My family and I went to the beach for a mini vacay. It was a hot and humid day, but towards the evening hours, we were blessed with a beautiful breeze. I read a book while my hubby and kids went to play in the water. After an hour and a half of beach activity, we decided to take a six block walk to a restaurant that I believed would accommodate all of our dietary needs- well my needs anyway since not only am I diabetic, but I have a physical reaction to soy and what do most restaurants use? Yeah, right.
So prior to this visit, I did my due diligence and contacted the restaurant and explained my situation, “I am diabetic with a soy allergy that causes hives. I cannot have soy nor soybean oil. I’m interested in the Philly cheesesteak, what type of oil that you use?”
The cook stated that “No, we just put the steak on the grill so no soy is used”
“Great, thank you! We’ll see you tomorrow!”
Well, we’ve walked six blocks to the restaurant. The restaurant was pretty pack. Expected since it was a summer and a holiday. I told the hostess that I was the one who called about the soy allergy. She had a strange facial reaction, but remained friendly and seated us. Our server, who was also friendly asked us for our drink orders. I also told her about the diabetes and soy allergy and gave her my order- Philly cheesesteak and also asked about how the wings were prepared because I wanted some. She said that she will double check with the cook to be sure that we’re straight.
Five minutes later, the server returned to our table with the drinks- all water. She tells me, “I talked to the cook about the soy allergy and the cook told me that they coat the chicken in soy oil and also they cook the steak on the same grill that they use for other meats using soy oil and we did not want to cross contaminated anything. The cook suggested that maybe you can have like a salad”
A salad. A salad.
I called the day before to make sure that the food was not cooked in soy, to choose this particular restaurant for that alone. To walk six blocks for a salad?!
“No, I don’t want a salad”
“I’m so sorry about this. I’m really am.”
The look of loss and trying to not have a major breakdown in front of my husband and kids and the public in general. Beyond disappointed..
“Would you like a few minutes to look over the menu again?”
“Sure, thank you.”
It turned out that I basically could not have any meat on the menu because of this. They also had cold subs, but the lunch meat was questionable because of my strict way of eating, my lunch meats cold not contain corn syrup, maple or other sweetners as well as soy, starch. Not to mention no dressing or sauces either. No shredded cheese because, of starches used to keep them fresh.
Yes, this turned a beautiful time at the beach into a melancholic moment.
So I had the pleasure watching my kids and husband eat in front of me. I had nothing to eat from there. The hostess and server continued to apologize profusely while also telling me about their family members having allergies to nuts and corn syrup and how it was difficult for them to navigate the restaurant scene. It was not their fault and they felt horrible because they were not able to help me.
My husband was the real MVP. He found a place across the street that served only my favorite seafood- crab legs! It took about an hour longer for me to eat and take my medication, but dinner was finally served.
The lesson of this story- navigating a restaurant with diabetes can be difficult. Navigating a restaurant with diabetes and a major food allergy like soy, eggs, nuts and dairy is hell. But it does not have to be a total disaster.
Here are some tips that I’ve learned along with sound advise from others on the same journey:
– Always contact the restaurant AHEAD of time.You can call them directly, email or use social media to contact them with any dietary questions.
– Have a back up restaurant in mindIf it was not for my husband, I would have been eating low carb granola and fathead bread for dinner.
– Have some emergency food on hand.Friends, this is a GAMECHANGER! Have some quick foods that you like on hand for times like this. My mistake was that I did not have any meat or eggs on hand because I left them in the hotel room. I put my eggs in a basket because I put my faith in the staff of the restaurant.
– Make sure you eat beforehand, just in case. If it was not for my low carb granola, my situation would have been a real crisis. Eating before your event, whether a meal or snack, would help you in times when this happens. Using this method along with bringing emergency foods will help tremendously in these types of situations.
– When you arrive at the restaurant, reinstatement your situation and have the staff to double check with the cook again.Think about it, the same staff person that you’ve talked to yesterday will most likely not be the same one you meet when you arrive. Also applies to the cook and manager. Be prepared to request your needs, several times. A good restaurant like the one that we encountered, despite the miscommunication, triple-checked and were very genuine. That’s why they will have our business again because hey, my kids loved their pizza!
– Stay calm, stay cordial When disappointments like mine occur, you don’t have to blow up or have an attitude with the restaurant staff. Stay calm and remain cordial.
Give yourself grace. Take the opportunity as a learning experience for you as you navigate the diabetic and/or allergy journey.
I took this picture because I was disappointed about the ordeal:
But now, it’s more of a picture of motivation that I don’t have to live like this. This was a result of a lack of planning. With all of the tools that I have, I will never have to take a picture of an empty dinner table again and my hope for you, friends is that you will never have to take one.
The Genetic Diabetic