One of the primary reasons we own vacation rental homes is because of my extensive food allergies and other dietary restrictions. Not only am I allergic to six of the “top eight” labeled allergens, I am also allergic to many other vegetables, grains and fruits that are not required to be labeled in the US. I also have been diagnosed with Celiac Disease so I cannot have any gluten foods. I have outlined some of the steps I take when dining out in Orlando so that my family can also enjoy a meal away from home.
Before You Go
If Possible Choose A Disney Property Restaurant
Disney restaurant chefs are very aware of the seriousness of food allergens and gluten free options. The chefs and staff are trained about cross contamination, prep and cooking issues that affect those with food allergies. When using the dining reservation program, you can submit your special considerations right into your reservation online.
Many off Disney property restaurants, particularly chain restaurants, have staff that are trained as well. I usually shy away from restaurants that are small business owned as they often do not have the space for separate prep and cooking areas.
Call Ahead and Speak To The Chef or Kitchen Staff
Ask lots of questions, such as: Do you have separate prep and cooking areas? How are the staff trained in food allergens? How do they respond to an emergency? Is it possible for you to view ingredient labels? In some cases I have requested my selection of food on the phone prior to arrival. Many times we have to go off-menu to accommodate my needs and every experience I have had with a Disney property restaurant they has been more than accommodating.
Make a laminated card that lists all of your allergens. It is helpful for the chef to refer to it while he is preparing your meal.
I also pack a small cooler with something small to eat, just in case. I usually bring my own salad dressing and a small piece of protein because the restaurant may not be able to meet all my needs. That way I am guaranteed something to eat.
At The Restaurant
Make Sure You Have Your Epipen With You!
It is estimated that about 50% of fatal food allergy episodes happen outside of the home. To avoid hidden sources of allergens, make sure your table and chairs are well cleaned before sitting down and make sure the staff is aware of your allergens right from the start. If you have called ahead, the staff should be aware of your allergens and should communicate it to you.
Speak With the Chef
The chef will come directly to your table to speak with you. Don’t be afraid to tell him or her exactly how you would like your meal to be prepared. This is a good time to give the chef your laminated card for his/her reference while preparing your meal.
Keep Your Selections Simple
I usually order a piece of meat or fish pan seared in only olive oil. I am very specific about exactly what they can and cannot use. If available, I ask for my salad to be only romaine lettuce and I use my own salad dressing I have brought from home. I avoid fried foods and desserts as they have the highest incidences of allergen episodes me and for most individuals.
Make Sure Your Meal Is Delivered Separately By Someone Who Is Aware Of Your Allergens
Confirm your order with the person who has delivered your meal to make sure it was prepared to your specifications. Many times the serving staff are not as well versed about allergy safety. I can’t count how many times the server have garnished my plate with parsley and I have had to send it back.
Do Not Eat Anything You Suspect And Send It Back If You Are Not Sure
Go with your gut on this one. I recently had a waitress who rolled her eyes at me when I explained my allergens and sure enough the information was not conveyed to the chef. Instead of listening to my gut and sending it back, I ate it and ended up in the ER about an hour later. If you have a bad feeling about the genuine concern of the wait staff do not be embarrassed to ask for another person to take your order. Better to mildly offend them, then to end up with a reaction.
Being proactive about my allergens has helped me to reduce my episodes to a point I can enjoy a family meal at their favorite restaurant. This has been especially important to them while we are vacationing, as we love to family time over a leisurely meal.
Contact us for vacation rental homes in the Disney area at https://vacationorlando.rentals