As you know I am allergic to soy (see "soy belly") and lactose intolerant, a terrible combo to have while trying to dine out! I've had really amazing experiences with accommodating restaurants and really awful ones where I have literally walked out of restaurants crying from frustration. So I have put together a little list of tips to help with dinning out. Obviously my main concern is soy and dairy, but these tips can be applied to other food allergies.
Tips for eating out and avoiding soy:
1. Call ahead before you go and ask to speak to a manager, tell them what your food allergy is and ask what items (if any) you could safely order from the menu. Occasionally you will find very accommodating restaurants who would be glad to prepare you something that is not on the menu. But then again I've also had to leave restaurants because there was not one SINGLE thing I could eat from the menu due to everything being marinated in vegetable oil. You just never know until you ask!
2. Tell your server that you have a food allergy upon sitting down and ask for an allergy menu. Not every restaurant has one, but it is great when you can find one!
3. Ask the server questions about cooking oils, marinades and sauces. Vegetable oil (Soybean oil) is a very common cooking oil because it is cheap. I can't tell you how many times I've told servers I have a soy allergy and they tell me not to worry because they cook with vegetable oil (DOH!!). Most servers are not educated about food allergies so you need to be a detective and ask a lot of questions!
4. Talk to others who have food allergies in the area and find out what their favorite restaurants are. My go to restaurants are Bareburger, Dig Inn and Whole Foods Market because they have several soy-free meal options, the food is amazing and they have several locations around the city. So find your go to spot so you always have something to fall back on!!
5. Check Allergy friendly websites and phone apps such as Allergy Eats or do a search in Yelp or Google for allergy friendly restaurants.
6. From my experience I've noticed that the hardest restaurants to avoid soy in are Mexican and Asian/Thai. Of course those are two of the most delicious cuisines (booo)! But don't lose hope, Italian restaurants are great for avoiding soy because most of them cook with olive oil.
7. Lastly be prepared to be disappointed and uncomfortable from time to time. No one likes to have to leave a restaurant or seem like the "picky" eater, but just remember how important it is to avoid these foods and the people you are with are not the ones who will suffer from the reactions.
Here are some other great links for more tips on eating out with food allergies:
Top 8 Tips for Eating Out with Allergies from About.com
Dining Tips from Allergy Eats
Do you have allergies or foods you prefer to avoid? What are your best tips for eating out?
xoxo - Amber
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