Eating Out with Food Allergies

Q: “My daughter is gluten free, dairy free, egg free, and soy free. She is 23 and doesn’t know where she can eat out.”

A: It can be tough to eat out with so many dietary restrictions, but there are steps you can take to make sure the food you are getting is safe and free of potential allergens or sensitivities.

A growing number of restaurants are now starting to cater to guests with food allergies and food sensitivities. Some restaurants may label products free of certain allergens, but it is hard to know if cross-contact has occurred.  Cross-contact means that although a certain menu item does not contain a potential allergen, it may come in contact with that allergen at some point in the restaurant’s kitchen; therefore, it could produce an allergic reaction.

Here are some tips you can take when dining out to be as sure as possible the food you are eating is safe:

  • Look for a restaurant that lists an allergy free certification on its website.
  • Ask the right questions and don’t be afraid.  You have a right to know how your food is prepared and the ingredients it contains.
  • Call restaurants before you go.  Find out if they will be able to modify their menu items based on your needs.
  • A good resource is allergyeats.  This provides a forum for patrons to rate the allergy friendliness of restaurants across the country.
  • Remember, you are the expert on your needs.

The food allergy research and education center also has great resources, such as tips for calling restaurants and tips to help with dining out before you go. can be a great tool for finding restaurants committed to guests’ nutrition needs, and more and more of these restaurants are choosing to make allergen identification part of the commitment.  Next time you dine out, search for allergy-friendly dietitian picks at Healthy Dining Finder.