Eating Out With Food Allergies

OK, so this is a question for anyone and everyone with food allergies. I have a peanut allergy (most of my life), so I know how to avoid it and many restaurants are good about listing allergens, etc., but since DS had his anaphylactic reaction to peppers three weeks ago, I have been really nervous about letting him eat out. In addition, he's had several mild reactions to several foods with paprika (I didn't realize it was there), so I've decided to do a clean sweep of everything that he eats to determine what contains peppers. I spent hours last night (until 1 AM) looking up ingredients in his favorite foods, and unfortunately, most of them contain peppers or paprika or some type of pepper powder. And it's not on most of the allergen lists, which makes it harder because I need to see a list of ingredients. He's not happy about this because as most 13 year olds, he loves pizza, and the premade and delivery pizza all have some form of paprika or peppers in the sauce. It's been exhausting trying to figure out what he can/can't have. I now understand what my mom felt like when I had severe food allergies as a kid. So my question is how can you find safe places to eat? I have two particular places where I know he can eat, but I'm pretty nervous about letting him eat anywhere else because of how bad his reaction was, and I definitely don't want to spend another evening in the ER because of a food allergy. 



Comments 9

  • Melissa G

    Dory, have you visited KFA is a subdivision of AAFA. 

    Eating out with food allergies is hard but doable. Pulling foods from a child is difficult but doing it when they are teens is rough. 

    Does your son like to help you cook? Maybe making thing from scratch could help him with the transition. 

  • Breatheeasy

    I had no allergies. Zero allergies to food until about 20 yrs of age. If I had any it’s was hardly noticeable. I did have a lot of environmental allergies. But all of a sudden at 31 I had my 1st mild anaphylaxis like reaction. It happened every time I ate out. So I gave up eating out. I cook everything for myself at home. Still can’t believe that this is happening to me at this age.

  • dory2005

    Melissa, I will check it out! Thanks! DH and I are involving him in our meal planning so that he feels like he has some control over his food choices, and he is definitely wanting to learn to cook, which I think will help as well. Thanks so much! 

    Breetheeasy, I'm so sorry that you have had such a rough time! I'm allergic to peanuts, but that's the only food allergy I still have. Hopefully, it will get easier to deal with.

  • K8sMom2002

    Hugs on the anaphylaxis! Could you reach out to your allergist and ask for guidance on exactly what pepper ingredients you absolutely must avoid for now and what you might challenge in the future?

    We avoided several corn derivatives for a lot longer than we probably needed to because we didn't know we could do oral food challenges for each ingredient. You can typically order some of these ingredients (for instance, we challenged maltodextrin from corn specifically) from food service websites, and your doctor can (if it's safe and advisable) challenge what would be the amount that would be in a serving of, say, pepperoni. I'm thinking of a derivative like oleoresin of paprika — which may or may not contain enough protein in it to trigger an allergic reaction. Only your doctor can help you figure out for sure — but it may take some detective work on your part as well.

    It can be super tough dealing with a non-top 8 allergy and chain restaurants. Could you start local? Another thing that helped us was focusing at first on independently owned, farm-to-table types. They were willing to help us by changing recipes and keeping their kitchen processes safe.

    And as far as chain restaurants, could you reach out to local owners and management that you know? They can pull actual labels for you to take a peek at. That was one thing that helped us figure out safe options at restaurants — we knew people who owned franchises and they wanted to help us in any way that they could. From there, it was easy to ask the national home office of these chains, "Is your food standardized?" and at each chain location, "Do you use only food bought from your national supplier?" 

    As far as pizza … in the interim, here's a quick pizza fix that is really tasty and is as quick as take-out:

    • 1 store-bought safe pizza crust
    • 2 or 3 BIG tomatoes, sliced (peeled first if you want) or a bunch of plum tomatoes
    • Extra virgin olive oil
    • Garlic (minced, powdered, whichever you prefer)
    • Onion (ditto)
    • mushrooms (sliced) and any other toppings you like
    • Salt,
    • fennel seed
    • basil (dried or fresh)
    • oregano
    • Mozzarella
    • fresh ground pork (maybe a half a pound at most)

    In a pan, start browning the fresh ground pork and add some salt, garlic, onion and a pinch of fennel seeds (a little goes a long way). Voila! You have Italian sausage. You can actually make this ahead and freeze it in individual packages to reheat or mix the seasonings and freeze it to make ahead.

    Meanwhile, slice up those tomatoes, drizzle in olive oil, add salt, basil, some garlic and onion. Let it hang out for a while as you're making the crust and grating the mozz.

    In a broiler pan, broil your tomatoes under high heat until they start to carmelize a bit and begin to break down. (You can also do this in a pan on the stove, or better yet, on a grill, too, by the way — even tastier).

    Grate your cheese, and prepare your crust per package directions. 

    Spread your cooked tomatoes out on the crust. Sprinkle with cheese. Add your browned sausage. Add your other toppings — whatever you like — mushrooms, olives,  bacon, but please no pineapple! Sprinkle more cheese. Cook until the toppings are tender and the cheese is bubbly.

  • dory2005

    Cynthia, Thanks so much!! The allergist said to avoid all chili peppers and powders, including paprika. I have started checking with local restaurants, and several were very willing to accommodate my request and even checked the ingredients for me. But I will definitely start checking with some of the chains as well. Thanks for the pizza recipe–it looks awesome!! 

  • K8sMom2002

    Dory, good luck with the chains! Let us know which chains work the best with your allergy set, and I'll try to remember to add any allergy-friendly chains that I can think of as they occur to me.