7 Tips for Eating Out with Kids with Food Allergies

Eating out with young children can be stressful.  Add in food allergies and it can be down right anxiety-provoking!  Sometimes it can be quite a Kidatdinnertablechallenge to find a safe place to eat, especially if you are dealing with multiple food allergies.

Eating at restaraunts and other establishments is a big part of our culture and not participating in social acitivities that involve food can feel very isolating.  So how can you and your family minimize the risk of an allergic reaction while still enjoying the opportunity to dine out once in a while?

Here are my top 7 tips for eating out with the kids:

1) Do your research before you go.

Search online to find restaurants that are allergy-friendly. There are websites dedicated to making your search a little easier.  I particularly likewww.AllergyEats.com. They have a great mobile app that comes in handy when traveling. Always take a look at the menu before heading out.  It saves you the hassle of getting to a restaurant only to learn that there is nothing on the menu for you to eat.

I always look for menus with simple dishes. I love when a restaurant has a kids’ menu because those dishes are pretty simple fare.  To limit the risk of cross-contact, avoid eating at places that use your particular allergens in a large number of their dishes. You will also want to avoid buffet-style restaurants and self-service food areas that are prone to cross-contact between foods, such as salad bars.

2) Call ahead.

Assuming the restaurant has some allergy-friendly dishes for you to choose, give them a ring to make sure they are accustomed to dealing with food allergies.  Again, you don’t want to arrive at the restaurant and find that everyone is clueless about how to safely handle food allergens and minimize cross-contact.

3) Always carry your epinephrine, other allergy medications, and your emergency plan.

This goes without saying. If you arrive at the restaurant without your allergy emergency kit, make the trip back to get it.  If you have multiple children with allergies, make sure you have enough meds for each child.  I have had two children have an anaphylactic reaction to the same food.  You have to be prepared.

4) Make sure your table is clean.

Before you are seated, you can inform your host of your food allergies and ask that the table be cleaned, if you think it is necessary.  You can also travel with your own wipes and wipe things down, as well.  If you are not comfortable with the cleanliness of your surroundings, don’t be afraid to ask to have your area cleaned or to be re-seated.

High chairs and booster seats are potential source of cross-contact.  When my children were younger we traveled with our own booster seats and disposable placemats.

You also want to avoid using the salt and pepper shakers and condiment jars on the table.  They are another potential source for cross-contact. My kids have a mustard, egg,  and sesame allergy so we rarely use condiments, but if you do.  Ask for fresh bottles or have your server bring you “to-go” packets of condiments, salt, and pepper.

5) Inform your server of your food allergies.

Always tell your server about your food allergies and ask to see their allergy menu, if they have one.  If you can speak directly with the chef, that’s great, too.  Never assume a food is safe to eat without checking on the ingredients, even if you have had the same dish before.  Make sure they understand that you or your child cannot eat food containing your allergens or that may have come into contact with your allergens.

You might consider carrying allergy cards to give to your server.  This way, they have your allergens in writing.  The more ways you can communicate, the better.  If you feel like your server isn’t understanding your completely or you don’t feel like they can handle your food allergy requests, do not be afraid to leave.  I have left restaurants that I did not think could accomodate our food allergies.

6) Order simple foods.

It easier to avoid “hidden” allergens by ordering simple foods with the least amount of ingredients possible or foods that don’t typically have your allergen as an ingredient. The safest meal choices are whole foods such a  simply-prepared protein, vegetables, and fruits.  I eat alot of chicken breasts and veggies when I eat out.  You also want to be careful about eating deep-fried items that may have come into contact with your allergens.  Again, always ask your server about the safety of each dish.

7) Double check your order before eating.

Mistakes do happen.  Even though you think you may have communicated clearly, sometimes things slip through the cracks and people make mistakes.  First, when the server brings your dish, verify that it was prepared without your allergens.  Secondly, always look at your food to make sure it does not contain any obvious allergens.  I have had food prepared incorrectly on numerous occassions.

If you implement these 7 tips you will greatly reduce the risk of having an allergic reaction and be able to enjoy dinner away from home.  Remember you can live life to the fullest with food allergies, it just takes a little extra planning.

Be sure to pass these tips onto your children, as well.  Even small children can practice telling servers what their food allergies are.  It is a great way to teach them how to be empowered self-advocates.

I would love to hear your tips on how to stay safe while enjoying eating out. Please leave a comment below.


Disclaimer: Information on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace medical advice.  Please seek the advice of your physician regarding any diagnosis or treatment. Any implementation of the information contained herein is at the reader’s discretion. The author and publisher disclaim any liability for any adverse effects resulting directly or indirectly from information contained on this site.

About Tiffany deSilva

Hi I'm Tiffany deSilva, MSW, CPC, CHC, Founder of BrightFire Living, LLC. I am a social worker, speaker, author, certified health, wellness and lifestyle coach, certified green living coach and toxic-free consultant. I am passionate about helping women like you to detox each area of your life, safeguard your family's health, and live life fully charged and completely lit up! I am on a mission to empower women and families who are managing food allergies, autoimmune disorders, and other modern chronic health conditions to live a safe, happy, and healthy life that truly lights your fire!

Feedback & Comments:

  1. Tiffany, thank you for the excellent tips on dealing with children’s food allergies. I know that as a Sunday school teacher of pre-schoolers I always appreciate the regular reminders from parents of children with food allergies!

  2. This is helpful info for kids and adults alike. So many people have food allergies and sensitivities that it’s important to be prepared. Even business lunches can be impacted especially if you’re entertaining someone who needs vegetarian or gluten free options.

    Write on!~


  3. I have an adult in my family who has severe allergies he travels all over the world and has had some bad experiences. Any suggestions for websites like AllergyEats for overseas?

  4. Excellent tips for protecting yourself and your family when eating out
    especially if anyone has a food allergy. I would suggest making certain
    the waiter or waitress asks in the kitchen if they are not 100% certain.

  5. That sounds like so much trouble and work I’d probably never go out to eat with a kid, honestly. But I guess if that’s what you have to do so be it. I would probably not trust what a server said about their kitchen and how things are cooked if the allergies are that severe, though.

  6. This is very helpful Tiffany. I don’t have kids but do have my own food sensitivities and allergies and implement many of these ideas. We have to be extra vigilant because many kitchens are not. I can’t tell you how many servers have given me incorrect info…they either don’t exactly know what’s in the food, are busy and can’t be bothered to get that info or think the whole “allergy thing” is a ploy for attention, rather than the serious situation it is. Thanks for a careful list to follow if allergies are an issue.

    • Tiffany deSilva says

      Thank you very much Deborah! I’m glad you found this helpful. Hopefully, training of restaurant staff will improve as awareness increases.

  7. Great article Tiffany & very useful tips. I don’t have any kids but do have to follow a lot of the same steps as I have celiac disease and have a few other sensitivities. Unfortunately, so many restaurants don’t treat “allergies” as carefully as they could. And we pay the price with sickness and pain. On the flip side, I have found so many people don’t want to be a bother or feel like they become the center of every meal because they have to interrogate the staff but it is truly a matter of how you approach things & being very clear and direct with your questions as well as doing your homework first. Your health & your kids health in this case here depend on it.

    • Tiffany deSilva says

      Thank you, Lisa! It can be tedious and cumbersome to go through all of the necessary steps to reduce the risks of eating out but, as you know, it is so necessary.

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