Eating out with dietary restrictions is difficult.

My name is Anna Stover, and I have celiac disease along with a multitude of food allergies. I have gotten sick many times when eating out at restaurants; something went wrong in the line of communication between me and the people responsible for serving my food. After years of experience, here are the red flags I have learned to look out for when ordering out.

To start, the menu is the best way to gauge the overall allergy awareness of the restaurant.

For example, if they have a separate gluten-free/allergen menu or different icons indicating vegan, gluten free, vegetarian etc, that usually indicates at least a basic awareness.  

Next, let’s focus on the body language of your server.

Every time I go out to eat, I always tell the server the exact same thing: I have an allergy to …, and their reaction will tell me a lot. If your server gets a blank look on their face, then they likely don’t understand allergies very well. One time I asked my server if a menu item has gluten in it, and the server said, “Yes, it does because they use butter.” Butter contains dairy, not gluten. Comments like this make me extremely nervous because it also indicates that if your server doesn’t know the answer they will give you their best guess, which isn’t good enough when it comes to your health and well-being. If your server doesn’t know the answer, make sure you talk to someone who does before you eat there.  

Finally, once you find which restaurants can accommodate your allergies, keep going back there!

People with special dietary needs have a reputation for being loyal to restaurants they can trust, and I am no exception! I keep a list in my phone of restaurants that I have had the best experiences with, and it makes it super easy to decide a place to eat.

Want to become a member of the Teen Advisory Board?

Food Equality Initiative’s Teen Advisory Board (TAB) is dedicated to increasing support and information for those with diet-related illnesses. TAB has a general meeting once a month and offers masterclasses quarterly. 

Recent projects include: writing personal letters explaining our experiences with food allergies and helpful tips for how to handle your own and creating posters to promote National Food is Medicine Day. 

Feel free to reach out with any questions to Anna: erin@foodequalityinitiative.org

To apply: https://forms.gle/rxb25sj9KuqiVMiV8 

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