If you are starting to date someone with a food allergy, or know someone who is, here are four tips that might prove helpful—especially for daters unfamiliar with food allergies.
1. Understand The Wisdom Of Being Picky
People with food allergies are very picky about what they eat and how it is prepared because they have to be. Having a food allergy is not a choice, and to survive the allergy being picky is not an option.
What appears to be picky-ness, or food fussiness, is actually a learned wisdom. Those with allergies must exercise this wisdom to avoid uncomfortable or life-threatening symptoms.
2. Planning and Flexibility
Since people need to eat every few hours, going out with food allergic friends requires a lot of planning. Stopping at whatever cafe or restaurant is nearby may not be an option. Planning ahead, such as making sure a restaurant will accommodate people with allergies, can prevent date disappointment and frustration.
However, no matter how thoroughly you plan, there may be times you will have to be flexible and go with the flow. For instance, ordering an allergen-free meal at a restaurant can take longer than expected, as can the preparation of specially prepared foods. This delay might make getting to the theater on time difficult or impossible, and patience will be the order of the day.
You will also need to think about what you eat even before the date begins. If there are hopes of kissing, you will likely have to avoid consuming the foods your friend is allergic to.
3. Educate Yourself
For as long as you are dating this person, read articles, websites, or watch videos about food allergies. Familiarize yourself with the symptoms of allergic reactions, and what to do in an emergency. Learn how and where allergens can “hide.” If your friend carries an auto-injector, know where it is and how to use it.
Part of your allergy self-education must include label reading. Understand how to check food labels for your friend’s allergens and cultivate the habit of checking every label of every food product in your date’s vicinity. Label reading proficiency will benefit your own health as well.
4. Be Creative and Adventurous
Plan outings that do not involve eating out. You might arrange a hike, a bike ride, take a dance, or ceramics class together, or cook a meal together before going to a concert. The conversation (and other activities) may flow better when your allergic friend does not have to focus on food.
If you are open and willing, accommodating a food allergy can also lead to some interesting and unusual culinary experiences, and may help you acquire or expand your cooking skills. Enjoy the adventure.