As someone who has always lived with life-threatening food allergies, my parents taught me about the risks that were safe versus the ones that were never worth taking. For parents or individuals with newly diagnosed food allergies, it is important to know about these risks.
These are my top five risks that aren’t worth it:
- Bakeries & Desserts
- Convincing Others
- Ethnic Restaurants & Take Out
Bakeries & Desserts
As a girl with a sweet tooth, this is the most disappointing one. It was automatic as a child that I never trusted baked goods. My parents treated it as a fact, so I never questioned it or even considered it a possibility. Even if some of the breads or desserts don’t contain your allergen, the possibility of cross contact is often too high to trust.
A silver lining of the increase in food allergies is the “allergy friendly” bakeries that keep popping up around the country. It was something I could never have imagined happening as a child. My first experience at one was as an adult and it was magical. I know it sounds silly to most people, but having the ability to select anything and know it should be safe is a feeling I had never had in my life. I can only imagine being one of those lucky people who can try anything without a worry. I now have a taste of what that feels like which is pretty incredible!
Yes, I know we are always teaching children to share. If your child has food allergies though, teaching them how to share becomes a bit more tricky. Sharing food, drinks, water bottles, chap-stick, etc. is off-limits. Starting around upper elementary/middle school I remember my friends sharing everything. I knew sharing was not a safe option for me though. Actions like eating out of a friend’s open bag of chips or trying a taste of their meal should always be avoided.
Stick with your own food, drinks, and cosmetics. A positive of this is that you have a reason not to share, especially when your friends’ are getting over a cold!
The risk of cross contact is inevitably high with buffets. The place I see them most often, especially as a traveler, is at hotels for breakfast. Sometimes I have been able to ask for breakfast made to order because of my allergies, but I never eat buffet style unless I am the first to be served at an event where all dishes have been made safely without my allergens. This has only happened a few times at a few of my friends’ weddings.
For times like these, pulling out that extra safe snack in your bag is the usually the best choice. If something is packaged individually at a buffet, like crackers that are labeled with ingredients, that is also sometimes an option.
Why should we ever have to convince someone that we will be okay at their establishment? If someone isn’t willing from the beginning to listen, understand, and work with you, then it is a risk you shouldn’t take. Trust me, in moments of serious hunger I have contemplated it, but in the end I know it is too risky.
Wait until you find a restaurant that will safely accommodate your allergies. You should trust your gut when it comes to decisions like this. Watch their body language, hear that they understand, and believe your own feelings one way or the other.
Ethnic Restaurants & Take Out
I love food and I love traveling which is why I wish I could be more exploratory with what I eat. However, ingredients can easily be hidden in all types of ethnic foods. Areas all over the world use ingredients in different ways. Some restaurants are becoming more aware and are able to accommodate, but I suggest being especially vigilant.
The same goes for any “take out” food. When you are putting an order in online or over the phone, you are missing the in-person interaction. Talking to people in person is the only way I can ever tell if they understand.
If there is a type of food that you are interested in that typically uses an allergen, try making that dish at home without the allergen. Going out to eat can be tricky enough sometimes. Cooking foods that intrigue you and adding your own flavor to the dish is a way to experience it in a safe way.
In order to create a scenario where “take out” is a safe option, it is crucial to build a relationship with a restaurant. Once you have a manger and chef that knows your name, allergies, and can safely put in your order over the phone, then you can safely give “take out” a try. Make sure to double check with the manager when you pick up your order and always look at your food before eating it.
Of course there have been and will continue to be times where I’ve been hungry enough to want to consider one of these risks. In the end, I always know that keeping myself safe is far more important than risking my safety.