For someone with a food intolerance eating out can range from a small hassle to a nightmare. Reaction symptoms can vary from mild to severe with every person, and so can the cause of the reaction. I suffer from a mild soy intolerance, and it can seriously affect eating out and cooking; more than anything I’m missing out on trying new dishes. Food intolerances and allergies do share similarities, but they’re also differ from each other. For instance, they are both the body’s way of reacting to certain foods and both produce physical side effects. Allergies, however, can result in mild to life-threatening physical reactions, like anaphalactic shock, that affect organs throughout the body. Intolerances are not life-threatening, but commonly result in digestive problems and stomach aches, pains, and nausea. I’m no doctor, but from personal experiences, here are a few tips I’ve picked up over time to help me with my mild intolerance to soya:

  1. Cook from scratch

Cooking from scratch means you have complete control of what goes into your meals. Home-cooked meals are also a much healthier way of eating nutriciously, and it also encourages meal planning.

  1. Plan simple meals

Planning meals in advance will ensure that you take the time to plan meals free of intolerable food. It will also lessen the chance of intolerant food sneaking in.

  1. Look up the restaurant in advance

If you’re planning on eating out look up the restaurant or cafe’s menu online in advance. Many food outlets have their menus online, sometimes with common allergens labelled for each dish. If this is not possible, ask on the day. Don’t worry about being difficult; you want to be sure that your dish won’t set off your intolerance, and the restaurant wants you to enjoy your meal as well.

  1. Check food labels

All food labels clearly identify main food allergens in bold. They will also label if the factory has handled allergenic ingredients. The same method of identifying these triggers can apply to your food intolerance. Even if yours aren’t highlighted in bold, reading food labels is one of the safest ways to determine whether your intolerance is one of the ingredients.