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allergy friendly dining

Dining Out With Food Allergies

Posted 10.19.10 | Sarah O'Brien


When you have a child who suffers from food allergies, going out to dinner may seem impossible. Imagine all the questions you have to ask, items you have to keep track of, and letting go of kitchen control! Fortunately many large restaurant chains have picked up on how important it is to make sure they offer options and service to families managing food allergies. Many have standardized menus, which often include ingredient information, which can provide you and your family with some safe allergy friendly food options.

Do Your Research

A great resource for ensuring you find chain restaurants with allergy-friendly food options is the internet. Most major chain restaurants have websites where you can view their menus before you visit. This gives you a chance to identify safe options for your little ones with food allergies before you go!

Keep in mind that websites may not be updated frequently and ingredients may change, so it’s always a good idea to speak to a manager at the location where you're interested in dining before you go. This will help you ensure that the restaurant really is food allergy friendly and cross-contamination won’t be a problem.

Always Double Check

As parents, we always want to make sure our kids are safe, so I recommend always checking to make sure the restaurant is still food allergy-friendly even if it’s a restaurant you dine at frequently. And always be sure to tell your server about any food allergies to ensure that you have happy and healthy dining experience. Many times, they'll be happy to send the chef out to speak with you personally about your dietary restrictions!

So Many Options, So Little Time

Some great examples of food allergy friendly chain restaurants were compiled by AllergyEats, which has a goal to help members of the food allergy community make informed decisions about where to dine. 

By being able to read about how well or poorly a restaurant has accommodated other diners’ with food allergies, you can narrow down which restaurants you might like to visit. AllergyEats lists more than 750,000 restaurants across the country and invites people like you to rate them. who chose them because they specifically address food allergy concerns. Among the large restaurant chains, you can likely find reviews of locations near you including (but certainly not limited to!):

  • Boston Market
  • Carrabba's
  • Chili's
  • Chipotle
  • Longhorn Steakhouse
  • Outback Steakhouse
  • P. F. Chang's
  • Romano's Macaroni Grill
  • Ruby Tuesday

All of these restaurants include helpful information about the top 8 allergens (milk, egg, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, soy, and wheat), both in their restaurants and online. But it is also important to do your research before trying out any new restaurants to ensure reliability.

Wait: Who is 'AllergyEats' and why should I trust them?

If you're not familiar, AllergyEats describes itself as "the leading guide to allergy-friendly restaurants in the United States." That's a big claim? How can they possibly back this up? 

AllergyEats is a free, peer-based website and app (for both Apple and Android devices) where people find and rate restaurants based solely on their ability to accommodate food allergies. The site, app and related social media forums allow families with food allergies to help each other reduce guesswork and limit some of the anxiety surrounding dining out with food allergies. We're all about free, and you can't beat social support systems where you can get input from families like your own!

You can easily search restaurants in AllergyEats platforms by your location, so you can find allergy-friendly restaurants near home or around the country when you travel. As always, it's still important for you to ask questions of restaurant staff to make sure you're comfortable. Another family managing a less-severe food allergy might report that the restaurant met their needs, but their needs may not be the same as yours.

We think that's at least a great start when you're looking for a restaurant that might be able to accommodate your needs. As always, consider giving the restaurant a phone call first to ask them how they can meet your specific requests.All of these restaurants include helpful information about the top 8 allergens (milk, egg, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, soy, and wheat), both in their restaurants and online. But it is also important to do your research before trying out any new restaurants to ensure reliability.

What are your favorite allergy-friendly restaurants to dine at?

- Sarah


How an iPhone Can Help Manage Your Food Allergies

Posted 9.10.09 | Christine Graham-Garo

As anyone dealing with food allergies knows, grocery shopping and eating out can be daunting tasks. Fortunately, new technology is making managing food allergies a little easier. By making use of some handy iPhone apps you can get help identifying safe food options in the grocery store and when you are traveling or away from home.

Allergy Companion NoPeanut features a list of foods to avoid at popular chain restaurants in the United States and Canada, emergency and allergy restaurant cards in multiple languages, and links to information about allergens. Cost: $2.99.

Eat Safe! is designed for travelers with food allergies who don’t speak the language of the country they are visiting. It uses graphics to show what items people are allergic to, including Milk, Eggs, Peanuts, Tree Nuts, Fish, Shellfish, Soy and Wheat. Cost: $2.99.

iCanEat OnTheGo Gluten & Allergen Free(TM) helps you search for allergen free items from 15 fast food chains in the United States. The application allows users to select from one or any combination of the 9 most common allergens including eggs, fish, gluten, milk, peanuts, shellfish, soy, tree nuts and wheat. The app hides items that contain the selected allergen and lists only the safe options from a database of over 1,500 menu items at Arby's, Boston Market, Burger King, Chick-fil-A, Dairy Queen, Domino's, Dunkin' Donuts, KFC, McDonald's, Pizza Hut, Qdoba, Sonic, Subway, Taco Bell & Wendy's. Cost: $4.99.

Pepper Stuff Gluten-Free Restaurant Cards From Celiac Travel provides allergy cards in multiple languages that individuals with celiac disease can show at restaurants when they are traveling abroad. Cost: FREE.

WebArtisan Food Additives provides information about what several hundred common food additives are derived from and notes which ones are gluten-free. Cost: $3.99.

All of these apps are available for download in the iTunes store. Have you used any of these Food Allergy Apps or do you know of any others? Let us know in the comments section!

-Christine


Food Allergies and Dining Out

Posted 10.28.08 | Guest Blogger

Gina Clowes is the founder of AllergyMoms.com. We would like to thank her for guest blogging for us and sharing her family's allergy story.

Note: This article was originally written for Health Central: My Allergy Network.com. To view the article there, click here.

When you become a parent of a child with food allergies, restaurant dining often feels like tiptoeing through a minefield. The potential dangers are usually invisible and you are relying on the vigilance of others to keep your child safe.

Still, we want our children to be able to enjoy the typical and “normal” parts of everyday life, so we venture out to restaurants as nerve-wracking as those experiences may be.

So where do you start?

Find A Restaurant

Usually, by process of elimination. Make it easy on yourself and avoid places that are cross-contamination nightmares for your child’s allergens. Places like Chinese restaurants, seafood restaurants, ice cream parlors, bakeries and buffets should be considered above-average for risk of exposure to the “big eight” food allergens and to cross-contamination in general.

Next, think of the types of foods your child can eat, keeping in mind that simple foods are usually best. A nicely grilled steak and plain baked potato can often be easily prepared without cross-contamination. Some upscale steak houses are extremely accommodating with special dietary needs, although they seem to frown upon my son using the front of his shirt as a napkin and his sleeve as a Kleenex.

Once you’ve identified a restaurant with potential, call them during non-peak dining hours (Fridays and Saturday afternoons are generally super-busy. Try an off, weeknight). Ask to speak with the manager or a chef and find out if they can prepare a safe meal for your child. Some parents prefer to “try out” the restaurant without the children to get a feel for their ability to accommodate. If you get the feeling that they are unwilling, unable or just don’t “get it,” move on.

Some of the chain restaurants, such as Outback Steakhouse, have online menus. If you find something that your child would enjoy, ask the chef exactly how it is prepared. If the chef seems willing and able to prepare a safe meal, make a reservation for a non-peak time.

In the meantime, you may want to prepare a chef’s card that specifically lists your child’s allergies. This adds as an additional reminder, particularly if you are dealing with multiple allergies.

Go Prepared to Eat

Before you leave for the restaurant, bring a few staples in case the restaurant does not have what you need or it is cross-contaminated. I always bring safe food in a thermos or a safe sandwich for my son. We often bring a little of his dairy-free margarine and some vinegar and oil for a salad. (Dressings and oils can contain potent nut or seed allergens.) Make sure you have your child’s EpiPens before you leave.

When you arrive, ask to speak with the manager or chef. Remind him or her of the allergens you are avoiding and, if possible, place your order with the manager or chef.

Do not ever use common sense to determine if a food is safe. Chili, chicken and egg rolls can contain peanuts or nuts; salad dressings can contain egg, fish, or nuts; fried foods can be cross contaminated with cheese, shrimp or fish and any other fried food, and the list goes on.

When the food arrives, ask again to make sure that it does not contain the allergen and visually inspect it. If you are served a food which appears to contain an allergen, ask for the dish to be prepared again but keep the first dish with you. You want to be sure that they prepare a new dish from scratch rather than removing the allergens leaving dangerous traces behind. One study showed that food preparers believed that simply removing nuts from a dish or cooking an allergen would make it safe. Our motto is “When in doubt, do without.”

Desserts are the trickiest part of a restaurant meal. The risk of cross contamination of dessert items is considerable and you may be safer bringing your child his own special ice cream or fancy cupcake. Although most restaurants will not allow your food into the kitchen, some will let you bring your own cake or pie to share at the table. Better yet, prepare and serve a treat for everyone at home!

- Gina Clowes


Web-based Food Allergy Resources

Posted 8.7.14 | Rob McCandlish, RDN


This is a guest post from Leslie Stiles. Leslie Stiles received her BS in English Literature at University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana and obtained her Masters in Human Nutrition from University of Illinois in Chicago. She works as a Senior Clinical Nutritionist at a children’s hospital in Chicago, IL.


A diagnosis of a food allergy may come as a shock to your family, and that shock may continue when you go to the grocery store and start to look at nutrition labels. You might find yourself asking “What can my kid eat?!”, “Will they be able to eat typical kid food like birthday cake and pizza?”, or “What will I pack them for school lunches?” The list of questions can be endless and overwhelming to say the least. Luckily, thanks to the world wide web, there are some accessible resources that will both educate and inspire you about allergen-free cooking and shopping.

This blog post is intended to present some tried and true resources that I often share with families. I encourage you all, as readers and family members of children with food allergies, to share your own tried and true resources in the comments section. It’s important for us to share information and help each other stay informed.

For all things allergy-related, the Food Allergy Research and Education organization (FARE) website is chock full of useful information. I recommend spending some time exploring all it has to offer and bookmarking it to refer to later.

Allergy Free Recipes

The Kids with Food Allergies website has created an easy-to-use, searchable recipe database. You can search for recipes that are free of the top 8 allergens and corn.

The American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology website has a lot of great information about food allergies, in addition to some tasty allergen-free recipes. Each recipe is marked with a key stating which allergens have been omitted.

Recipe Substitutions

If you think your child with a dairy and egg allergy has to miss out on your Great Aunt Mildred’s famous banana bread, think again… You may be able to substitute other ingredients for the butter and eggs. The Kids with Food Allergies website gives a good overview of the function of each allergen ingredient in a recipe and provides suggestions for good substitutions. Unfortunately, not all allergens have substitutions that will function in the same way, so the end product may not turn out exactly the same as the original, and you may want to find a new recipe.

Allergy Friendly Manufacturers

We are lucky to live in a time when there are more allergy-friendly manufacturers than ever before. Children’s Hospital of Orange County has created one of the best resources I’ve come across thus far listing all allergy-friendly food manufacturers. You can check it out here.

Eating out at Restaurants

Want to find allergy-friendly restaurants in your area? Then Allergy Eats is the place to go! You can simply select your food allergy, type in your address, and voila - you have restaurant options. Each restaurant receives a rating, both overall and per allergen. You can also rate a restaurant yourself. To make it even easier to use, Allergy Eats has created an app that can be downloaded onto your smartphone.

Again in the food allergy community, we rely on each other for information and to stay informed. Do you have a tried and true online resource that you’ve found helpful? If so, please share it in the comments section.

-Leslie Stiles, MS, RD, LDN

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4 Quick Reasons Why Everyone Should “Dig In” to Allergy Friendly Foods

Posted 6.15.17 | Neocate Admin

There are so many different times in life that prompt us to step back and think, then often make a change in our life.  As a dietitian, I often get involved when these times spark a change in your health or more specifically a change to your diet. I know better than most that the word ‘diet’ is perceived as a forbidden 4-letter word, often for many wrong reasons.  In reality, your diet is just the general term for what and how you eat regardless if that includes a plan, specific structure, or even just eating whatever strikes your fancy and happens to be available at the moment. Yes that is right, candy and pizza is also a diet; Just not a diet that is recommended or usually planned. 

We all have many of these life or health events to inspire a diet change. Perhaps you have planned a diet change in your life as a new year’s resolution, after a health concern or diagnosis, or even due to a general life event such as a birthday or milestone that inspires you to change.  One thing that all of you reading this most likely have in common is that you have embarked on a diet change due a medical concern or food allergy diagnosis either for yourself or a loved one. 

A diet change for any reason is usually just considered for the family member who needs the diet change alone.  This is the main reason why many who require a special diet often feel alone, deprived, and are ultimately unsuccessful in incorporating a new diet as a lifestyle vs a momentary change. This is also why so many people perceive the word ‘diet’ as a forbidden 4-letter word to be avoided at all costs. 

Instead of all the negative connotations that come to mind when thinking about a diet, what would it be like if this new diet change needed for your family member was celebrated and embraced?  Even further, what if the whole family participated and adopted the same allergy friendly foods?  Let’s talk about 4 quick reasons why you should be an allergy free family if possible, where everyone digs into and savors the same allergy friendly foods required by some family members.

Reason #1 - Good Role Model

First, and maybe the most important reason is that children learn by example.  Being a good role model is by far the best way to teach little ones any lesson, and particularly true when it comes to teaching good dietary habits.  If your child sees you enjoying the required allergy friendly foods and avoiding the items that are not safe for their food allergy or appropriate for their medical condition, then they will be much more likely to make the same choice and mimic the same behaviors of their role models when they are outside the home.  Imagine the effect this might have on your loved ones if the whole family could model this behavior!

This can be especially powerful when applied to how parents relate or talk about food.  Imagine if those allergy friendly foods are celebrated and savored by the entire family.  They will quickly become a family staple and welcomed by all.  So perhaps try to present allergy friendly food items to the whole family with gusto and excitement and see what happens.

Reason #2 - Provide Support and Acceptance

When the whole family is allergy free, the family members with the particular diet need will also feel supported and accepted.  Many times a unique dietary requirement can be lonely and isolating.  While each of us are unique, differences can also help us stand out from the crowd for the wrong reasons.  And everyone wants to feel accepted at home if nowhere else.  Imagine how easy a diet change would be when the whole family is there with you and supporting you in this new change.  No longer are you the only one at the table eating a particular food item, or worse not able to enjoy the food item or dish that the rest of the family is sharing.  Instead everyone in the family will be involved and can all dig into the same allergy friendly foods as a family meal together. 

Reason #3 - Eliminate Accidental Exposure

Having an allergy free family also means the food allergens of concern are not even present in the household.  This can be especially helpful as little ones learn their surroundings and become more mobile.  We all know that babies and toddlers typically learn by putting new items in their mouth whether that item is edible or not.  If the food allergen is not available, little ones are less likely to accidently eat something that they are allergic to or even have cross contamination of that item into other dishes and foods.  This can be a life saver if your family member has a severe food allergy reaction, such as anaphylaxis.

Reason #4 - Delicious Food

Finally, and maybe the best reason is that allergy free foods are delicious.  Food should be enjoyed and savored.  I choose to be a Dietitian for many reasons, one powerful reason being that I love food and love to eat. I follow the live to eat philosophy in life rather than eat to live.  If you follow the same mentality you know that taste is important, and delicious food is a delight.  Allergy friendly foods can be just as delicious or better than their counterparts that contain the allergens dangerous to you or your loved one. 

Need some ideas or inspiration?   Check out our Neocate Footsteps Recipe book.  We also have a variety of Neocate recipes on our Neocate Pinterest page, our Neocate YouTube channel, and Neocate Facebook page.  Many of the recipes and videos on both our Neocate YouTube channel are available in a few languages as well.

Tell us ways that your whole family has embraced becoming an Allergy Free Family?  What worked for you that you would like to share with other families?  Any allergy friendly recipes that you would like to share? Please let us know in the comments below.

-Kristin Crosby MS, RDN, LDN



About Us

Food Allergy Living is a resource for parents of children with food allergies, brought to you by Nutricia, the makers of Neocate. For more in-depth information about our purpose & authors, see our About Food Allergy Living page.