Strategies for Feeling Normal (If You Insist)

OK – so you are down with cooking.  You are good to go with trying your best at total avoidance.  You are strong and symptom free.  Then this funny thing happens.  You want to go out. With friends.  To a restaurant.  Like – dare I say it? Normal people.

I am here to tell you – it’s all right. We’ve all done it.  You can do it.  All the cool kids do it.  OK – perhaps not – I know some very fine people who have such bad reactions (though usually a result of multiple sensitivities) that they just cannot possibly go out.  If you are one of those people, my heart goes out to you.  I hope you stay strong and realize there is plenty of the good stuff in life for you and thank you for helping me not feel sorry for myself.

For the rest of us, however – it is JUST BARELY possible to go out to a meal and survive.  But only if you are careful.  And have a good sense of humor.  And have a waiter that believes you and acts accordingly.  And get with the fact that the food is better at home.  But – you are OUT.  With FRIENDS.  Or on a DATE.

So – here are my strategies for the occasional night out:

I hate to say this, I hate to limit people, but the bottom line is, the fancier (read: more expensive) restaurant you go to, the better chance of success you will have.  High end establishments build their reputations on excellent customer service.  They feel it their duty to bring you what you ask whether or not they think you are full of it. So – here is my plan at a fancy steak house:

First explain that you have a food allergy and that can make you very sick. Wait staff will be more sensitive to your request if they know it is a health issue.

Salad to start.  No onions.  Instead of dressing – lemon and olive oil.  Ask specifically if it is pure olive oil. You CANNOT have a blend.  Oil is oil in most people’s minds. You have to educate them.  Fresh lemon.  I am torn on the topic of salt.  Regular table salt usually has sulfites added as an anti-clumping agent. Ask for sea salt. And don’t be afraid to use it. Salt is the stuff of life.  And DO NOT be intimidated by the debunked theory that “salt equals high blood pressure”.   I have 12 kinds of salt in my cabinets.  My bp only goes up if I have a reaction. There have been no studies LINKING high bp to salt.  Google it, really.

Now – cocktails. Yes, many cocktails await – but you need to be careful.  Here is what I know: it is unlikely that you will be able to have wine.  Not even the sulfite free organic kind.  Sulfites are created in the fermenting process. Now there are a few wines that will read on the label “no sulfites detected”. This is very different than what you see on most labels which is “no sulfites added”. They actually manage the processing so the wine is not producing sulfites in the same way as it is in other wine – and then they test it to be sure. I can have a glass or two of this wine with very little reaction.  Beer MUST be German (LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the Reinheitsgebot , or German beer purity law of 1516. It states that beer must have four and only four ingredients: water, hops, barley and malt )  Germans RULE. Other beers often have sulfites added or other ingredients that contain sulfites and ingredients don’t need to be listed on alcohol by law in the US – so stick with German beer.  I can have two before a reaction.  Nice – but not like Absolut vodka.  Yum.  BUT – NO ICE FOR YOU.  Cold water if you must.  But – ice is made through systems that have filters. Those filters are often made from charcoal. Which is made from coconut – which is a no no.  And then there is scotch – well – there are one or two scotches you might have.  Most scotch has caramel color added – which is sulfited.  However there are some purists out there – Glenrothes is my favorite – and apparently American straight whiskey cannot by law have caramel color, so you are probably safe there.

Next course.  Order the steak.   Order it medium rare. When you are not able to have sauces, spices and seasonings on the meat it starts to taste pretty dry and tasteless the more well done it is cooked. Obviously, this is a personal preference, but I find the more well done pieces of meat need a little help with taste and since you don’t have that option, I recommend trying it a little less done so you can appreciate the taste of the meat itself. If you are opposed to steak, get a tuna steak. Ask if they pepper it.  If they do, ask them if it fresh ground.  Fresh ground is OK – pre ground is sulfited.  This is an ESSENTIAL point. Fresh ground or nothing – make sure they  believe you.

OK – veggie.  Baked potato.  Sorry – but often you have little choice.   The big issue here is the butter. It can have vitamins.  Which are sulfited.  Organic is best – but you never find that in a restaurant.  So – butter or not – your call. If not – olive oil and salt.

After that – I want you to have a happy ending, but the truth of the matter is – I SEETH through chocolatey deliciousness that other people can have and I cannot. But I manage it with a cocktail.  Or two. If you are a sulfite sensitive soul and cannot eat anything but a plain steak and potato – anyone that cares about you should drive.

Then take you friends home and have a GOOD dessert.  I am sure you can think of someplace to find a good recipe…..

Or you could just go out for a drink. Or a movie – just bring your own popcorn and beverage!

42 Responses to Strategies for Feeling Normal (If You Insist)

  1. Amanda says:

    Great blog you have! Glad to hear you still go out to eat. It can be risky but I think it’s worth it to feel “normal” 🙂

    • Tracy says:

      Thanks Amanda – Welcome and glad you like the site. I am looking forward to checking out yours because I think I am ready to give up gluten – not sure if I have a sensitivity, but know I feel better in general when I don’t eat it!


  2. Jessie Newport says:

    Going out, I usually order the same think, guess I have to give up ranch dressing. Your site is very informative. I figured out last summer that I was allergic to sulfites. Not realizing what exactly to elimanate. I have been having some very bad reactions since mid April. Just realized the vitamin d3 I was taking 3000 idu’s had 4 ingredients in it I should not have been taking. Thanks for all the information.

    • Tracy says:

      Welcome, Jesse. I do have a recipe for ranch dressing, I will work on getting that up on the site. Let me know if there is any questions I can answer!


  3. Jessie Newport says:


  4. Foksola says:

    Thank you so much for your site. It is realy amazing, learned so much from it!
    I have been using organic butter and noticed that it had added vitamine A and D in it

  5. Sarah P. says:

    Thanks for the information. VERY good advice.
    I live in West Kelowna, British Columbia, the middle of wine country. I am very sad to have to give up my wine ‘collection” to my husband!! haha He is quite happy though.
    I have several other issues right now with being able to drink spirits but am wondering if there is a potentially good Vodka that I mihgt be able to try??

    • Tracy says:

      I do just fine with Absolut and have a couple sulfite sensitive friends who swear by Chopin. Please do remember,though – when the liver is taxed processing alcohol you will be less tolerant of sulfites and may react more. I am ultra sensitive for days after I have too much to drink…..

    • kim says:

      I have a sister in law who along with her family is very allergic to sulphites. From what I understand the okanagan wines have some if the lowest sulphite quantities in the world. At least grey monk and mission hill do. Have you been reacting to these wines?

  6. Astaire says:

    I suspect that I might have a sulfite sensitivity. When I was nine, I suddenly became allergic to tree nuts, uncooked carrots, uncooked celery, and uncooked egg yolks. I’m also sensitive to coconut products, although I don’t have a full-fledged allergy.

    Recently, I’ve noticed that my throat gets slightly swollen whenever I have ice (from our icemaker). You might have solved this mystery for me! I didn’t realize ice could contain sulfites!

    I also go through phases when I’m randomly ‘allergic’ (itchy mouth/throat) to foods that I can normally eat. I wonder if this could be caused by a build-up of sulfites in my system at certain times?

    Anyway, I really appreciate your blog!

    I eat an almost exclusively 100% organic food diet. Do you know what the sulfite content of organic foods is? I will check out your resource page also.

  7. Leigh says:

    Hi, I never thought about the water filter! We use a Brita filter at the moment which I am positive is charcoal based. Could you tell me if you filter your water and what sort you use?

    • Charla says:

      What about the water filter? Brita’s not ok? I don’t see anything about water on here….

      • Tracy says:

        I have not found a filtered water that I can drink and not react to, although I have had good luck with filtered water in the shower. I drink spring water only (Hinkley Schmidt at home and usually Figi out and about (although I am looking for something less expensive).

  8. Caroline says:

    Thank you. I’m just at the beginning of this path and appreciate having footsteps to follow.
    Another Canary

  9. nicole says:

    thank you for great info, the restaurant tips are very helpful & interesting.

  10. Jessie says:

    It becomes easier to a point. I always go to the same restaurant that I trust. I called beforehand to give them heads up an my situation. Told them how they would prepare the food as well. When I get to the restaurant I remind them that I have an allergy and explain exactly what I want to order and how to cook it. Example Steak med well without any spices, pan fried. Baked potatoe no butter, shredded cheese on the side, lettuce, some cheese, no dressing. I usually bring my own dressing which is plain yogurt and fresh lemon juice. Unsalted butter. My own trusted water. For me, I am still coping and still getting worse, my food list is dewindling steadily. With gluten and sulfite free and high senitivities to vegetables and fruit. Don’t be much left to enjoy. Good Luck with this situation and enjoy the foods that you can actually eat to the fullest.

  11. Eileen says:

    Thank you for all the helpful information. I feel like my health is going to change soo much for the better. All the things I thought were healthy for me were making me sick. I am just starting this challenge and could not be happier to know what is going to help. I am lazy when it comes to foods, but now I understand why others eat well. Eat well, feel well. 🙂

  12. R B in CT USA says:

    Managing a sulfite issue, and expanding my foods now. Have been allergic to many things for decades, and new allergist identified they are high sulfite foods or they use sulfites (like french fries)…DUH. New word to me a year ago, and your site has been so helpful.
    As I am ready thru your eating out and reading about chocolate, and I SO understand that. Then, I realized you might not know about ENJOY LIFE chocolate chips… I can eat chocolate again! A friend here with sulfite issue too. We are both fine with those ENJOY LIFE choc chips, and the deprivation seems much better being able to have that. ENJOY THEM!!!!

  13. liz says:

    I contacted Absolut vodka 2 years ago and I saved the email that they said about no preservatives or sulphites in their vodka. I had only a few drinks at Christmas this last year and hardly had any alcohol in my drink but I did notice a red itchy face but chalked it up to Christmas dinner.
    Last night, however, I had a shot of vodka, toasting my dog, we just had her out down and buried her in the backyard. Within 5 minutes my face was flush and itchy. I ignored it for another 5 minutes before I felt my elbows getting hotter. They were red and blotchy with welts growing rapidly. I checked the mirror and my face was swelling and red. Holy crap, I ran downstairs to my mom (nurse) and she had me take 3 Benadryl pills for the night. Woke up at 5am clean skinned.
    Scary, holy crap. I never came into contact with any drugs at the vets office a few hours before, so the only cause is the vodka. Drinking a shot all at once, undiluted in a drink caused it. So they are lying when they say it’s safe.

    • Tracy says:

      Please remember, the liver uses the same enzyme to break down alcohol as sulfites. It could be that you were reacting to other environmental stimuli more strongly because you taxed your liver with the alcohol, not because of the absolut. I have had it without an issue (not for at least a year and I would certainly have to test it again to see if I reacted, but in moderation it has presented no problems).

  14. Megan says:

    Thanks for some great tips. Fantastic website.
    I have a sulphite sensitivity, only mild, thank goodness but it still seems to build up in my system over time.
    I drink vodka soda usually and that is fine. I would like to know if gin or tequila is ok?

    Also, I think I am luck to live in Melbourne, Australia. I can eat out at so many great restaurants and cafes. There is a big culture of fresh, preservative free and organic food here so I think its much easier than in the U.S.

    • Tracy says:

      I am glad you can still live normally, but I caution you. Many, many people I have known have grown worse over time by no being careful of what they eat. I hope you continue to be healthy, but worry that you will not find a healthy place. Be safe!

  15. Laura says:

    I am Celiac, had to be genetically tested because I’m grain free, I’m also allergic/ intolerant to histamines and now, some sulfites. It is common to have more than one issue and it is usually autoimmune related. I had 23&me genetic test and now am working with a biochemist natural path, to help my methylation. One on my methylation issues- sulfur!

    • Tracy says:

      It is very common to have more that one issue. I think it is very rare NOT to have more than one issue when you have reactions. I have multiple chemical sensitivities and have had histamine issues as well. It can be difficult to figure out what you are reacting to! where is the naturopath that you are working with? I a working with an allergist, which is helping, but I feel like I still have the underlying issues that caused me to start reacting in the first place.

  16. Jessie Newport says:

    I am still 100 % sulfite and gluten free. I have had just about every scratch test done, upper and lower gi. They always came back with nothing wrong with you. It was very discouraging at first. They cannot test here for sulfites. All tests came back fine for celiac. I am allergic to dust, misquito/fly bites, sardines, tuna, chicken, penicillin,sulfa and biaxin. Strong perfume takes my breath away. I have been diagnosed with chronic urtcaria. I’m taking 40mg antihistamines, zantac, singulair, advair puffer if needed, digestive enzymes , probiotics, vitamin d3 and b12. I do try some foods outside of my safe foods list if I have a craving, just a taste. This situation is becoming more common and probably only going to get worse with what the companies are doing with the food. Eat clean and good luck!!

  17. Mona says:

    Hi there,

    it’s me again!

    All i wanna say is that it is my darkest period concerning sulfits issues.

    I really dont know how i can stand all of this anymore.

    I really eat almost nothing. I am a single mom of 2 children and i have to stay alive. I am very depressed because i am always being afraid of almost every meal and i cannot find any allergologist that does the sulfit patch test.

    I am afraid of my symptoms, afraid to not being able to breathe.

    I can barely concentrate to find work and i have a disaster financial condition without any incomes.

    I dont know how to overcome all of this.


    • Tracy says:

      Oh, Mona, I am so, so sorry you are in such a bad place. Try to stay strong and not despair. I know how devastating and awful it can be and I feel for you. You will stand it because you have to for your kids and you will learn so much to keep them from being in this place so they never get as sick as this. It is genetic, so you need to learn what to do to get better for your kids. And you can get better. Tell me what your fears and stumbling blocks are and I will be there for you. Big hug and let’s work on what you need, ok?

  18. Emma says:

    Hi. Your blog is ace.

    I have been struggling with severe IBS for about 4 years. I’m 25 and stopped all lactose and alcohol (including all vinegars etc). My tummy was just too bad, I don’t get flushing, just severe nausea, cramps and bad toilet issues (apologies…) I’ve steadily got stronger (am not reacting much to vinegars and other sulphite items) and would really like to try alcohol again. I’ve heard gin is low/no sulfite? I am just so confused of what to try first and what to avoid (wine, I know is the worst) I’m based in London and allergy specialists just have no idea about sulphites, my GP also just has no clue and I have been passed around specialists for years, it gets really depressing.

    I really want to try some alcohol, but I am just so confused and scared of that horrible reaction so want to start slow. I don’t want to drink a lot at all, but my sister is getting married next year and I want to toast her with something a little stronger than water…

    Does anyone know of any low or no sulphite alcohol? or point me in the direction of anyone who does?

    I’m really struggling here and hate feeling so restricted with everything I do.


    • Camila says:

      Hi Emma, in Germany sulfites are forbidden so u can take any imported beer from Germany. I do it and I haven’t had any problems at all. By the way there are a few wines that are organic and doesn’t have sulfites (I know there are in Chile and España). Anything else have sulfites on (at least everything I’ve tried).

      • Emma Jane Gregory says:

        Hi Camilla,

        Thank you so much for the message. Do you have an names of organic wines or brands that you have tried?

        Also I’ve heard that gin hasn’t got any sulfities? But some people say otherwise. I just get so confused!

        Thanks again!

        Emma xx

  19. Emma Jane Gregory says:

    Hi Camilla,

    Thank you so much for the message. Do you have an names of organic wines or brands that you have tried?

    Also I’ve heard that gin hasn’t got any sulfities? But some people say otherwise. I just get so confused!

    Thanks again!

    Emma xx

  20. C Hellawell says:

    When I typed yr site into Google,just to do catch up,it stated this site may have been hacked
    Is this recent or from earlier?

  21. sam k. says:

    so you drink scotch with no problems?

  22. sam k. says:

    Here is a list of some whisky distillers/bottlers that does not add E150a caramel colouring to their whisky. This is by no means a complete list.
    English Whisky Co
    Highland Park
    Port Charlotte

  23. sam k. says:

    one roq vodka has no sulfites at all

    • Tracy says:

      Most vodka and other distilled beverages do not have sulfites added. For those that are more sensitive than others, they may react to any alcohol depending what it is derived from. You can distill from many different sources. If you have a problem with potatoes or grains, for example, don’t get liquor made from those.

  24. ben says:

    Anyone have good experience with and Irish whiskey

    and could some one list names of vodka without sulfites?

  25. liz m. says:

    What ingredients to avoid in Scotch whiskey

    Any rum or other types other than vodka

  26. Bill s says:

    Has any one had grey goose or Bacardi ??

  27. balwinder says:

    Hi tracy what rands other than absolut are safe ?

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