The prospect of eating out when you have specific dietary needs can be a bit of a minefield and may cause you to break out in a cold, anxiety ridden sweat. But you should know that you CAN relax, and enjoy a night off cooking with a wonderful meal out, you just need to be a little more organised than the average person.
Here’s a few tips for you to be able to relax and eat out joyfully:
1. Do your research in advance
This isn’t to say that you can no longer be spontaneous about eating out: that is still possible. But if you want to be really sure that you can eat out safely and enjoy your meal, it’s best to do a little bit of research before hand. In terms of research, our old pal Google is always a good place to start: simply typing in your dietary need and the area you want to eat in should give you some options to start with. Of course, when Eat Safe is available for wider launch in London, we won’t even have to go as far as Google to know how much choice we have at restaurants near us in the capital! Until then, most of the chain restaurants have become quite good at providing offerings for those with dietary requirements and a lot of their menus are available to view online. If you can’t get hold of a menu online or you want to clarify their kitchen processes, give them a call – it could save you a lot of hassle down the line!
2. Keep a list of go to grab and go places in mind
You’ve done your research in advance but somehow things with your intended restaurant don’t go to plan: they mess up your booking, are closed due to unforeseen circumstances or when you go in and see the place you get a ‘this place isn’t actually a safe place for me to eat’ vibe (FYI – ALWAYS trust that instinct). Don’t panic, thanks to that list (or the Eat Safe app) in your back pocket, you know the nearest place where you can at least grab some hummus and carrot sticks (substitute guac for the hummus in the case of sesame allergy, obviously).
3. Be strong on your needs with your friends & loved ones
One of the more uncomfortable elements of dining out with dietary requirements is worrying too much about how that will impact the experience the person you are eating with will have. Let’s be clear here, that person will have a much better time with you if you are relaxed and at ease about your meal. If friends are arranging a meal out, don’t be afraid to pipe up about your dietaries: it’s sometimes helpful (and necessary) to make suggestions of places that you know are safe for you if the venue hasn’t already been booked. If the venue has been pre-booked and you’re not sure whether they cater for you, give them a call and chat things through.
4. Get comfortable explaining your needs in restaurants
It’s annoying, but not everywhere trains all of their staff fully, and whilst in our minds it should be their responsibility to make sure we get a meal that’s safe for us to eat, the reality is that in order to enjoy your meal you need to take charge. Sometimes you’ll go somewhere and tell a waiter ‘I’m a Coeliac!’ and they will instantly tell you what’s safe for you to eat. Amazing – cue big sigh of relief. Other times you will have to remind each member of staff you interact with at every stage of your meal. And you’ll need to be strong about questioning if the meal you are given doesn’t look quite right: kitchens are busy places and you should never suffer in silence!
Whatever you dietary needs, remember that you are not alone and that there are thousands of others out there who feel the same way: they may even be sat behind you at that restaurant ordering from the gluten free menu!
To hear more about Lea, do check out her site at caneatattitude.com!
We’d love to hear from you about your eating out experiences – Eat Safe was designed by people with dietary requirements, FOR people with dietary requirements, so the more input we can get from you guys, the better. And don’t forget to follow us on Facebook for regular news and updates about the app and our upcoming release and events!
Lots of love,
The Eat Safe Team x