How to Eat At Restaurants When You Have Dietary Restrictions

Between the ordering, the awkwardness, and the sea of questions, dining feels overwhelming.

 

Heck, I still feel like that at times.

 

But, treating yourself and going out is totally doable once you know what to say and which questions to ask.

 

Cause if you are like me, you’ve probably had these thoughts:

 

  • “I’m being a diva.”
  • “I don’t wanna draw attention to myself.”
  • “I am going to look rude if I don’t order anything.”

 

I need to remind myself that no one else is going to take care of me unless I do. It's not rude or selfish.

 

I always assumed people judged me and thought that I was some sort of gluten free vegan princess. Literally, no one thinks that. That was just some made up stuff my negative self-talk was bull sh*ting about.


So, here's how to order food at restaurants when you have allergies:

 

I know I’m going to be the most difficult person at the table, so I usually talk about my allergies in a lighthearted, playful manner and pull the waiter over to chat about the menu shortly after we get a table.

 

Start by saying this:

 

Hey! I’ve got a few allergies, so can we chat about what’s good on the menu? I totally want to make your life super easy.

What on the menu is gluten-free and vegan?

Ok, great! I have a few extra bells and whistles. I’m also allergic to corn, soy, and oats.

Then, at this point, they usually check with the chef, and come back to you with a solution!

Then, I thank them graciously and tell ‘em how much I appreciate it.

 

Then, ask about cross-contamination:

 

  • If you are ordering something that is deep fried, ask if things with wheat also go into the deep fryer.
  • When ordering toast or a burger, ask if the restaurant has a separate toaster for gluten-free items. If not, ask for it untoasted.
  • Craving a bowl of pasta? Ask if the restaurant makes it in a special, designated gluten free pot. If not, pass.  
  • If I am ordering a gluten free sandwich, I always ask the sandwich gurus to change their gloves and make mine on top of a fresh piece of wax paper or a clean plate so nothing gets contaminated.
  • Same thing goes with pastries - I ask the person to grab it with a piece of wax paper and not the regular tongs if they also sell wheat flour pastries.
  • I know these things are super nitty gritty, but for me, it's the difference between having a great night and one in a ball, on the floor, in the fetal position.

 


How to handle any food situation:


 

Dinners out with friends:

 

  • Don’t be shy! Suggest three restaurants where you can eat, and then let your pals pick one.
  • Or, invite them over and let everyone bring some ingredients, then cook something simple and delish together that you can all eat.
  • Ethnic food rocks by the way! Indian, Malaysian, Thai, Middle Eastern, Lebanese. Most of these cultures do lots of gluten free and vegan dishes. Yummy and simple to order.

 

BBQ’s & picnics:

 

  • Bring something you can eat. Hummus and veg for the win! Veggie skewers for the BBQ!
  • Also, eat before hand. The worst thing to do is show up hungry to an event and not be able to enjoy the food. I’ll silently devour the whole bag of salt n’ vinegar chips...

 

Business lunches:

 

  • Call in advance and ask what is gluten free and vegan. Then figure out what you’ll be ordering and what substitutions need to be made.
  • Plus, this way I can spend as long as I need to on the phone with the chef or waiter, rather than feel rushed.

 

Dates:

 

  • Yeah, this can get hella awkward if you are on a date with someone who has no idea what you are talking about and wants to go for an all-you-can-eat BBQ ribs fest...
  • Opt for coffee dates instead of sitting down dinners! Problem solved.

 

Weddings:

 

  • Call the venue or the caterer and confirm that they have received your dietary restrictions.
  • Don’t leave it to the wedding couple. Things can get lost in translation and they get super busy!

 

In the worse case scenario, you can still make it work:

 

  • Life happens and you wind up at a Chinese restaurant. Soy sauce galore.   
  • Ask for a bowl of rice.
  • Order a tea.
  • Order some sauteed or steamed veggies.
  • Sometimes, I literally excuse myself from the table and go buy a snack bar or some nuts at the closest store.

 

Peace, love, and gluten-free avocado toast!

-Kelly