. Look at the menu from the perspective of what’s in the kitchen rather than how they have put the meals together. In other words, if you want the salmon, but it comes with polenta and you’re allergic to corn, ask for the salmon with rice, if you see rice somewhere on the menu.
Or better yet, get it with some broccoli or spinach. Think of it more as selecting what you want from the available options on the menu as a whole, rather than how the chef is choosing to serve to pair the ingredients.
3. When ordering, make the seriousness of your needs clear. If the waiter is standing far away from you, ask them to come closer. Let them know that the reason you have to ask questions is that you have severe allergies (yes it’s okay to say “severe”—it gets their attention). And if you mistakenly eat gluten (or whatever food is problematic) you will get very ill.
If you say it in a serious tone, they will not treat your request lightly. It’s up to you to make your statement impactful enough for them to carry the information back to the chef accurately.
4. When you are asking for special consideration, make sure they know that it’s due to food allergies. I usually say something like this: “While the pasta sounds delicious with the chicken, unfortunately I’m allergic to it. Can we substitute broccoli?”
5. Order simple. Simple is best. Unless you are a decent cook yourself and you know how things are made, sauces and dishes that are “stuffed” or complex have a higher likelihood of getting you into trouble. The fewer components to the meal, the more likely you will have an enjoyable, healthy experience.
Don’t Be Shy—Your Good Health is Worth It
Navigating through menus and others’ kitchens can definitely be anxiety-provoking, especially when you’ve had a bad experience. But if you do your homework and you’re not shy about communicating your needs, you should do well.
The good news is that the awareness of food sensitivities, especially gluten intolerance and celiac disease is definitely increasing. Fortunately, more and more restaurants are providing gluten-free options on their menus.
I hope you found this article informative. If your health is not to the level you desire, consider contacting us for a FREE Health Analysis. Call 408-733-0400.
We are a Destination Clinic and treat patients from across the country and internationally. We are here to help!
I look forward to hearing from you.
To your good health,
Dr. Vikki Petersen, DC, CCN
IFM Certified Practitioner
Founder of HealthNOW Medical Center
Co-author of “The Gluten Effect”
Author of the eBook: “Gluten Intolerance – What You Don’t Know May Be Killing You!”