Food allergies: Tips for diners

November 8, 2011

Food allergies can be fatal. If you think you have food allergies, know that there is no cure, no pill. Only a proper diagnosis and strict avoidance will help.

Once you and your doctor ascertain which allergies or sensitivities you have, you will be able to enjoy eating in restaurants again.

Here are five strategies for dining out with food allergies, gleaned from chefs, the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network and my own experience.

Choose wisely: If you have a soy allergy, Chinese food is not your best bet. Dairy allergy? French is tricky.

Pick the right time: Friday at 8 p.m. is not an ideal time to test the kitchen. Try to pick a night and time that’s slower. See how the staff and kitchen respond.

Plan: Read the menu online before you visit. Get a sense of some dishes that are likely to be safe to order.

Inform the restaurant: Tell the host at the time of the reservation what your food allergies are. When you check in, remind them that you have these allergies.

Make it easy for them to get it right: Affix a label with clear, concise info to the back of your business card. That helps the server and the kitchen communicate clearly. (The food allergy group also has chef cards you can print from its Web site, www.foodallergy.org.)

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