Thursday, July 16, 2009

Something sinks in...


Yesterday Rosie was playing "mommy" with a play purse. She had a play package of cookies in the purse and went over to Daisie and said, "You can't have these, they're allergic...they're gluten free!". I thought it was so cute! And it made me realize that something is sinking in, even with a not quite three year old.

Getting one's point across is not an easy task. With our children we reiterate the need to be careful about their food choices due to allergies or celiac disease on a daily basis. When we eat by the homes of others or in restaurants, we must begin the education process anew.

I was delighted to see in my local paper, an article last month with tips on eating out for vegetarians. As I was reading the article, I substituted "celiac" for "vegetarians" and found it applicable and very helpful. In "Vegetarian: Chefs tips on navigating meat-filled menus" by Robert Bieselin, The Bergen Record, June 1, 2009, the reporter recounts ups and downs of navigating restaurant menus with a special needs diet. Overall, he feels for a successful experience you must be a bit flexible as well as assertive. For those with special dietary needs to have an enjoyable experience in a restaurant, the responsibility falls partly on the patron, and partly on the servers and chefs.

Here are some tips he shared:
1) Choose your restaurant wisely. Try to view the menu before going to determine if there are any dishes you can have. Call ahead if necessary to discuss your needs.

2) Be flexible. If there are no entrees that meet your criteria, choose instead 2 or 3 appetizers.

3) Make sure your waiter is able to tell you about the "hidden" offending food in the dishes. For example, the author says that there is often chicken stock used in soups that one may think is a vegetable only soup. The same is true with gluten. Flour is routinely used as a thickener in sauces and soups.

4) Speak up for yourself. If your server is not knowledgeable on the ingredients or preparation techniques of the menu items, speak to the manager or chef. They restaurant wants you to enjoy your experience and return. They should be willing to accommodate you as much as they can.

5) Recognize when the restaurant is not the best choice for you and move on. Don't take it personally if they don't have a good selection of dishes that fit your special needs. A pizza and pasta place for example might not be the best choice of restaurant for a celiac, but a steak house would be great!

I hope these tips help you whether you are wandering the world on your summer vacation or staying put. In reading personal accounts of people newly diagnosed with celiac disease, many feel reluctant to participate in social events at others homes or restaurants because they don't feel comfortable with the food situation. But if you are prepared and assertive about your needs, then you can fully enjoy these experiences.

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