Be Restaurant Smart: How To Order When You Can’t Eat Just Anything
There are many reasons you may feel apprehensive about going to a restaurant. Is it your allergies or do you know just the slightest bit of gluten will set your health back again? Or perhaps you’re simply after a healthier lifestyle? Luckily there are products like gluten free beer and nut free desserts that give one hope that a night out with friends can actually be enjoyable. But choices seem limited, right? Or you’re simply scared of picking the wrong dish?
Don’t fear any longer! The tips, examples and guidelines below will help you navigate any restaurant, take away menu or pub like a pro. Order with confidence so you can eat with gusto.
Vet Your Local Restaurants
You’ll be surprised how many restaurants in your community are ready to welcome you with a menu that’s more accommodating to those with allergies or an intolerance. Society is becoming more aware of people’s unique needs and eateries want to be known for being inclusive. So, do some online scouting and discover new places to visit where you’ll be more comfortable and have more options.
Reviews are a good place to start, because others with allergies are bound to remark when they find places with gluten-free dishes or desserts and food that diabetics can enjoy too. You’ll also be wise to visit restaurant brands that have more than one location in town. If they’re doing well enough to manage multiple venues you can have more peace of mind that they have other aspects in place too. They will have well-trained staff and they’ll make sure there’s no cross contamination between different dishes.
Remember, most restaurants these days publish their menus online, so you can plan ahead instead of feeling stressed because you’re not sure what to expect. Take those few minutes before you leave, check the menu and then you’re ready to enjoy your night out!
Prepare with Some Research
If you recently discovered you have an allergy or you’re new to a certain meal plan, you may not feel comfortable with all the lingo yet. What is the best substitute for milk or peanuts? Do yourself a favour and take time to research and draw up a list. Keep it with you, put it on your mobile phone or memorise it. The little bit of effort will go a long way in making your restaurant experiences more relaxing.
Simpler is Better
When you’re viewing the menu, it’s best to keep your selection simple. For example, rather avoid dishes with marinades and sauces. Preparing these dishes requires more ingredients and time, increasing the chances of ingesting something you shouldn’t.
Opt Out of the Buffet
Another option to stay away from is the salad bar or a buffet style dinner. You may think it’s better because you can decide what to put on your plate. Unfortunately, you’re picking your food from an area where there’s no control over what others do with the different dishes.
There can easily be cross contamination if another diner messes while adding food to his or her plate. Without knowing you could end up with nut residue on the food you dish up. Rather play it safe and order a dish from the menu that you know comes from the kitchen with strict hygiene protocols.
You may feel better about selecting food if you know about the obvious dangers you can easily sidestep. Here are a few that apply in most cases:
- Assume that most fried food is prepared in the same oil, so the cheese sticks you want to order may have shared space with meat, fish and other items.
- Some restaurants use peanut oil for frying. This is something you can quickly find out from the chef.
- Even if you don’t see sesame seeds, they’re often present in bread.
- If the hamburger bun is shiny on top it’s possibly an egg wash.
- Expect the chef to add butter to many common favourites like frying a steak or making mashed potatoes.
We also want to encourage you not to ever feel too self-conscious to make demands. If there’s something on your plate you specifically asked to be removed, send back the dish. You’re paying for a service and have a right to safe food.
A few wise strategies will also increase your chances of having a tasty AND safe meal. If you do want to order in, contact the restaurant outside the busiest hours of the day, like the lunch time rush. The staff will be more relaxed, there’s less chance of a mistake and the one taking your call will be able to focus on your requests.
Last tip: always remember to keep your medication—if relevant—on hand. If you do accidentally eat something that sparks an allergic reaction you want to be able to take swift action.
Hungry and want to go out for a meal now? Whether it’s about an allergy, a personal preference or a food intolerance, you can enjoy it! It’s often simply about avoiding the most risky aspects of restaurant food. Once you sidestep them, you can relax and eat up!