Special Order: Requesting Allergy Friendly Kid’s Meals

Written by Shannon on February 25th, 2013

Healthy Eating, Healthy Living

We had to take wheat and dairy (and spelt, rye, and pineapple) out of my daughter’s diet. It’s an intestinal reaction and likely temporary, although our plan is to keep it our of her diet for the long term to give her the best possible chance of these not becoming a permanent intolerances.

We don’t have any problem with this at home. I make most of our food, and for the few things we eat that are made with wheat or dairy, we can buy substitutions for her. The problem is, we love eating out, and a number of cuisines are completely off the table. Mexican and Thai are easy to find and alter for her needs, but they get boring after awhile.

I’ve found a number of restaurants where everything on the kid’s menu is wheat based, and half of them have cheese. My kid would be happy to have nothing but fries every day, but that doesn’t seem like a good idea. I have been to a few places where the kid’s menu has interesting choices, but they are few and far between. Then there are the restaurants that proudly proclaim that they have Gluten Free options. The vast majority of these also have chicken tenders, hamburgers, and pasta as the only options on the kid’s menu. One day, I got fed up and sent this letter to a place we used to love, but could no longer visit as a family.

This is the letter I sent:

Dear Owner of Wilde Rover,

We have loved your restaurant since we moved here almost 3 years ago. Recently my daughter was diagnosed with an allergy to wheat and dairy, and on our last visit to your restaurant, I discovered that all the options on your kid’s menu have one or both of those things in them. Because of this, we will not be able to eat at the Wilde Rover any more.

I know that it is easiest and cheapest to feed children hamburgers, fries, and chicken strips, and while I was pleased to see that you had one option on your menu that is actually an Irish meal, the Bangers and Mash have dairy in them so we could not order them. I ended up ordering the cheeseburger and fries for her without cheese or bun, but we were not offered anything to make up for the missing portion of the meal. At home, our daughter loves corned beef and cabbage, vegetables, fruits, rice, quinoa, and many other foods. It is a shame that she cannot explore new options when we eat out.

I love it when a restaurant has multiple options for meals. Where you can pick your main course and one or two sides to go with it. Some restaurants are beginning to offer fruit, raw veggies, steamed chicken, rice, even shrimp, all of which we have ordered and my daughter has happily consumed. I am even willing to play a little more for a meal for her, if it is nutritionally complete.

We are sad to not be able to eat at your establishment anymore. If you decide to make changes to make your menu more interesting and flexible for people with food allergies, we will be happy to come back.

Thank you for your time,
Shannon Hillinger

I got a response a couple of weeks later from the owner, saying they had never thought of this as a problem before, and he would talk to the chef. A few weeks after that, we discovered that they had changed the kids menu, to include baked (non coated) chicken, and some veggies. It isn’t perfect, but then what is? It’s much better than it used to be.

I tend to talk myself out of speaking up about what are really minor inconveniences like this. Why bother, really? But this time I did, and I helped a restaurant become a little more inclusive to the allergy friendly population. And I think that’s pretty cool.

Have you ever written to a restaurant about their menu? What was the response?

Photo credit: eyeliam

About The Author: Shannon

My NPN Posts

Shannon blogs at Pineapples & Artichokes. She also contributes recipes to Food & Laughter.

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