The Covid-19 outbreak has forced everyone to avoid public areas and stay indoors. What started out as a precaution (or even an opportunity to catch up on life) has turned into a real fear. Today, families of all sizes are stuck indoors with nothing to do and no foreseeable end to the situation. For many, this means hours of TV watching, repetitive dinners, and constant scrambling for something to do. Unsurprisingly, many people have begun to turn to food to keep them entertained. From trying out new recipes to experimenting with new orders, food has become the main focus of millions of people. But how can a food allergy family experiment with new restaurants while also staying safe? How can someone ensure that their culinary adventure won’t put them at risk?

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Do Your Research

It may require a little more planning and can take some of the spontaneity out of ordering in, but by choosing your restaurant wisely, you are more likely to keep yourself safe. Check out the menu. Keep your allergies in mind and take note of what dishes you think may be safe. Many chain restaurants have their ingredients and allergen information readily available online so use this tool to your advantage. Make sure to avoid restaurants that are obviously problematic (no seafood restaurants if you have a shellfish allergy) and be wise when choosing your cuisine (better to avoid Asian food if you have a sesame allergy).

Gather Reviews

There’s no reason to trust your instinct when you can trust other people’s experiences. Most restaurants, especially ones that claim to be able to cater to the allergy community, will have reviews. A little googling and some Facebook stalking can tell you a lot about a restaurant. Additionally, there is a strong and thriving allergy community online. Use this to your advantage and ask your peers for help. More than likely, someone else has already tried and tested the restaurant you’re looking to order from, and they can be a big help when it comes to choosing your dishes.

Make sure to leave a review after you order too! Whether good or bad, your review can help the next customer with food allergies navigate their way through ordering in.

Order Simply

Unless you can be sure of what’s in the sauces and spreads covering those sandwiches or what the secret ingredient is in those nachos, better to keep your orders simple. A grilled steak, some seared chicken, or even a simple salad are all great options. Not only are you looking to avoid the actual ingredients in the dishes, but you want to keep cross-contamination in mind. Choosing something that doesn’t require many stages or is less likely to share oil with other dishes is likely your best bet.

Order Over the Phone

In the digital age, ordering online is all too easy. In just a few simple clicks, you can have food on the way to your house. However, sometimes, it’s safer to use the phone and speak to an actual human being. When communicating the severity of your food allergies, having a person on the other end of the line is vital. Ignore the convenience that comes along with ordering online and call up the restaurant. Ensure they understand what you are allergic to and how important it is to keep your food safe from cross-contamination.

Plan Ahead

Most restaurants – even when only open for takeout and delivery – have busier times and slower times. For example, weekends tend to be busier than weeknights, and afternoons are slower than evenings. The last thing you want is to risk your food allergy with a busy chef. When ordering food with food allergies, it is better to order during an off time; aim for a time where you can be confident the chef is giving you their undivided attention and can take their time being extra careful with avoiding cross-contamination.

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Ordering in – especially when homemade meals start becoming repetitive – is a great way to spice up your day. However, when dealing with food allergies, it is vital that you be extra careful throughout this entire process. Make sure you are avoiding restaurants and dishes that are problematic. Keep open communication with the staff and trust other people's reviews and experiences. That said, always make sure to have your EpiPen ready and try not to be too adventurous.