Out and about: Tips for eating at restaurants when your child has allergies

Oftentimes, people with allergies avoid restaurants because eating food they haven’t prepared themselves is too big a risk. It’s especially true of parents with allergic kids.

Fortunately, nowadays, restaurants are increasingly aware of this issue and are taking more precautions than ever to avoid health risks.

The magazine Hôtels, Restaurants & Institutions reported on this new tendency: "A growing number of chefs are happy to provide meals free of major allergens on the menu or offer to prepare adapted versions of their specialties. This trend should continue and be extended to more and more establishments in Quebec."

Even though it’s easier than ever for parents of allergic children to enjoy a night out with their family, you should still exercise some precaution.

A little preparation goes a long way

Focus on restaurants that already have a policy on food allergies in place or that offer special allergy-free menus. If you’re unfamiliar with the restaurant you’re going to, don’t hesitate to call ahead and ask the manager if the restaurant is able to welcome you safely.

You can also request to see the menu beforehand if it’s not available online, so you can identify the allergens that could be problematic. Take note of the dishes you like and ask the right questions to learn about the ingredients and the risk of cross-contamination.

To avoid unpleasant surprises, make a reservation and notify the staff of your child’s allergies. That way, they can be properly prepared. Also, never leave home without your EpiPen and your MedicAlert bracelet.

Tips to follow at the restaurant

Once you get there, it’s important to establish a good relationship with your server as he or she is the one relaying the important info back to the kitchen staff.

Make sure your server understand the dangers of contamination by explaining your child’s condition clearly. Provide him or her with all the crucial details, such as a list of ingredients to avoid (including derivatives and alternate names of these foods ( to avoid confusion and human error).

Also, explain the dangers of cross-contamination from food, utensils or hands, so they’re aware of the measures they need to take to prepare a meal that’s safe for your child to eat. It’s important to be respectful and patient when discussing these matters, as their cooperation is essential for a worry-free evening.

Allergy-friendly restaurants has compiled a list of restaurants and chains that offer allergy-free or gluten-free options, in order to help you make an informed decision for your next outing. Feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments below.

  • Pacini: Pacini offers a pasta and dessert combo created specifically for people with food allergies. It was developed by Guardian Angel Foods and is available in all its locations across Quebec.
  • Casey’s: Casey’s provides you with a guide containing a list of allergens present in their menu, so you can substitute or remove ingredients as needed.
  • Cosmos: This small chain has three restaurants in the Quebec City area boasting a menu by Hypo Délices. It contains no trace of the eight main food allergens, and includes a soup, three main courses for adults, two kids’ meals and a chocolate cake, all 100% safe.
  • Ottavio: This pizza and pasta restaurant offers a full gluten-free menu and takes several precautions to ensure your well-being.
  • St-Hubert: One of Quebec’s most popular chains, they provide a nutritional guide including a list of the food allergens in each dish available on the menu. They also offer two choices of desserts certified egg-free, peanut-free, nut-free and dairy-free, developed by Guardian Angel Foods.
  • Zero8: This innovative Montreal-based restaurant boasts a full gluten-free menu containing none of the eight main food allergens.
  • Cage aux Sports: Each restaurant offers a nutritional guide and a list of food allergens contained in their menu.
  • Boston Pizza: Boston Pizza has gluten-free options and an allergy-friendly policy that allows you to remove or modify ingredients in dishes containing allergens.
  • Mikes: All locations offer a guide containing information on the nutritional value of their meals, which also contains a list of all the allergens on the menu.

If you plan on travelling to the United States, the website AllergyEats offers a list of allergy-friendly restaurants that you can browse by region or by allergen.

You can also download the app iEat out Gluten and Allergen Free, which will help you choose a meal that takes your child’s allergies into account.

Sources: The Quebec Food Allergy Association, Health Canada

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