Talking Allergies

Safe restaurant eating---post your ideas here!
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Author:  ficbot [ Mon Apr 09, 2007 10:09 pm ]
Post subject:  Safe restaurant eating---post your ideas here!

I thought it might be good to have a thread where people post some ideas for safe restaurant eating. As I continue to adjust to the new allergy situation and go through my pantry, I am sadly finding more and more stuff with corn in it---corn starch is the big contaminant here, and I have experimented to see whether I can tolerate small amounts. The answer is no! I won't die from it or anything, but there are appreciable, tangible differences in my body, manifesting mainly as skin issues and asthma touchiness, and when I cheat, I pay for it! It has only been about a month since I was finally diagnosed, and in that time I have had a few restaurant dealings. Here were my experiences, feel free to reply and add your own:

Burgers: Hamburger and fries was fine. Can't think of where corn might be in tgere. But potato chips might not be fine, I checked ingredients at the grocery store! And veggie burgers are not a safe bet, they might have cornmeal in them and they are usually pre-made so the chef might not know what is in them. As for the fries, they are probably okay as long as they are not using corn oil to fry them.

Salads: Might be okay, but you need to check ingredients carefully. Oil and vinegar dressing, if made by them, might be all right, but many commercial dressings have cornstarch (especially light dressing, where they have to replace the fats with something similarly thickening). Also, if there is grilled chicken or something, make sure they are not grilling it with a sauce as any commercial sauces are questionable for the same reason (the evil cornstarch! they have to use something to make it thick and pourable). For me, salads are tricky because many have nuts, and while I have yet to have a reaction I can ascertain, I did test positive for those on the skin test so I was told to avoid them.

Asian foods: BAD! Every major reaction I have ever had has been from an Asian restaurant. It could be a spice (I had an anaphylactic reaction to Thai food once and that was his theory, although we never did figure out what it was) or it could be the evil cornstarch in every sauce on the planet. I find that if I get a rice dish, it's generally better than if I get a noodle dish, although with the sauce issue, one can never be sure. Sushi is fine though. I have not had problems with sushi.

Entree type dishes: Stuff like chicken with vegetables and potato is generally fine, but again, be careful with sauces! Sauce are bad! Assume that if you ask them and they say they don't know or that it's from a bottle, it has cornstarch in it.

Pizza: Pizza has been fine for me. I have relaxed about my no dairy thing since the corn allergy, because there is so much else I can't eat. I do think my environmental allergies are better when I limit dairy, but once in awhile I will have it now. I do have a minor thing with yeast (it makes me itchy) so pizza is not the best for me, but I would rather have the dairy and bread than have the corn!

Soup: No. Nearly all of them are canned or mixed, the chef will have no clue what is in them, and there is probably *sigh* cornstarch. Seriously, that cornstarch is in everything! It's so unfair.

Those are my thoughts so far. I know it's not the healthiest pick out there, but the two times since my one reaction to a stir-fry they swore had no corn in it, I have gotten the burger and fries. I would prefer other options, but when there does not seem to be a healthy choice that I can feel safe about, I have been fairly confident that the burger and fries will not have stuff in it (as long as they are not fried in corn oil, of course)

Author:  Eldi [ Mon Apr 09, 2007 10:41 pm ]
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I cannot eat out at restaurants at all. It depends on how sensitive you. I would definitely react to most of the things you mention in your post.

Have you checked out the connors list for all of the names of corn derivatives? I think there are about 180 names for corn derivatives. The website is posted in the main corn allergy post. You will also find information about corn derivatives used on fresh meat, cooking oil, milk and dairy, etc. Corn derived citric acid is often used on prepared fresh fruits and vegetables to preserve the colour and freshness.

Author:  ficbot [ Mon Apr 09, 2007 10:54 pm ]
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So what do you eat, in a typical week? The more I read about this, it is making me very unhappy. I feel like I am becoming quite paranoid. I found a list somewhere of cross-reactions people with corn allergy had, and it lists nearly every food I eat! It's like nothing is safe. My allergist told me to keep eating things until I have a problem with them and not be paranoid, but I know food reactions evovle over time (I just started having them in the last two years!) and I am so worried that more might develop. I am avoiding the obvious corn ones for now---cornm popcor, corn oil, corn starch, corn flour. We'll see how I do with that. I just can't avoid every food on the planet, though. I don't know what there is left to eat!

Author:  CosmicChaos [ Mon Apr 09, 2007 11:46 pm ]
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Dear ficbot,

Corn is an annoying allergy since it is impossible to avoid. That doesn't mean that we shouldn't try. Self lecture there, sorry.

On restuarants, if the food was marinated or comes in a sauce it has Corn in it. If Margarine or grocery store butter was used, it likely has Corn in it.

The following dishes are safer, but still cause reactions regularly due to cross contaimination or the restaurant not respecting the seriousness of my allergies:
1) Steamed and not buttered (vegetables, dumplings, rice)
2) Broiled (meats or fish)
3) Grilled (only if NO oil was used on the grill and they cleaned the grill before they did your dish) - not easy to get a restaurant to agree to this or do this.

I would not trust any fruits or desserts in a restaurant, no matter what the assurances. Exception: variety of cheeses as a dish for dessert.

Burgers are OK, if they can guarentee that they either clean the grill before your dish, don't use an unsafe (Corn inclusive) Oil, the meat was not marinated, and you are not counting on eating the bun. Hamburger buns, unless you search far and wide in specialty stores all contain Corn.

McDonalds is dangerous for someone with a Corn allergy. All McDonalds dishes contain Corn or have significant cross-contaimination problems with Corn. Even the fountain water is coated with Corn from the other fountain drinks.

Basically it all depends on your sensitivity level. I used to be able to tolerate quite a bit of Corn before getting sick. Now I am sensitive to the smallest amounts.

With Corn allergies, I recommend paying for a cooking class that teaches Old World cooking from before 1950's. That style of cooking breaks down food to its most basic levels and Corn was not an ingredient in MOST of those recipes. Old Betty Crooker books. It is a good idea to have a much older relative teach you how to cook from scratch.

A good rule of thumb with Corn allergies, if it is ready to eat from a package it has a high chance of containing Corn.

I have learned to make my own TV dinners by cooking in large batches and freezing what I don't use right away. Eventually you get used to a world without preservatives. The food actually tastes much better without them.

Author:  Eldi [ Tue Apr 10, 2007 1:03 am ]
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Take extreme caution with meat and fish. I have had some of my worst reactions to store-bought meat because of the citric acid rinses on them. I am only able to eat farm beef and chicken. Cheese is another problem for me....I do fine with cheese that contains ONLY milk, rennet and salt. Milk is fortified with vitamins in a corn oil carrier.
Table salt and spices are also a problem. I am able to use Redmond's Organic Sea Salt and freshly ground pepper. Avoid any spices in "ground" form because they will likely contain a corn derived anti-caking agent. Vinegar is made from corn...I use Bertolli White Wine Vinegar. I bake with organic buckwheat flour mixed with a little tapioca starch. Since you cannot buy unfortified milk in Canada, I use unfortified soy milk and goat's milk. This makes me angry because I am NOT allergic to milk but I still can't use it because of the corn oil carrier for the vitamins!

Author:  Eldi [ Wed Apr 25, 2007 6:02 pm ]
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I just read my previous post about cheese. I should clarify this...the cheese that I am able to eat is the pure, hard, aged parmesan from Italy. It contains only milk, salt and rennet. Also, I can eat the sheep's milk cheese from Italy...again, only ingredients are sheep"s milk, salt and rennet. The sheep's milk cheese is a little salty, but's cheese!

I will break out BIG time from even the smallest amount of cheese that contains "bacterial culture" or "enzymes".

Author:  KarenOASG [ Wed Apr 25, 2007 7:47 pm ]
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Eldi - are there no local farmers who make their own cheese that might be safe for you? I know that in Quebec cheesemaking is quite an industry. I wonder if the same would be the case around where you live?


Author:  Eldi [ Wed Apr 25, 2007 10:57 pm ]
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Unfortunately, there aren't many dairy farmers in Saskatchewan. I have checked with some farmers who make cheese for their own use...and...they use citric acid as the coagulation agent. I found the following entries for the use of citric acid in cheese making:

Citric Acid

Citric acid powder. ( Food Grade USP/FCC). Fine white crystaline powder used in acidifying milk and brine solution for cheesemaking.

Used to acidify the curds when making Mozzarella.

Basic Recipe For Mozzarella

1 Gallon Of Un-homogenized Milk
1/2 Cup Cool Water
3 Teaspoons Citric Acid
3/4 Teaspoon Liquid Rennet
1/2 Teaspoon Salt (Optional)

Citric acid is also used for other cheeses...

I didn't eat cheese for many years until I got brave enough to try some aged (hard and dry) Italian parmesan (usually used for grating) that my Italian neighbour insisted was made the "old-fashioned" way. I had a small piece and did not have a reaction. I've been eating it on a daily basis ever since. It is pretty much the "only" dairy I have found that does not contain some form of corn. Sigh....

Author:  shell [ Wed Aug 20, 2008 4:08 pm ]
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I have managed to eat at Outback Steakhouse. My husband and I also has celiac and they have a gluten-free menu. The only things I can eat there would be a totally plain steak---there seasoning is bad you have to insist and steamed broccoli--they will put some oil stuff that looks like steamed but it is not, you have to insist on it being totally plain. and either the baked potato or baked sweet potato without butter. Their butter is made from a big block of butter and they whip in fresh cream there which has the potassium citrate in it. So I explain to them and ask for them to go in the fridge and get me a hunk of the "mother butter" and it is not a problem. I think their meat is pretty decent--I mean I am able to eat there, I get some reactions but I can handle it and we have had to eat out so that's where we go. Oh, they also use Daisy sour cream.

Also, P.F. Chang's chain has allergen lists---they are really on the ball. They have gluten free as well as other major allergens I listed things like citric acid and all and they gave it to the mgr. who came out and told me what I could order. All I could order was the plain steamed veggies and rice. boring. overpriced. but my husband was able to get gluten free General Tso's chicken and a free chocolate dessert for his birthday--he really enjoyed it. Oh they will burn off a wok for you when you order allergen free--that is very important!!!

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