Teens in the Real World
  Food Allergies in the Real World  

Staying Realistic

By Carlo, age 15. Allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, fish, shellfish, milk, soy, wheat, and sesame.

Although I have food allergies, that does not stop me from going out to eat at restaurants. Actually, I go out quite often. It is difficult to go out to eat, but there are some things that you can do to make it easier. Because you are keeping yourself safe, though, you have to plan in advance if you don’t want to be disappointed.

When I was at a friend’s country house for a weekend, I had no idea where we would be going out to eat. However, my friend is a picky eater, and the restaurants he likes are also the places that have food I can eat. I also knew that it might not be the best restaurant I could think of, but I wouldn’t be taking any chances. The place we went turned out to be a burger joint, and I had a plain burger with no fries as they reuse the fryer for fish. This would normally be a disappointment, but I expected something like that would happen, so it didn’t even faze me. I was ready to make sure I was safe, so I assumed I would get a little less than what I am used to.

To keep myself safe at a restaurant, if it is an important meal and a busy place, I call ahead to make sure everything is OK and will be ready for me when I arrive. If it is just a normal meal out, I tell the server about my allergies as soon as we sit down. I tell the manager or the chef if the server doesn’t seem to get it or believe me. I then wait to order, and when I am ready, I ask questions about how everything is prepared, if oils are reused, and how often dishes are washed.

If there is even a slight chance that something is unsafe, I never risk it, because I would much rather be safe than sorry. Having someone else try your meal first to make sure that they have made it right can ease fears, and it is easy to taste things like butter. Another note: If they don’t get it right, keep the plate with you to make sure that they don’t just take the allergen off, leaving invisible traces that can cause a reaction.

Normally, if you go to a place more than once, they will know you and know how to keep you safe. Be careful when you’re telling them about your food allergies, because you must mention the seriousness of your allergies, or they might not believe you. But also be sure not to overstate how dangerous it is; they can start thinking that you are too much of a hassle to serve.

Overall, you have to be careful when you go out to eat; you can never be too careful. If possible, call ahead. If you can’t call ahead, make sure to talk to your server, and never take risks. Using a chef card helps inform the cooks as to what you are allergic to, but if you don’t give it to them yourself, they might not get it. You have to be patient with your servers, but also persistent. Then you will be safe eating at a restaurant.
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