Dining Out with Food Allergies

Dining Out with Food Allergies

by Natascia Simone, FAACT College/Young Adult Council Member

Food Allergy Awareness Week was a great success! I posted flyers all around my town in different restaurants and schools. I also was given the opportunity to speak to a middle school about food allergies. It was so inspiring to have children living with a food allergy look up to me with such excitement.

Another issue that many individuals with or without a food allergy overlook is dining out with food allergies. Most individuals order their meals with a special note on how their steak should be cooked, but food-allergic people must make sure that the tongs the chef just used to mix a walnut-cranberry salad are NOT the same tongs he is about to use to flip your steak. CROSS CONTAMINATION is key when dining out.

It is essential that your party and the waiter are aware of your food allergy prior to arriving at the restaurant. It is important to take the extra step for your safety and speak with the manager who is able to inform you if they can meet your needs. If they are unable to confirm your safety, fine another restaurant ASAP. It is not worth risking your life for a meal!

Once a restaurant manager has assured you that the restaurant can meet your needs, it is important to notify the manager, waiter, and chef of your allergy as soon as you are seated – the sooner the better. While you explain your food allergy, this is the time to take out your “Chef Card,” which explains in a description and image that you have a food allergy. This will be beneficial for individuals who may not speak English in the kitchen.

Once the waiter verifies that there has been a clear line of communication among you, the waiter, and the chef, it is time to place your order! Once your meal comes, it is VERY important (and I stress very because of my personal experiences) to inspect your plate of food for any signs of your allergen. Then take a very small bite and wait a few moments. If you feel fine, you are ready to enjoy your meal! If you feel any symptoms of an allergic reaction, immediately take the steps outlined in your anaphylaxis allergy action plan. 

Once your meal is done, the waiter will ask if you would like any desserts. The answer here is typically NO. Most desserts are produced in a factory that have no idea that you are about to consume their tiramisu that may have been produced next to their hazelnut cookie crisp. Stay away from desserts unless you can be assured that it is made on the premises and has not been cross-contaminated with other desserts or any other food containing your food allergen.

These are the steps I always take when dining out, and they have worked great for me. Things may not always go as planned, no matter how careful you may be. It is essential to always carry two epinephrine auto-injectors on you, as well as antihistamine to take immediately if an allergic reaction does occur. With all of this in place, you are sure to enjoy a meal with family and friends! Happy dining!


Natascia Simone will be entering her senior year this fall at Western New England University, majoring in Marketing Communications and Advertising with a minor in Entrepreneurship. After graduation, she plans to open her own “allergy-friendly” bakery that also serves items that are gluten-free. Natascia is currently Miss Mountain Laurel 2014, an official preliminary of the Miss America Organization, and will be competing for Miss Connecticut 2014 this June! In this position, she has spoken to students throughout her community about her platform, “Food Allergy Awareness: Be Aware, Share and Prepare.” Natascia is determined to address the disconnect between the customer and the server when dining out, the student and teacher when attending school, and the individuals who have a food allergy and the people who are part of their lives.

Natascia founded the "Keep It Safe, In Every Place" program in 2013, which is dedicated to promoting food allergy awareness in schools and restaurants. She also served as a camp counselor for Camp TAG (The Allergy Gang) and serves now as a College/Young Adult Council Member for FAACT (Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Connection Team). She understands living with a food allergy and continues to make sure others understand what can be done to save a life when an allergic reaction occurs – or better yet how, to prevent an allergic reaction from ever happening.