written by: CatNorth
• edited by: Diana Cooper
• updated: 3/21/2011
Although a few eateries offer allergy-free dishes, you can't always find restaurants with a dedicated allergy menu. For some people, though, any exposure to food allergens causes severe reactions. Several chain restaurants are standardizing their menus and guaranteeing allergy-free food preparation.
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Not only are food allergies serious, they can also be fatal. Some people have such an allergic reaction to certain foods, such as nuts or gluten, that any exposure can cause severe health problems. However, having food allergies doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy dining out, and you can find restaurants with a dedicated allergy menu. For local restaurants promoting allergy-free menus, call ahead before making reservations and inquire about ingredients used in foods, as well as typical food preparation methods. Call a second time with the same questions and compare answers to discover possible inconsistencies about food handling and likely exposure to allergens, recommends the Calorie Lab website1. Chain restaurants might offer the best and most reliable option for avoiding food allergies because several of them are standardizing their menus and options for allergy-free foods.
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Wendy’s is known for offering a number of healthier fast-food options on its menu. The chain restaurant’s March, 2011 menu update focuses on gluten-free menu items3 , such as Wendy’s chili, hamburger patties, frosties, salads and some dressings. However, the restaurant’s menu update urges customers to regularly check the company website for further updates on allergy-free foods. It also suggests checking with individual restaurants as ingredients and preparation methods can vary slightly among various restaurants. Avoid fried food items, such as chicken and fries, as these may contain or have traces of gluten. If you’re vegan or want to stay away from dairy, avoid Wendy’s frosties, cheese products and some dressings.
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Chipotle Mexican Grill
Chipotle Mexican Grill uses no tree nuts, peanuts, or any other kind of nut in its foods, according to the company’s website4. Many of the restaurant’s food items are gluten-free, except for its flour tortillas, and its red tomatillo salsa may have traces of gluten. Chipotle’s crispy corn chips and tacos are gluten-free, and you can request that your server change their gloves before preparing a dish for you including these items to avoid cross-contamination with gluten, according to Chipotle’s website4. The restaurant also offers some vegan and dairy-free menu options.
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The Outback Steakhouse provides a gluten-free menu, as well as general guidelines for allergies5. The restaurant marks gluten-free menu items with a “GF" and provides a wide variety of dishes for those with celiac disease, or who are allergic to gluten. For example, you can order any of the salads, except for those with mustard vinaigrette or blue cheese dressing, according to the restaurant’s gluten-free menu. You can also order restaurant favorites, such as Grilled Chicken on the Barbie GF or Baby Back Ribs GF. Keep in mind that different restaurants in the chain can vary in how they prepare dishes. Although the restaurant does not cook with peanut oil, peanut food items are used in other dishes. Follow the restaurant’s guidelines for avoiding its dairy-based or meat-based menu items.
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Cold Stone Creamery
Although it’s rather difficult to avoid dairy products at a restaurant that specializes in ice cream, Cold Stone Creamery does offer dairy-free smoothies and sorbets, as well as its fresh ice cream. The restaurant also uses low-calorie ingredients and sugar-free substitutes in some of its ice cream. However, the ice cream eatery uses nuts and wheat ingredients in some of its food items.
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Although some eateries promote consistent allergy-safe dining, such as certain chain restaurants, more often than not, their allergy-free menus only pertain to particular allergens such as gluten. Hence, restaurants with a dedicated allergy menu may or may not offer dishes that you can eat and still avoid your own food allergen. Gluten-free foods seem to be all the rage in the early part of the 21st century, but as food trends and consumer demands change, so do restaurant menus.
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Calorie Lab: 16 Tips for Dining Out With Food Allergies: Insight From Food Allergy Experts, Advocates and Professionals http://calorielab.com/news/2011/02/04/dining-out-with-food-allergies/
Gluten Free Restaurants: Wendy’s Gluten Free Menu http://gfrestaurants.com/wendys-gluten-free-menu/