Ways to Advocate for Yourself While on a Special Diet
Ways to Advocate for Yourself While on a Special Diet
For those who are highly allergic, or cannot tolerate any chance of cross contamination, there are more and more restaurants popping up that offer “free of “ foods. These are foods that are guaranteed to never have certain ingredients in them and for those who require special diets, they can enjoy a safe meal, without the fear of having a potential life threatening reaction, or getting ill.
Here is a list of how you or your child can investigate and advocate for their special diet, and to see if the restaurant will be a good choice for your family to frequent.
From Allergy Eats-top 10 restaurant chains that work best with allergies: https://www.allergyeats.com/top10chains2016/
- Pick one of the restaurants on the list, for example: Red Robin
- Go to their web site. Red Robin has an interactive menu on their web site. http://www.redrobin.com/allergen-customizer.html. Sit with your child and have them read and put X’s in the boxes (for younger children, read the list with them). For other restaurants,look on their main page for “allergy menu”. Some restaurants who offer ”free of” items, shows the item with a “no” (a red circle with a red slash symbol) over it.
- Click next. You will get the information to protect the company from being sued and to protect the customer, in case of accidental cross contamination or mistakes. Then you can pick a category of food items. They will suggest substitutions to tell your server, or will provide a “suitable” list that fit the allergens that were marked.
- If the menu looks inviting, head on over. This is where the really hard part occurs. When you arrive, an adult or age appropriate child must tell the waiter right away that you have allergies. If it is very serious, they must be told this! Use the word ALLERGY! You will know usually if the wait staff understands what this means. If they seem confused or unsure, ask for the manager right away. Let the most knowledgeable person take your order. NEVER be afraid to walk out and/ or complain if a mistake is made. This could be life threatening and the restaurant staff needs to be fully aware of this!
- When ordering, remind the server AGAIN, of the allergies or intolerances. Be sure to remind them that the food must NOT touch anything else. Many places will bring your food separately with gloves. You have a right to ask for this, too. You have every right to ask for an ingredient list, too, if in doubt. These days, restaurants have notebooks with ingredients listed for each item. Often you can locate these prior to arriving at the restaurant from their web site.
- When the food arrives, AGAIN, mention that your food should be free of whatever it needs to be free of.
- Enjoy your meal. Always be aware that, sadly, mistakes occur. Eating out is risky. Bring your epi pen, or other medication. ALWAYS, if this is what you need, if you get contaminated. You can NEVER be 100% sure.
Never be afraid to ask for your server to change gloves, or put down foil, or do other precautions to keep you safe. If they refuse, you should ask for the manager. At some food establishments, when one mentions allergies, often it is the manager who comes out to prepare the food, in places that are cafeteria style.
If you or your child goes to a party, it is usually best to bring your own food. Keep in mind that people who are not used to keeping foods from being cross-contaminated might use the same knife or spoon, etc.
It is ok for anyone, at any age, to ask to see a box or package of something. Since January 2006, it is mandated that all 8 of the top allergens (soy, wheat, eggs, shellfish, fish, tree nuts, peanuts, and milk) be marked somewhere on the package. More and more companies now put the “free of” ingredients in plain sight on the front of the package.
Teach your children who have allergies or intolerances to read the labels on packages. Teach them to look at the “contains” section and the “manufactured in a plant that uses” section, as well as the ingredient section. (REMEMBER JUST “WHEAT FREE” IS NOT GLUTEN FREE).
After you teach your child, take them to another section of the store. Pull off some items from the shelf and have them tell you if it is safe for them to eat or
If your child is a college student, go with them to food services, let THEM tell the person about their food issues and help guide them as to what to do, prior to moving in. Most colleges and universities have dieticians on staff that will show your student which eateries are safe and/or what to look for, to keep them safe. If your child has severe antiphrastic issues, go to the special needs department and ask for an off campus single apartment, where your student can purchase and prepare his or her own food. Your college student MUST be diligent if any food is ever near by, where he or she is present.
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
- Most Popular Gluten Free/Casein Free Products and Where to Find Them
- Self-Advocating While on a Special Diet
- How To Achieve A Healthy You
- Focus on Color
- Staying Healthy with a Proper Diet
- Ditch The Chemicals Start The Year Off Healthy
- Taking Care of Your Child’s Special Food Needs
- Eating Breakfast When You Are on a Special Diet
- Handling a Special Diet at School
- Special Diets: Food Allergies
- Traveling with Special Dietary Need
- Finding GFCF Baked Goods While You are Traveling
This post originally appeared on our July/August 2016 Magazine