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I love finding new worlds through writing and reading. I am excited by creating new flavours and tastes in the kitchen. I am fascinated by nutrition and healthy lifestyle choices. I adore my my dog, family and friends.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Glimpse into the world of eating out with food intolerances

My diet restrictions involve the avoidance of fructose, egg, dairy, gluten, wheat, some nuts, and grains. As you can imagine, that list can make eating out rather difficult! I have always loved food, and I love the social side and the excitement that comes with eating out and trying new restaurants and delicacies. Unfortunately, my freedom with this activity is a distant memory to me. I do find it quite disheartening when I think about trying out a new fancy restaurant or a particularly tasty sounding dish, and then realising that I can not. It is frustrating, but of course, I have it far better than some, and I am thankful for what I can enjoy.
If you are like me, or have friends or family in this boat, do not despair! There are ways around it! You can still go out!

I have found a few places that are either really great at accommodating food intolerances and allergies, or provide foods that are simple and avoid a lot of the foods that I can not eat.

The places that I have learnt where I can eat at include:

Grill'd -The healthy burger joint. They provide gluten free bread buns (they still have egg and milk no doubt), and can cater to a range of specifications with their "build a burger" option, which allows you to specify meat, sauce and salad variations.

Fish and chip shops - This is such an easy staple for me. A bag of chips and grilled fish, and some salad without dressing and I am set! No cooking, no washing up, no pesky food reactions. Perfect.

Steak houses - I have eaten so much steak since changing my diet! Steak and chips and salad or vegetables is my go-to option; you will be hard pressed to find a basic restaurant which does not serve this option!

Pubs & cafes - Pub and cafe food allows you to find basic food, like chicken or steak and pair it with vegetables, salad and chips. Be careful, because these places might not stay as mindful of food intolerance specifications, but as long as you are direct about your needs, I find they do pretty well.

Sushi restaurants -  Staying clear of the marinades and fried foods, I can enjoy sashimi and rice and plain sushi. Delicious and healthy! Remember to ask for wheat free soy sauce!

Pizza capers - Pizza Capers now do an amazing gluten free base. They also are very open about their ingredients in their sauces, which makes avoidance of onions and garlic so easy, and they are very helpful in removing certain toppings and adding in others. I have waited for fix ups when they have done normal pizza bases and not gluten free, but aside from this, they are great.

Chips - If you are looking for a quick snack, hit Maccas or a fish and chip shop up for chips. If you buy hot chips from other places, make sure they are gluten free, or not seasoned with garlic. This might not be a healthy snack, but when you need to eat regularly like me, they can be a life saver when there a limited choices around.

Meat and salad from kebab shops - Here is a nifty trick! Ask for a plate of the meat from a kebab shop, and combine with salad with no dressing or chips. Make sure you choose the meat that does not contain added products, such as gluten, garlic and marinades.

Speciality restaurants - Gone are my visits to Indian, Mexican, Thai, Chinese and similar restaurants. However, my restrictions have opened up to me options that I may not have been aware of previously. Organic restaurants are becoming more popular as healthy foods become the preference, and they often provide options for allergies. I love the Mondo Organics restaurant in Brisbane's West End. Their menu specifies which meals are gluten or dairy free or vegetarian, and their food is so fresh and healthy. I even ate a meal of duck once! A delicious duck dinner which I did not have to create by altering a recipe, eating it in a restaurant! What a happy night that was! Look out for organic cafes and restaurants for menus that are mindful of food variations.

The things I have learnt that you need to remember when eating out:

People do not understand the complexities of multiple food intolerances until they have had personal experience with it. If you say "a milkshake with just banana and soy milk", somehow most people don't understand that you don't want other flavours to jazz it up. I have lost count how many times I have received a milkshake that has had honey, ice cream and yogurt in it, when I specifically said just banana and soy milk!! I understand that this seems bland, but for me it is amazing to have a drink other than water or tea, so the excitement gets kind of ruined when I take a big mouthful of flavours that are going to make me sick!!

Asking for no sauce or marinades seems simple enough. Multiple times though I have been presented with a meal that is drowning in sauce. One time I ended up in tears because of sauce! We had gone to Vanuatu on holiday, and I had been very apprehensive about how I would manage the foods there. On the first night there, I asked for steak and vegetables, no sauce or gravy, and it came out covered in sauce! I think I was just tired and overwhelmed, but the prospect of nearly two weeks in a country where they were not going to understand my needs left me embarrassingly in tears at the dinner table on the first night of a holiday! (It did turn out though that I could manage, and the rest of the fantastic holiday was spent eating yummy foods.) Be specific and clear, say that what you are asking to avoid will make you sick, and make sure they repeat your order back to you.

These days I usually say that I have allergies when I am eating out. It is more easily and readily understood, and makes people more vigilant than saying food intolerances.

Check the meal before you bite! You may look like a fussy five year old, but it is much better to be safe. So often sauce is hiding in the burger bun! I have had to return many meals before the first bite (or worse, after the first bite, when the damage has started!).
I always forget to say no butter on gluten free bread! This is something I need to remember, because it is very often slathered on before it arrives at the table.

Restaurant staff are often horrified and apologetic at the bland state that my meal comes to the table in, after all my specific requests. They don't understand how exciting it is to have a meal in a restaurant; a meal that I didn't have to prepare; a meal that means I can enjoy a social occasion out!! It does not matter if it doesn't look like it would in a magazine! Not at all! Enjoy the experience of eating out, learn what works for you, be descriptive and vocal and ensure the directions are clear and have been understood. Eating out is an important part of life in our society, and having food intolerances or allergies does not have to mean you miss out!

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