Monday, June 27, 2011

Dining Out with Food Restrictions

We love to eat out.  Fine dining, family dining, fast food-all of it.  of course, fine dining would be the fave, but now with all my cash going to co-pays, and tests my primary won't authorize, well, you know the drill.  It's Chez Moi on most nights. Which is probably best, because the kiddos were just starting to think that all meals came with a toy. Being on a diet is easier at home, too, because french fries just aren't the same out of the oven.   But pair them with squeeze ketchup, salty goodness, and mediocre service----be still my beating heart (and not just from all the grease).

Now, our forays into dining have become limited (and strangely, my bank account has had a respite...). But with a few modifications, you can overpay for marginally safe food too! I have some helpful tips that were hard at first, but have become second nature.

Things I have in my car:
  • Packets of soy sauce (SanJ GF)-you can find them in a box of 12 or so. I got mine at the Gluten Free Specialty Store-I like to support small business-but you can pick them up most places. I have seen them at some Raley's and Safeways
  • Packets of salad dressing, single servings (I bring along the Newman's Own Light Italian Dressing)
For single serve items, you have two options (there may be more, but these are the easiest)
  1. Liberate the single serve items from your fave fast food-Mc D's carries Newman's dressings
  2. Go to  They carry all sorts of travel sizes, including a variety of natural items that you can buy by the single item. They ship fast, too! And, they seem to be adding more and more natural items. I love them for nut butters, hummus and GF crackers, too. I keep them in my car in case of a spontaneous meal out
Remember that many restaurants will accommodate your needs-they will make things dry so you can add your own condiments. They will leave things out if you wish. They may even use your products to make the item-different areas have different regulations about this, it may all need to be in sealed containers, so call ahead!

I worked in a couple restaurants back in my day, so I know many people ask for special accommodations. The key to this is remembering that these people work incredibly hard, and usually deal with douches, assholes, freaks, drunks, and people trying to show off for their friends by treating others like shit.  You may not have a choice about what you need to eat, but you always have a choice in how you ask for help. I use some of these:
  • Sorry, I'm "one of those people" that likes to make your job difficult-I would like the (fill in the blank) but leave off the (blank), (blank), and (blank).  [Then, I use a charming, self-depracating smile-practice this in a mirror so you look properly apologetic]
  • Hi!  I have some serious allergies, and I hate to be a pain, but can I modify the (blank)?  [The answer is 99% yes and if they say no, you really don't want to eat there anyways]
  • Just order it how you want it.  Remember your manners.  "I would like the chicken club, no tomatoes, cheese or mayo, on lettuce instead of bread, please. Can I substitute fruit instead of fries? Great, thanks!"  Yeah, right, I'm TOTALLY macking on the fries.  Do as I say, not as I do.
 As the proud owner of a Droid, I am a firm believer in making technology work for me.  I have an app on my phone called Allergy Traveler. You input your allergies (mine are wheat and dairy), and the app translates these into "I have allergies and there are some things I can't eat. They make me sick. Is this food without these ingredients?"  You can translate into Chinese, Spanish, French, and 17 others. It's the only app I have paid for, $1.99. Totally worth it!

Once again, technology is your friend. Allergy Eats. It's a website that allows people to rate their local eateries based on how accommodating they are to people with allergies. I learned to ask my local sushi place to change knives and cutting boards from this website.

Oh, and don't forget about technology-(I'm starting to sound like a broken record/8-track/mp3, aren't I?) If you know where you are going to eat, go online and check the website.  There is tons of info available. If the website of the restaurant does not have info, Google, "Red Robin Gluten Free"  (Actually, Red Robin has GREAT info about allergies, but I was using them as an example-their fries are da bomb!). Many other people have blogged about their experiences, or have posted info about your favorite places.

Obvious choices for GFCF dining:
  • Sandwiches and burgers, served protein style (lettuce instead of buns), no cheese, no mayo
  • Salads, with your own dressing (no croutons, no bread on the side, no cheese, ask how the chicken is cooked and what seasoning is used, soy sauce is common)
  • Sushi and sashimi, with your trusty soy sauce you have in the car (No teriyaki!)
Above all, don't be ashamed to ask for help from restaurants. With a smile and a polite request, most people are willing to help you with your special requests. Just make sure to tip accordingly.

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