Caviar’s Guide to Ordering with Food Allergies

By Kelsey Gonzalez, RD, MDA

“Gluten free” is just one health claim that has become somewhat of a buzzword over the past few years. Wheat is one of the most common food allergies, along with milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, and soy. Looking to order from your favorite restaurant while adhering to dietary restrictions? There are a few ways to avoid these top eight allergens without disrupting the integrity of the dish (who says your gluten-free lunch has to be bland and boring?). Here’s a breakdown of these allergens, along with some practical tips for ordering to ensure your meal arrives tasty and safe to eat.

Wheat

Get creative by utilizing vegetables such as sweet potato or zucchini in place of bread, or wrapping burgers and sandwiches in lettuce in order to accommodate a gluten allergy. Other options to replace wheat include rice or quinoa bowls and corn tortillas instead of flour. An added bonus to substituting brown rice, quinoa, and stone-ground corn tortillas is they provide a great source of fiber, nutrients that contribute to a healthy gut, a decreased risk for chronic disease, and promote weight maintenance. “Build your own” concepts are also a great way to customize your lunch option and opt out of ingredients containing wheat, like the Build Your Own Burger from Dick’s Primal Burger in Portland, OR.

Milk

Dairy, such as cheese, butter, and cream, is a frequently requested substitute on many dishes when ordering out. More often than not, Caviar restaurants give the option to order cheese on the side or add vegan cheese to meals such as wraps and sandwiches, making it easy to accommodate dairy allergies. Bluestone Lane in New York, NY, even gives the option to indicate a specific allergy, such as dairy or nuts, for their dishes like the spiced chicken wrap:

Condiments are another ingredient to watch for because some commonly contain dairy, such as salad dressings. Most often, dressings are kept on the side, which ensures that the meal remains high quality (no one wants a soggy salad drowning in dressing) while also keeping the salad itself dairy-free. If a dish doesn’t specify whether or not dairy-containing condiments like cheese and dressing come on the side, and there is no option to select a specific allergy, use the special request box to communicate changes with the restaurant. . In the case that a restaurant cannot accommodate special requests, it’s safest to avoid the dish in question all together.

Eggs

Most individuals with an egg allergy know to steer clear of dishes that star eggs (think cobb salad), but condiments can pose a risk for those trying to avoid eggs too. Mayonnaise and Caesar dressing are two condiments that, surprisingly, contain egg. Caviar restaurants often list condiments and toppings included with the meal so those with an egg allergy will know if the meal adheres to their dietary needs. Eggs are sneakily a common ingredient in most baked goods, especially pastries and desserts. When ordering a sweet treat, make sure to read the description in detail to make sure it doesn’t contain egg. Alternatively, use the Caviar search tool to find egg-free baked goods by searching “vegan bakeries” or “vegan desserts” (vegan food is guaranteed to be egg-free). For example, Trilogy Sanctuary in San Diego, CA, is a vegan bakery and juice bar, sure to have desserts, baked goods and all other dishes made without eggs.

Soy

Replacing soy for those with an allergy can be especially tricky for vegetarians and vegans. Why? Tofu is a main source of plant-based protein and is made from soybeans. Foods containing soy are commonly found in Asian cuisines (think soy sauce, edamame, miso soup). Luckily, there are many other plant-based, protein-rich foods for soy-free individuals. Now, more than ever, restaurants on Caviar are getting creative with exciting vegetarian and plant-based entrees using protein-packed foods such as beans, quinoa, lentils, and seitan. Use the search bar to find vegetarian and vegan options, as well as thoroughly read dish descriptions to make sure the meal will adhere to soy-free dietary needs. If you’re uncertain whether or not a dish or specific ingredient contains soy, use the special request box to communicate allergy requirements or questions about that ingredient with the restaurant.

Fish/Shellfish

Even though most restaurants serve dishes with fish or shellfish, there are some cuisine types that specialize in seafood. Japanese cuisine, for example, is more likely to have a majority of dishes containing fish or shellfish on the menu. Despite this fact, individuals with a seafood allergy are still likely to find a suitable meal option. Look for vegetarian sushi rolls or bento boxes that can be personalized. Choose teriyaki chicken, a vegetarian sushi roll, and other sides that accommodate a fish and shellfish allergy for a complete meal. Asian Box in San Jose, CA, has a variety of customizable Vietnamese dishes and even gives the option to indicate an allergy, such as shellfish or peanut.

Peanuts & Tree Nuts

Research shows that peanut allergies are one of the most common of the top eight allergens and can elicit the most severe allergic response. Restaurants on Caviar understand the severity of this allergy and work hard to ensure that peanuts and tree nuts come served on the side of a dish, or give the customer the option to indicate that allergy whenever possible. Some restaurants offer substitutions for both peanuts and tree nuts, like sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, and flaxseeds. It doesn’t hurt that these swaps also contain protein and healthy fats, such as omega-3s.

Thankfully, there are many alternatives currently on the market that make it easier than ever for those with food allergies to find safe food to eat. Similarly, restaurants on Caviar are becoming more knowledgeable about food allergies and getting creative in the kitchen by developing dishes that are just as tasty — if not more so — than the original versions.

Check out our Healthy Enough collection for delicious, good-for-you meal inspirations from restaurants picked by our in-house nutritionists.

For updates on more Healthy at Home content, follow us at Caviar.

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