Best healthy, allergen free options for eating out or on vacation.

Group Of Friends Enjoying Meal At Outdoor RestaurantFor some of us certain foods can contribute to health issues. Because of this, it helps, at least for a time, to reduce consumption of these foods. Many times I get asked how can you eat out when there are restrictions such as dairy free, or gluten free, or soy free, or egg free or nut free? I’ve had lots of practice and below will share my tricks to get around this stuff.

These days, at least in North America, its relatively easy to cater to dietary restrictions when eating out. The current gluten free trend happening makes it easier than ever to find gluten free options. Avoiding dairy, or eggs, or nuts, or soy etc can also be achieved with not too much effort.

The following are some of my tricks when traveling or eating out:

  • Salad with protein: my personal favorite. Almost all restaurants these days will have a selection of salads with the option to add some protein: tofu, chicken, salmon, beef etc.
  • Rice bowl: Often served with rice, veggies and some sort of protein.
  • Hard boiled egg – many places and even some cafes are now selling hard boiled eggs for those that enjoy or can eat eggs.
  • Veggie plate with humus – try to avoid veggie plates with ‘ranch dressing’ or avoid the dressing and just eat the veggies.
  • Grocery store finds:
    • Bag of carrots or celery and humus
    • Fresh fruit
    • Whole red, green, yellow or orange pepper – eat like an apple
    • Beef jerky (but look for one that contains less sugar and preservatives)
    • Canned fish with avocado
    • Box of spinach with vinaigrette style salad dressing and baby carrots

Things to watch out for:

  • Soups and sauces: these can often contain dairy or gluten or soy. Make sure to ask when ordering one of these items
  • Breaded proteins: Restaurants will often bread chicken or fish and sometimes it’s easy to miss this when reading a menu, pay particular attention to this when ordering.
  • Salad dressings: often contain soy or dairy and sometimes gluten. Most places will give you an oil and vinegar/lemon if none of their dressing options work for you.
  • Sugar: Gets added to so many things in the North American diet. If you are sensitive to sugar or just need to reduce how much you are eating, then try to avoid sauces, and ask about salad dressings and soups.

Don’t be shy to ask, you may feel like you are creating inconvenience to them but this is YOUR health that you are working on. Remember it gets much easier with time to find foods suitable to meet your dietary needs. Diet can be such a hard thing to change as we have many cultural, social, emotional ties with food and eating with company. My personal experience is that when I eat foods that make me feel good I know it’s so worth making the effort to keep out the things that don’t make me feel good.

If you have the option, choose a grocery store or restaurant over a cafe. There are a few cafe’s out there that now serve healthy items, but many times there will be a plethora of pastries and not much else. I always assume it goes without saying to avoid fast food restaurants, but figure I better mention that as well.

I hope that helps those of you working with dietary restrictions.


Meaghan McCollum, ND

Meaghan-130x150I am a strong advocate of integrated healthcare. To me this means bringing together all forms of healthcare from your healthcare team and communicating to help you reach your health goals. I work along side all types of practitioners and treatments.

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