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Restaurant Survival Tips for Special Diets

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This page was first presented as a handout at the Autism Society of Wisconsin in April,2002, by Lori Kornblum. It is revised and presented in our book, An Extraordinary Power to Heal (2003), Bruce Semon, M.D., Ph.D. and Lori Kornblum, and has been further revised since then. They also are the parents of an adult with autism who is on a yeast free, wheat free and dairy free diet. We hope that this is helpful information for people who are following special diets, including ours.

1. Eat in good restaurants. The higher up the “food chain” you go, the more likely you are to find food that you or your child can eat. Cheaper and chain restaurants often use prepared and pre-packaged food that have additives and oils you can’t have. Good restaurants usually cook what you can eat.

2. Ask lots of questions.  Explain that you have serious allergies.  In this day and age, gluten free is pretty common.  The basics are: no wheat, no vinegar, no wine.  Most other things fall into place.

3.  Order what you can eat. Good choices are: baked potatoes, plain, with butter on the side (if you eat butter), salad with lemon wedges, steamed vegetables IF AND ONLY IF they do not have oil on them (ask and ask again); broiled meat/chicken/fish–again ascertain that they have no added oil or margarine. Plain is the key to winning this game. 

4. Bring extra food. Explain to the server that you/your child is highly allergic and you wouldn’t want to risk a reaction. Order salad, or sliced tomatoes, or some food.

5.  Leave a big tip.

6. Avoid deep fried foods, such as french fried. Usually the oil is used for other foods, that may have gluten in them.

7. Ask MORE questions.  We have gone into the back of restaurants to read the ingredients labels.  You would be surprised how many foods have hidden malt in them.  Ask to talk to the chef. If the chef is offended, or won’t reveal secrets, order sliced tomatoes or other raw food.

8. Call ahead to place your order and discuss the menu with the chef. Most chefs really appreciate this.

9. In Chinese restaurants, if the oil used is OK for you/your child, you might be OK ordering stir fried vegetable/meat dishes without mushrooms and without soy sauce. Some Chinese restaurants will use the oil that you bring with you (Safflower or Canola oil).

10. Mediterranean restaurants often are good choices, because they use Olive Oil.  Many do not use vinegar, preferring lemon instead.

Please feel free to use this information for personal use, and to copy and distribute it. This page may be reprinted as an entire page on any other website, as long as the website properly credits the author and links back to our website.  This page may be copied for other publication with our permission, as long as you attribute to Wisconsin Institute of Nutrition, LLP.

For more information on how to implement a special diet, complete with recipes, we recommend our books An Extraordinary Power to Heal (2003),Extraordinary Foods for the Everyday Kitchen (2003) and Feast Without Yeast(1999). An Extraordinary Power to Heal (2003) gives you detailed instructions, day by day and week by week, about how to eliminate toxic foods from your diets. We give you the recipes and menus to do this inExtraordinary Foods for the Everyday Kitchen (2003) and Feast Without Yeast(1999).

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