Dining out with a child who has Multiple Food Allergies (or MFAs), as my son does, may not be entirely out of the question. In some cases, if your child has anaphylaxis to multiple foods, this really may not be an option. Check with your child’s Allergist and make sure you know how serious their allergy is to foods that have been identified as a problem.
For many kids with MFAs, although it is difficult, it’s not impossible to go out for a meal. Dining out can be a great social learning experience for any child. With some careful research and selection of food items, you can take your child with MFAs out for a meal the whole family can enjoy.
One of the great things right now, is that more and more restaurants are recognizing the growing number of requests for nut-free, gluten-free and dairy-free. Many of the better dining establishments and eateries are catering to these special requests, and some even have sections of their menus dedicated to low-allergen alternatives.
Here are some of my tips when dining out with a child with multiple food allergies (MFAs):
- Before taking your family into a restaurant, read the menu and identify a couple of dishes that your child with MFAs might be able to eat. Then ask the host or wait staff to find out from the kitchen if any those dishes are prepared with foods or by-products dangerous to your child. Be clear about what they are, and don’t be shy. Many kitchens now are aware that some of their clientele may have food allergies and are respectful of this.
- Ask what kind of oils are used to prepare foods that are sauteed, pan-fried or deep-fried. Don’t accept “vegetable oil” for an answer, as many vegetable oils are blended with soy, an allergen for our son. Request olive oil wherever possible. In the case of deep-fried foods, be aware that peanut-oil is sometimes used for deep frying. Also be aware that sometimes the same oil is used for multiple items, and traces will be left in the oil. Some restaurants will dedicate a deep-fryer for potatoes only.
- Ask the kitchen to clean the grill or flat grill before preparing your child’s dish, as they may have traces of potential allergens on them.
- Read restaurant reviews on such sites as Allergy Trails (www.allergytrails.com), a great resource for finding allergy-friendly restaurants.
- Finally, and I would say, most importantly, make sure you have your child’s anti-histamine and/or epi auto-injector at hand. Hopefully you won’t need it, and you and your child with MFAs will have a delicious and fun dining experience.
I plan to follow-up this blog with some local Toronto restaurants that we have found to be safe for our son with MFAs.