If you saw the movie Hitch, starring Will Smith and Eva Mendes, you likely recall the scene when Hitch has an allergic reaction to shellfish. His entire face swells up like a balloon, but thanks to some Benedryl, he recovers. Though this makes for some great comedy, a reaction such as this one can be a scary and even life threatening event to those suffering from food allergies. However, this does not mean that one afflicted with a food allergy is forever banned from enjoying dinner out with friends and family. Instead, it means one needs to be prepared and do a bit of homework before going out.
Here are a few tips and guidelines you can pass on to your clients/patients with food allergies to help make future dining experiences enjoyable.
- Choose restaurants wisely. If one has a shellfish or fish allergy, choosing a seafood restaurant would not be the ideal option. Select restaurants that have a wide variety of entrée selections and have are open to making changes to meals, like removing an ingredient from the dish.
- Ask a lot of questions. Do not be shy or afraid to ask your server how an entrée is prepared or what ingredients are used. One cannot always rely on the menu descriptions to know how each meal is made. A simple ingredient could make or break the dining experience. NOTE: As a courtesy to the wait staff, be sure to ask all the questions at once to prevent them from making several trips to the kitchen.
- Bring an allergy card for the chef. If one has multiple food allergies, it may behoove him/her to carry a business-type card that lists the allergy details for the chef.
- Be prepared. No matter how many precautions one may take to prevent an allergic reaction, it is always sensible to be prepared by carrying an EpiPen.
Are you in the restaurant business and want to train your staff on cooking for those with food allergies? Download Welcoming Guests with Food Allergies, a newly-revised free guide developed by the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network and the National Restaurant Association. Restaurants can use this guide as a basis for their food allergy management programs. This guide is available in both English and Spanish. Training videos are also available.
Both diners and restaurant staff can do their part to help make dining out for those with food allergies a reality and a pleasant experience. As we well know, an allergic reaction is not a laughing matter and does not make for good comedy in real life. Bon Appetite!