children with food allergies,
dealing with food allergies in group settings,
eating at restaurants with food allergies,
kids with food allergies who play sports,
Families with food allergies face an additional stress come sports season: finding restaurants that can accommodate their special dietary restrictions if they want to eat with their team. Paul Antico, the father of three children with food allergies and the founder of AllergyEats, the leading guide to allergy-friendly restaurants, spends considerable time traveling to his kids' soccer and hockey games, and has some advice for parents in similar situations.
Millions of athletes will be lacing up their cleats this fall, gearing up for sports practices and competitions. That means families nationwide will be spending significant time on the road, traveling to games, meets, practices, and tournaments. Families with food allergies face an additional stress: finding restaurants that can accommodate their special dietary restrictions.
Paul Antico, the father of three children with food allergies and the founder of AllergyEats, the leading guide to allergy-friendly restaurants, spends considerable time traveling to his kids' soccer and hockey games. He offers the following advice for families who have children with food allergies and need to negotiate the schedules and logistics of sports season.
- Do your homework in advance. Sports season means long hours on the road - and dining in unfamiliar areas. Use AllergyEats to research restaurants in your destination city and along your route. AllergyEats provides peer-based allergy-friendliness ratings and comments, as well as more than 450,000 restaurants' menus (including gluten-free menus), websites, allergen information and more.
- Ask questions. Ask restaurant staff about ingredient lists, how food is prepared and special protocols to prevent cross-contamination. Ask open-ended instead of "yes/no" questions. ("What kind of oil do you use to cook the French fries?" vs. "Are the French fries cooked in peanut oil?") The restaurant staff should provide confident answers to all of your questions. If you're not comfortable with their responses, leave and find another restaurant.
- Dine at off-peak hours, when possible. Restaurant staff are often better able to take the proper precautions with your order when they're less busy.
- Be prepared. Even the most conscientious restaurants can make mistakes. Always carry your child's Epi-Pen, Benadryl, or other allergy medications. If your child is traveling with their coach or another parent, be absolutely sure they know the signs of an allergic reaction, how and when to administer the medicine, and how to reach you in case of an emergency.
- Think beyond meals. At the beginning of the season, talk to your child's coach and teammates' parents about your child's food allergies. If snacks are served at practices and games, ask politely for everyone's cooperation in avoiding your child's trigger foods. Educate them about what foods are off-limits for your child and be proactive in offering suggestions for safer snacks. Be kind, but clear, in your instructions as you advocate for your child's safety.
- Encourage team spirit. Ask the coaches and other parents to help your child feel included in the team's experiences. If the team is going out for pizza after a game, find a place that offers gluten-free crust or dairy-free options, allowing your food-allergic child to participate in this shared experience.
- Rate your experiences. When you dine out, whether your restaurant experience was positive or negative, or somewhere in between, do the food allergy community a great service by rating each restaurant on AllergyEats. Rating a restaurant is simple and quick (it takes less than a minute) and helps other food-allergic individuals determine which restaurants to visit, and which to avoid.
Paul Antico is the founder of AllergyEats, a peer-based website and smartphone app that is the leading guide to allergy-friendly restaurants. Antico is the father of three children with food allergies, and saw a need for a site and app like AllergyEats, which is dramatically improving the way food-allergic and gluten intolerant individuals find allergy-friendly restaurants. AllergyEats helps food-allergic families quickly and easily find restaurants that will cater to their special dietary requirements – and avoid the ones that won’t. Most restaurant review sites include information about establishments’ food, ambiance or service, but AllergyEats is singularly focused on food allergies, with peer reviews spotlighting where people with food allergies or intolerances have more comfortably eaten. AllergyEats was recently selected as the About.com 2012 Readers' Choice Award winner for best Food Allergy App.
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