Eating Out With Food Allergies

Jane Lawson

I'm a 20-something on a mission to defining myself, and ending stigma surrounding allergies, autism and out-of-the-box thinkers. In my free time, I write the unconventional web series I've been creating, tend to my garden, and binge-watch stuff on Netflix. I blog at janepedia.com.

This weekend, I went to a wedding shower for a cousin who is getting married this year (I have two who are getting married this year). I almost said no, because I didn’t think it was optional, but the cousin kept saying it’d be really cool if I was there and that it was fun, so I agreed. As a writer, I also thought the experience would be a great educational opportunity. (Isn’t everything, though?)

Turns out it was at someone’s house, and I was so nervous about an allergic reaction I made a pact with myself to hang onto my purse at all times — because one EpiPen resides in it.

The question before we started eating? “Does anyone have any allergies?” My family all mentioned and pointed to me. Surprisingly, the hostess was prepared.

Um, WHAT? She explained the contents of the foods respectfully, and then answered my question regarding nut-containing foods like she was used to it.

Saturday could have gone so bad, but it didn’t. Here’s how to prepare for a similar event in case the host(ess) isn’t as lovely.

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Take your drugs

Your EpiPen, your inhaler, your throat drops, your antihistamine tablets — whatever you need to manage your allergies in case of an emergency, take them with you. I like to have water on me at all times, so I took a water bottle straight from the refrigerator with me.

Try to sleep well

When you sleep well, and adequately, your body can handle attacks, like allergic reactions, better. When you’re exhausted, you may skip steps and not have as much control over yourself.

If the host isn’t transparent with ingredients, have someone else try it

Some ingredients, like almond flour, may be harder to differentiate between nut-containing and nut-free when tasting, because its light in flavor.

But for other dishes, like baked goods and candy, it’s better to be safe than sorry and avoid it than to chance anything. (I mean, you should always be safer than sorry, but baked goods and candy are more likely to contain allergens.)

Ask what’s on the menu

If you can get a hold of the host (or restaurant or wherever you’re going), try to find out the menu in advance and explain your allergies. Being forward instead of catching them off guard upon your arrival may help them plan the menu a little better so you can enjoy something there, too.

Eat before you go

With food being such a huge part of social culture in many societies, not eating is often perceived as rude. But shouldn’t there be an excuse? Life-threatening allergies aren’t something to shrug off.

If anyone asks, explain your situation. If they think you’re being rude, ask if they’d rather you die in their home. I imagine the threat of losing real estate value will straighten them right up.


If you need help, read my previous article on responding to allergy critics with grace.

Have you ever been to a wedding shower or someplace where you were nervous about the food being compatible? Let me know in the comments!

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Post Author: Jane Lawson

I'm a 20-something on a mission to defining myself, and ending stigma surrounding allergies, autism and out-of-the-box thinkers. In my free time, I write the unconventional web series I've been creating, tend to my garden, and binge-watch stuff on Netflix. I blog at janepedia.com.

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