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  • George VanHaaften

Eating Out With Friends and Food Allergies

Updated: Apr 29, 2020

Going into high school as an outgoing teen with food allergies, my friends and I would often go out to eat or to the local mall to hang out and goof around. Eventually, I got my driver's license and my friends shortly after did the same. After football games or my basketball games, we would go out to eat somewhere. Having food allergies, I had to manage to stay safe along with fitting in with my friends. I have had good and bad experiences throughout my journey so far. Here are some of my best strategies for staying safe and not missing out on hanging out with your friends.

First, going out to eat in high school is really common where I'm from, and because of this, it is important that I have supportive friends that I can trust. The more my friends understand my dietary restrictions, the easier it is to spend time with them and feel confident that I will be safe. I am willing to take whatever precautions necessary to stay safe. If that means asking my friends not to eat Doritos around me because of my dairy allergy, then I do it. If they aren't willing to accommodate me then I know need to get them to understand how serious food allergies are. If that doesn't work, it's time to find new friends. Having understanding and accommodating friends is the first step to feeling and staying safe when out to eat.

My second strategy for staying safe is doing research ahead of time. A lot of us grew up with food allergies and have had to do this a lot already. Personally, my friend group often goes to places like Wendy's, Chipotle, and a local Mexican restaurant. Wendy's and Chipotle both have great websites for nutritional information. If it is a local place you are going to, I have found it is best to call ahead. Talking to the chef directly can give you a lot of confidence when it is time to order. Calling ahead or looking at the restaurant's website can make a huge difference in keeping your experience as safe as possible.

The third method that I suggest is to be assertive when ordering. Unfortunately, not everyone understands what it is like to live with one or even multiple life-threatening food allergies. While in the past couple of years restaurants have become much more educated on the topic, there are still some workers that just don't understand enough. I often get embarrassed to speak up in front of my friends but I know deep down that if they give me any crap for it, they simply aren't true friends. Speaking up about your allergies can be and is scary but living with it all my life, I have learned that it's important to ensure that I am staying safe. If you can't speak up, you might as well not go out at all.

Overall, coming into a restaurant prepared and confident is really important to feel safe while eating out. Alongside that, making sure you are eating with friends that understand the seriousness of eating with food allergies and that you trust is just as important. If you can apply these three skills, you will be on your way to having a much better experience eating out with friends.

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