How to Dine Out & Date When You Have Food Allergies

Let’s be serious here. I live in Manhattan. EVERYONE eats out EVERY night.  Sometimes I think I’m the only New Yorker that cooks everyday, but that’s okay- it makes me happy! I get the same question over and over again from friends at restaurants and at weddings and dinner parties…’What do you eat when you have food allergies?’ Trust me. It sounds a lot harder than it is. Whether you have celiac disease, gluten intolerance, a dairy allergy, nut allergy or soy allergy- you can do a few things to help you get a quality meal when dining out!

I’ve received so many letters from all of you readers about how to go on dates and eat out in restaurants when you have food allergies. Let’s just be clean on one thing: I’m NOT an expert on dating. Ha. I’m the complete opposite. A great date to me is having a seltzer or tea and amazing conversation. Unfortunately that’s not always what a guy wants to do- they like to drink beer, eat pizza…hehe. Just kidding. But when I do go out to eat with my friends or if I’m lucky enough to find a nice guy who asks me out to dinner, here’s what I do.

  1. Call Ahead. Always call ahead to make a reservation and to let the staff and chef know about your food allergies so that they are prepared and aware BEFORE you even walk in the door! You’re not being a bother, believe me. This is a must. Just be nice and they will respect you!
  2. Order What’s NOT on the Menu. In the mood for shrimp cocktail (MY FAVORITE) but don’t see it on the menu? Just ask- most restaurants have numerous items in the fridge or freezer than can be easily prepared specifically to your preferred taste.
  3. Eat Before You Go Out. I ALWAYS eat before I go out to dinner. YES, it sounds crazy but I often eat a handful of almonds or a few slices of organic turkey breast or chicken- just to hold me over since I can’t dig into the bread basket along with everyone else!
  4. Sip on Seltzer and Hot Tea. Keep your beverages simple. Filtered water, seltzer or tea are my go-to’s.
  5. Go Nuts. If you don’t have a nut allergy, carry along a snack bag filled with raw almonds, cashews, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and sea salt for a hearty homemade trail-mix without the added sugar that you can enjoy pre-dinner or post-dinner at a bar if you’re still hungry.
  6. Look What’s Nearby. Look for places that are near your restaurant-just in case there is a wait or the restaurant is closed. Or- if they ran out of the item you were going to order- you need an option 2.
  7. Where Are You Going To End Up? Where will the night take you? Is there a Whole Foods Market nearby? If so, after dinner, grab some hummus and veggies for a late night nosh if you’re still hungry.
  8. Tell Your Date & Be Honest. Or your friends or the host of your dinner party; this is not something to be embarrassed about. If they care about you- they won’t judge you and they’ll understand and help make you feel comfortable.
  9. Don’t Settle. Don’t settle on a menu item if it looks suspicious or there is gluten, dairy, etc. in it. It’s NOT worth the pain. Kindly send it back and then head to Whole Foods Market for a bite to each or reach into your bag for your nuts to hold you over until you get home!
  10. If The Guy Cares About You-He’ll Make it Work. He will. We’ve all got something, right? Food allergies should be the least of your worries when you’re thinking about dating. You’ll know he’s a keeper if he’s cool with you eating other foods- even if he is a pizza and beer kinda guy!



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