Going to a restaurant and eating out is usually a treat for us. When it was just the two of us (my husband and I), it was one of our favorite things to do. We are both foodies and enjoy exploring new and good eateries. After our first child K developed eczema, however, eating out became a source of frustration and challenge. We were always scared that K’s eczema would flare up and even experience a potentially dangerous and life-threatening allergic reaction. It took a bit of trial and error, but we learned how to eat out with food allergies in our children. We learned various strategies to mitigate these potential events. Fortunately, my children are able to eat almost anything at this point. We are very grateful for how far they have come. Through this article, we hope you can gain confidence and hope for your family as well!
I want to list my top eight strategies for eating outside the comfort of our home in a restaurant.
We researched the restaurant ahead of time before we went. We looked at the menus online to see if the food that they served were safe for children. Many chain restaurants have foods that are pre-made. I have found that non-chain restaurants are much more accommodating for people with food allergies. Some even offer menus free of common allergens.
Here’s a website that might be helpful- https://www.allergyeats.com/
You can type in your zip code and it will find restaurants that will accommodate you and your children with food allergies and sensitivities that can affect their eczema.
I have mentioned to servers or hostess about my children’s eczema and food allergies in the past. Many restaurants (not all, of course) are very accommodating and even ask about allergies before taking orders. You can even ask them to leave out certain allergens. For example, if you’re ordering pizza or salad, I ask to leave out cheese/dairy which was a trigger for my children and for myself when I was breastfeeding.
Bring your own food.
This is another strategy I employed when I was figuring out how to eat out with food allergies. I would make purée of the various foods that my kids are eating at the time and feed them while my husband and I ate the food from the restaurant. I also brought a box of hemp milk, which my kids were drinking at the time.
If you’re traveling to a different country, consider creating “Allergy Cards”. These are cards with the food groups that are translated to the native language of the country you are traveling too. For example if you were traveling to Germany, you can have the food that you were allergic to in German.
As the Boy Scout’s motto goes, be prepared. I know this sounds dramatic but I had my children’s EpiPen And an antihistamine, Benadryl or Zyrtec with me in my diaper bag at all times. There’s nothing worse than rushing off to the pharmacy to buy an antihistamine because my child started having an allergic reaction.
Bring a friend or family member
I would bring my mother-in-law with us when we ate out. She is a great source of help as she will keep an eye out on her children when eating and help distract them from scratching while I ate. After I finished eating, it would be my turn to watch the kids and then she would eat. We did this if my husband was working or couldn’t come out with us. After we had 2 kids, it really helped when I had my husband and mother-in-law as well.
This isn’t really eating out, but sometimes we just resorted to ordering take out and bringing the food back to our home. This allowed us to eat in the comfort of our home and feeding them home made meals. I do not have to worry about my kids scratching, crying and then causing a ruckus in the restaurant. I do not have to worry about them eating something that will cause an allergic reaction.
Avoid common allergens
In case you forgot, here is a list of the most common allergens to avoid:
- Cow’s milk
- Tree nuts
Finally, there’s the least favorite option: avoid eating out. I did not want to list this because this is not the best advice and something that people probably don’t want to hear. I suppose it is obvious but the truth is we have more control in her home than outside our home. From my experience, I have found it very stressful eating out with my kids with eczema and prefer to eat in the comfort of our home. Sometimes, but not always.
What about you? How did you deal with the stress of eating out? Did you figure out how to eat out with food allergies for your children?