It’s Holiday Time again, which means long road trips (at least for our family) to visit relatives. Every time we travel, I get a feeling of dread and worry: what will I feed Little Z? Where can we stop? Will he have a reaction if I feed him a plain hamburger patty from McDonalds? (which is the last thing you need when you are away from home!).
In the past, we just fed him carby snacks (like chex and apple slices) but those are not very filling, and if it is a really long car ride, that is just not acceptable. I discovered an easy solution to this problem: We always travel with an ice-filled cooler and containers of homemade, allergy-friendly meals. When we stop to get gas, I simply microwave his meals in the gas station’s microwave.
This is also something that doesn’t have to take that much pre-planning since I started making and freezing a lot of the meat ahead of time. It is easy enough to take meal portioned amounts and throw in some frozen veggies and leftover potatoes (or boil a quick batch of GF pasta).
Eating out is quite a hassle if you have multiple intolerance or allergies. It’s a lot easier if you simply want a gluten free meal, but pair that with other allergies/intolerances, and you will have quite a task on your hands!
It also comes with several risks: if food is not handled/prepared with the utmost care, Little Z will not nap well, will cry, scream, whimper through the night, get a yeast infection/lesions on his bottom, and be sick for several days (and my son’s reactions are relatively mild compared to children who have anaphylactic reactions).
Because of this, and the cost involved, we don’t eat out all that often; however, when we do, these are the steps we take:
- Call ahead and ask to speak to a manager (if possible, speak to the kitchen manager).
- Explain your situation, allergies, and explain what types of foods you would like to try if possible (Little Z has so many off-limits foods, it’s easier for me to tell them what I want and for them to let me know if they can accommodate me). For example, I always ask if they have 100% chicken, turkey or beef that is unseasoned and doesn’t come in a brine/solution/marinade. To prepare it, I explain they can cook it the following ways: boil it in water, cook it in 100% canola or olive oil, or grilled (as in a wood-fire grill) with a piece of tin foil under it.
- Request that they double check the labels (for example, chicken breasts often are injected in a solution, which may have gluten).
- When you arrive, let them know you called earlier and ask for the manager. Re-explain your wants and needs again to the server and manager and have them involved so the kitchen staff doesn’t contaminate the food.
- Remember that most people don’t have a good understanding of food allergies, or the proper precautions in handling them. So don’t feel like you are explaining too much or dumbing things down. One time we ordered our son a burger with nothing on it: “no bun, no seasonings, no ketchup nor mustard. Nothing. Just the hamburger patty.” They still brought it to us with the bun on it, and the server said I could just take it off. I had to explain to her that because the bun touched the meat, he can’t eat it because it will make him sick.
Usually, restaurant staffs are very helpful, friendly and accommodating. Just remember to stay friendly and leave a good tip. I used to be embarrassed, and I felt bad for inconveniencing my server and the restaurant staff, but they don’t have to suffer with a reaction if the food is not prepared properly!
On the few occasions we have eaten out, we have had more success than I would have thought. Here are some of a few:
Fiorella’s Jack Stack (Plaza location, Kansas City, MO)
BD’s Mongolian Grill (Independence, MO location)