Self-Advocating While on a Special Diet
Self-Advocating While on a Special Diet
More and more restaurants are offering special diet foods on their menu. All you have to do is ask your buddies: Google, Alexa, Suri, or Cortana to find you restaurants offering, for example, gluten free food. There is also Yelp.com, Tripadvisor.com, and other similar sites you can find on your phone, tablet or computer to help you find restaurants that you want to visit.
Once you locate the restaurant, you might want to first give them a call. If you call up and ask about how they prepare gluten free, dairy free or nut free food, etc. and they act like they have no clue what they are talking about, it’s time to say “thanks, but no thanks.”
If they tell you everyone is trained to put on new gloves and that they have special areas for “free of” food, then you know you have a better chance of not getting ill. Many restaurants use symbols on their menu to designate which of their foods are “free of” certain ingredients. This should hopefully mean that they “get it” and hopefully they will not cross contaminate your food. Here are some symbols used at some restaurants:
Upon entering a restaurant that specializes in allergy free menus, ask at the front desk for the menu that matches your needs. Sometimes, they just have symbols next to the items that are free of certain allergies, but some places offer an exclusive menu. You won’t know unless you ask and/or check their web site.
Some eateries have a list at the front counter or in the back of the restaurant of ingredients or “free of” items. Ask to see it.
Always ask the server for details on how food is prepared and where it is prepared. If the grill always has butter on it and you have an allergy or intolerance to dairy, you need to be sure your food is prepared differently. Ask if they wear gloves…ask if they have been trained on allergy prevention…ask if their ordering slips allow for your allergy to be mentioned, so that the chef can see it.
If the server doesn’t seem to completely understand your special diet, ask to speak to the manager. The manager should go to talk to the chef and be clear everyone is on board to keep you safe and free of illness.
If the food arrives and something is not right, call over the manager and explain that you could have gotten very ill, or worse. Any reasonable manager will apologize profusely and, more than likely “comp” your meal. He should return to the kitchen, explain in detail what occurred, be sure it won’t happen again and he or she should bring out your plate of food, if you have not left by then.
This is no laughing matter. Making a food mistake can be a life or death situation. It is imperative you stand up for yourself and have the establishment do the right thing.
If a restaurant bends over backwards to be sure your food was exactly the way it should be, you should go to Yelp or Trip Advisor and write up a review. People rely on these posts and these reviews help people pick which places are the best for them to patronize. The same goes if you had a terrible experience, got sick and had the staff not respect your wishes and demands for the type of food you requested. A negative post is equally important for patrons to read.
When going to a party, this becomes a challenge. Many hosts think they are doing you a kind gesture by making or baking some allergy free foods for you. Many people do not realize that cross contamination with a knife, a jar that had the allergen it in from the knife, a pan, a dish, etc. can still make you very ill. It is ok to tell them, “thanks, but you will need to pass. Be kind, yet educate them.”
Sometimes they might buy you something that is free of one or two of the ingredients you need to avoid, but it might still have ingredients you cannot eat and they are unaware of this. Never be afraid to ask to see the labels. If they cannot provide the label to you, kindly pass on eating the food.
Do not be afraid to hurt someone’s feelings. Nothing is as important as keeping yourself healthy and well. It is a sticky situation, but if you discuss it kindly and explain how the consequences could lead to some very horrible outcomes, hopefully they will understand.
Barrie Silberberg is the author of The Autism & ADHD Diet: A Step-by-Step Guide To Hope and Healing by Living Gluten Free and Casein Free (GFCF) And Others Interventions. Her web site is: www.puttingyourkidsfirst.com
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- Special Diets: Food Allergies
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- Finding GFCF Baked Goods While You are Traveling
This post originally appeared on our September/October 2018 Magazine