Sunday, March 15, 2015

Dining Out on a Gluten-Free Casein-Free Diet

When a child has a food allergy or sensitivity, dining out can be tricky, trying to navigate what menu items do not include potential allergens. When Alex was seven years old, we discovered that he, like many children with autism, has sensitivities to glutens found in wheat and other grains and to milk products. Since then, we have tried to keep his diet as free of gluten and dairy products as possible. The availability of online menus with nutritional information makes it easier for us to dine out at restaurants or to get take-out food from fast food restaurants. Some restaurants make this task easier than others, depending upon how user friendly their nutritional guides and allergen information lists are. Here are some of our favorite restaurants and how they fare in terms of presenting information and offering food Alex can eat on his gluten-free and casein (dairy)-free diet.

Yats—This Cajun and Creole restaurant always offers at least two main dishes that they clearly identify as GF (gluten-free) and DF (dairy-free) as well as providing vegan choices. Alex’s favorites: white chili or red beans and rice, minus the bread that comes with the meal

Bob Evans––This family restaurant with a large menu makes ordering allergen-free easy, listing common allergens: dairy, egg, soy, wheat, glutens, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, and shellfish, along with sulfites, MSG, and yellow #5.  When ordering online, a gluten-free option is available to make choices clearer. Alex’s breakfast menu: scrambled eggs, home fries, sausage links, and seasonal fresh fruit dish

Dickey’s Barbecue Pit—This restaurant famous for its barbecued meat offers an easy-to-read chart with allergen information for eggs, dairy, soy, wheat, seafood, shellfish, peanuts, and tree nuts. Alex’s pick: chicken breast or pulled pork with cole slaw and barbecue beans

Panera Bread—This bakery restaurant used to offer a more detailed allergen menu; however, they now seem to have some concerns about being specific. Their website states: “At this time, this website does not identify allergens for added or removed ingredients.” Fortunately, we figured out what Alex can eat before they became so cautious. Alex’s choice: classic salad

Noodles and Company—In contrast to Panera, Noodles and Company has become more helpful to those with food allergies, offering gluten-free pasta as a substitution for their famous noodles. In addition, they offer an easy-to-read nutrition and allergen guide chart along with a nutrition sorter for various allergens: peanuts, tree nuts, soy, milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, and wheat/gluten. Alex’s favorites: Chinese chop salad minus wontons or Pad Thai

Chili’s—This family restaurant offers easy-to-read allergen menus online, categorized by the common allergens (eggs, milk, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, wheat/gluten). Alex’s favorite: classic sirloin without garlic butter, corn on the cob, and steamed broccoli

Fazoli’s—This Italian restaurant provides an ingredient statement online for items containing milk, egg, soy, wheat, peanuts, and tree nuts. However, one must then look up individual menu items to see what ingredients they contain, which is not user friendly. Alex’s choice: Italian house salad without cheese

Tomato Bar/Pizza Hut/Domino’s Pizza—These pizza places now offer gluten-free crusts, and cheese can be omitted to make the pizza gluten-free and dairy-free. Alex’s pick: gluten-free crust, no cheese, topped with Italian sausage and mushrooms

McDonald’s—This fast food place offers a very specific ingredients list, noting the allergens milk, soy, wheat, egg, and fish, but at 36 pages, it isn’t very user friendly. Alex’s choice: hamburgers minus the buns with a side salad or apple slices

Wendy’s—In contrast to McDonald’s, Wendy’s offers a nice easy-to-read chart online regarding nutrition information along with information about gluten and food allergies. Alex’s favorite: plain baked potato topped with chili

Burger King—This fast food restaurant provides a gluten-sensitivities list and an allergens guide for milk, wheat, egg, soy, fish, peanuts, and tree nuts. Alex’s choice: hamburger or Tendergrill chicken fillet (minus the bun) and French fries

Arby’s—This fast food restaurant known for their roast beef includes an eight-page online listing of ingredients and allergen information for milk, soy, egg, wheat, and fish. Alex’s favorite: Arby max roast beef sandwich (minus the bun) and potato cakes

Subway—This sandwich fast food restaurant offers a very nice online chart listing allergy and ingredient information. Alex’s choice: turkey breast (no bread), with lettuce, tomato, pickles, black olives, and green peppers

Although we have learned to cook foods at home that Alex can eat on his restrictive gluten-free and casein-free diet, it’s nice to be able to eat at restaurants or bring home carry-out food at times. Thankfully, many restaurants now understand the needs of their customers who have food allergies and provide them with detailed information so that they can choose from the menu and know that they will avoid those foods to which they are sensitive or allergic.

“Taste and see that the Lord is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in Him!” Psalm 34:8


K. C. Wells said...

Thank you for posting this!! It's so helpful to have all the allergy information. It's nice to be able to go out from time to time and not have to worry about the allergy issue.

Pam Byrne said...

Hi K.C.,

I know that you have dealt with the food allergies challenges, too, so you have been as vigilant as I have. On a happy note, Culver's now offers gluten-free and dairy-free buns for their sandwiches, and they even keep them wrapped so that they can't be cross-contaminated. Alex is really excited about this because he's been eating their sandwiches without buns for years. :) Hope you all are well.