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Eating out with allergies and intolerances

It can be scary to eat out when even a trace of nuts, eggs, dairy, fish, wheat (to name a few) sends you running to the toilet, breaking out in red welts or worst of all, going into anaphylactic shock. It feels safer to stay home.

A survey in the UK, funded by Coeliac UK, has found that two-thirds of people with coeliac disease are less likely to eat out, while 81% of Canadians with coeliac disease avoid eating out some or most of the time.

Kim Koeller, co-author of the book, 'Let's Eat Out! Your passport to living gluten and allergy free', says people with allergies don't need to be scared of eating out.

She speaks from experience. Diagnosed with coeliac disease and allergies to dairy, pork and fish, and having to eat out frequently with her work, she soon learnt how to eat out safely.

Kim suggests three key strategies to safely enjoying eating out: education, communication and preparation.

  • Learn what questions to ask about the ingredients, hidden ingredients and garnishes.
  • Learn about preparation techniques: if you have coeliac disease, you'll need to know whether the meat has been marinated in soy sauce, the meat has been pre-dusted with flour or the chips have been seasoned, for example.
  • If you are allergic to fish, has the chicken been pre-fried in the same fryer as fish?
  • Learn basic cooking terms and techniques: if you order a dish with the word 'parmigiana', expect something with cheese in it.
  • Don't ask the impossible: it's not possible to make a dairy-free hollandaise sauce, for example.  Ask for it to be left off the meal or order something else.
  • Let the waiter know that you need to avoid certain foods.
  • Ask the right questions and if in doubt, simplify your order.
  • For example, if the waiter is not sure about the ingredients in a sauce, just ask for the meal without it.
  • Always confirm your order when it arrives.
  • Keep your Epipen® handy in case of an anaphylactic reaction.
  • Keep some 'safe' food from home in your car and at work for emergencies.

Date modified: April 3 2017
First published: Oct 2007

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