Eating Out: An Allergic Foodie’s Strategies

I’ve been eating out a lot since arriving on Hilton Head Island about a month ago and I haven’t had any bad reactions–just a few mild GI symptoms. I consider this a victory. After all, with over 20 food allergies as well as celiac disease it’s pretty tough  finding gluten-free and allergy-free entrees on a menu. During past trips to the island, I spent many days curled up in a ball with stomach pain while my family was on the golf course or riding bikes on the beach. So what’s making this stay different?

For one, I’m picking safer restaurants and avoiding the “bad ones.” I read online what other allergic foodies say about a prospective restaurant and check out the celiac and allergy apps. I also review the online menus.  People in the south fry everything from octopus to tomatoes, so I look for menus featuring lots of local fish and salads. If I’m still not sure if I’ll be able to order safely, I call the restaurant and ask to speak to a manager or chef. By the time the hostess greets us, I usually know what I’ll be ordering.

Sadly, I’m finding more and more restaurants are cooking with vegetable oil because it’s cheap. Many waiters aren’t aware that vegetable oil is soy oil or a combination of soy and another oil.  I react horribly to both soy and corn oil.  One of the first questions I ask a restaurant–even ones I’ve been to in the recent past–is what oil they use for cooking. I also ask about any “fake butter” they may use. I make it clear that I cannot have a drop of vegetable oil.  While many celiacs avoid Italian restaurants because of the flour used in pasta and pizza, I’ve actually had some of my best meals in Italian restaurants. One of my favorites on the island is OMBRA Cucina Rustica. The chefs cook with olive oil and the menu offers lots of delicious gluten-free and dairy-free options.

Another reason I’m not getting sick as often is because I’ve started taking my own dressings and sauces. My go-to meal for lunch is a salad with shrimp or salmon or grilled chicken. I’ve gotten sick so many times from the salad dressing–even homemade dressings from upscale restaurants–that I just don’t want to take a chance anymore.  I carry a small container of dressing with me. If I’ve forgotten, I ask for olive oil and balsamic or red wine vinegar. As a last resort, I’ll use fresh lemon on my salad.

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I eat a lot of salads so I’m thrilled when one looks like this one!

Last night we tried One Hot Mamma’s American Grille for the first time because I knew they offered gluten-free ribs. (I also was a fan of Orchid Paulmeier when she was on Season 7 of Food Network Star.) I asked for my ribs dry as I’d brought along some Bone Suckin’ Sauce with me. Our server was well-informed about allergies and took my request for no dairy, soy, or gluten seriously. However, when my ribs arrived, they were covered in barbecue sauce (no dairy, gluten or soy). I’d neglected to tell him I was also allergic to corn, which was likely in the catsup they used. While my husband and son immensely enjoyed the saucy ribs, I waited for a rack without sauce (also delish!).  In the south, restaurants cook with a lot of corn starch–I’ve learned this the hard way.  Cornbread and corn on the cob are often featured on menus. This is great for my younger son who has celiac, but not for me.

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Jamaican Jerk Bowl from PURE Natural Market in Hilton Head.

I also have better luck sitting at the bar and ordering from bartenders who are typically full-time professionals and not summertime staff.  We always tip well for good allergy-free service. After coming here for so many years, many of the bartenders know me and my allergies by name.

When I’m in new places, I look for ethnic, farm-to-table and vegetarian/vegan restaurants. There weren’t a lot of options on the island back in 2008 when I was first diagnosed, but there sure are now. One of my recent discoveries is a vegetarian/vegan restaurant called Delisheeeyo. I order the “Happy Wrap”–veggies wrapped in rice paper with an apple cider vinaigrette.

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The Happy Wrap with gluten-free rice paper at Delisheeeyo.

Pure Natural Market offers lots of Jamaican-influenced allergy-friendly options. I saw a new place called Healthy Habit out by the airport, which I hope to go to before we head back to Colorado Springs. We also now have a Kroger (42 Shelter Cove Lane) with a huge “health-food department” as well as a Whole Foods (50 Shelter Cove Lane). This makes it easy to pick up quick and safe meals for beach picnics.

It’s taken me many years–and many good and not-so-good experiences –to learn how to dine out safely.  If you have a tip for safe restaurant eating, or want to share a good or bad restaurant experience, please comment below.

“Eating Out: An Allergic Foodie Shares Strategies” first appeared at “Adventures of an Allergic Foodie.”

The Case of the Gluten Free Corn Dogs–and a Giveaway!

I nervously answered my cell phone. The call was from our local neighborhood security company, and my husband and I were away on vacation.

“Ma’am, there are a lot of boxes on your doorstep . . . they appear to be . . . ugh, corn dogs.”

I let out a sigh. I’d forgotten Foster Farms had offered to send me their new gluten free corn dogs to review. I explained to the baffled officer that I was a food blogger and I’d have my neighbor put them in our freezer.

That was last October. Those corn dogs sat in my basement freezer until the College Celiac came home for his winter break a few weeks ago. Because they contain soy, corn and egg which I’m allergic to, I couldn’t taste them myself. Which was really frustrating because I once liked corn dogs–before allergies and celiac disease–and the photo on the box taunted me every time I opened the freezer door.

As soon as College Celiac dropped his backpack on the kitchen floor, I said, “Wanna corn dog?”  I really needed that freezer space for the Christmas ham.

College Celiac was more than willing to oblige. Corn dogs were always one of his childhood favs.

He quickly microwaved two. After I took the obligatory blog photos, he microwaved the corn dogs again because they got cold.

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 College Celiac’s review of Foster Farms Gluten Free Corn Dogs: Two Thumbs Up!

My college boy was happy the breading didn’t crumble like a lot of gluten-free breading–even after microwaving two times–and he said they were tasty. Well, what he said was: “They taste like the corn dogs I used to eat.” This is high praise coming from a guy who hasn’t eaten gluten in three years.  Of course, he added a little Cholula sauce–he and his brother eat everything with Cholula sauce!

Foster Farms GF Corn Dogs

So here’s the lowdown on these dogs. They are certified by the Gluten Intolerance Group, which requires foods to have less than 10 ppm of gluten per serving; a serving is one dog. GIG also evaluates every ingredient for cross contamination. A press release from Foster Farms says, “All ingredients are required to be gluten free and are labeled, stored and processed separately from other ingredients. Foster Farms Gluten Free products are manufactured separately from all other normal finished products. Analytical verification testing measures and sanitation practices are instituted, documented and confirmed with every production run.”

Kudos to Foster Farms for their gluten-free practices and their transparency. Wish more companies would publish statements about what they do to keep those of us with celiac disease and food allergies safe.

You should be able to find Foster Farm Gluten Free Corn Dogs, as well as gluten free breast strips and nuggets, at your local grocery store. If not, call Foster Farms at 800-255-7227 for help finding a retailer. Even better, tweet this post with #FFGlutenFree, like this post and/or write a comment below, or like my Facebook page and you can win a voucher for a free box of Foster Farms Gluten Free Corn Dogs.

The Case of the Gluten Free Corn Dogs first appeared at Adventures of an Allergic Foodie

Start the New Year with Udi’s Gluten Free–Enter Giveaway Today!

The Udi’s Gluten Free “care packages” arrived just in time for the College Celiac’s Christmas Break. It’s been a rough four years, trying to adapt to life with celiac disease while being away from home. Okay, truth be told, it’s been harder on me than him. I worried if he was eating enough nutritious foods.

So I was thrilled to introduce my son to new foods from a company I trust. These burritos were a hit. He added Cholula Hot Sauce. What is it with college boys and Cholula?

Udi's Gluten Free has eight varieties of burritos. Allergens: Egg, Dairy, Corn

Udi’s Gluten Free has eight varieties of burritos. Allergens: Egg, Dairy, Corn

Based on the dirty dishes I woke up to on several mornings, the Udi’s Gluten Free Plain Tortillas were also quite good.

These tortillas come in small and large. Dairy, soy and nut free. Allergens: egg.

These tortillas come in small and large. Dairy, soy and nut free. Allergens: egg.

For those of you who are regular readers, you know I’m not much of a baker. Thankfully, Udi’s provided the College Celiac with treats this holiday: Snicker Doodle Cookies and Dark Chocolate Brown Bites (both soy and nut free). I have no photos because they disappeared so quickly.  And someone only left one  Double Vanilla Muffin.

Who ate all the Udi's Gluten Free Muffins?!

Who ate all the Udi’s Gluten Free Muffins?!

My plan was to add berries on top of the muffins with some whipped cream.  In fact, I’d planned on creating several of the terrific ideas Udi’s Gluten Free pinned on Pinterest, but then the other hungry son with food allergies came home.

For Christmas dinner, I served Udi’s Classic French Dinner Rolls. Even my husband–the Eater of Everything–said they were delicious.

New French Roll from Udi's is dairy, soy and nut free. Allergens: egg and corn

New French Roll from Udi’s is dairy, soy and nut free. Allergens: egg and corn

Udi’s also has a new French Baguette that I’m planning to serve with split pea soup this evening. The boys are rallying for baguette pizza.

When I post Instagram photos of  my meals using Udi’s foods, I’m often asked where followers can buy Udi’s. Udi’s started in Colorado and I live in Colorado, yet many of my stores don’t carry the foods Udi’s offers.  If you go to their website catalog, there is a link to either order the products or find a store near you that carry the items. I suggest you ask the manager at your favorite grocery store to start carrying Udi’s; sometimes there is a form you can fill out.

Okay, so now that I have your mouth watering, I bet you’re wondering how you can enter to win one of Udi’s holiday prize packs or coupons for free product. It’s quite easy–just click here.

Good luck. And may you have a happy, healthy gluten-free New Year.

Udi's Gluten Free Giveaway

 

Start the New Year with Udi’s Gluten Free–Enter Giveaway Todayfirst appeared at Adventures of an Allergic Foodie.