what’s he doing: Intended only for people who follow a gluten-free diet, FindMeGlutenFree makes it easy to identify restaurants that offer gluten-free options. Users can filter by designated restaurants that are gluten-free – meaning they don’t make anything gluten-containing – or restaurants that have a separate gluten-free menu. Restaurants are reported by peers, so if you find a good restaurant that isn’t in FindMeGlutenFree’s database, you can recommend it via the app. (Meanwhile, this means that you should double-check at the restaurant to make sure you get food that is safe for your gluten sensitivity.)
This app also provides a database of gluten-free products and a bookmark feature to save the lists you want to check for later. The premium version of the app includes additional search filters such as “Open Now,” “Most Celiac Friendly,” and a directional search that finds restaurants in your route. My gluten-free friends told me this app was an absolute lifesaver for them in the first weeks and months after they were diagnosed with celiac disease, helping them eat out and discover new products during a very stressful transition.
blind spots: This is clearly not the app for you if your food allergy/sensitivity is not to gluten. Also, the data in FindMeGlutenFree is only as good as the people adding to its knowledge base, so restaurants with good gluten-free options may not show up in the results if no one takes the time to enter them.
what’s he doing: Spokin makes it easy to find a restaurant, bakery, or ice cream parlor where it’s safe to eat for someone with an allergy or restriction. Additionally, the app contains hundreds of resources on allergy research, safe foods, and travel advice. Once you fill out your profile with the foods you avoid, the app will show you all the potentially safe places you can eat on a detailed map of your area. My mother-in-law recently moved to a new city, so I used Spokin to search my neighborhood for restaurants where I could safely order fast food. We were thrilled to find a local pizzeria that served dairy-free or plain cheese on their pizza, giving us a fun option for everyone.
Spokin also allows you to contact other users with food allergies in your area (assuming they’ve agreed to make their profiles public) and lets you write reviews about restaurants and products you use and enjoy.
blind spots: This app Just Available on iOS devices. The FAQ on the company’s website claims it’s working on one for Android, but there’s no estimated launch date. Also, although most restaurant menus include a link to the restaurant’s website, you usually have to leave the app to see a menu.
Eating out when you’re trying to manage food allergies can always be a little intimidating, but hopefully these apps will give you a head start before you pop up at a junk restaurant and share your concerns with the wait staff. Since I have a potentially fatal seafood allergy, I perfected my “stay away from the restaurant” talk. I call and say, ‘I have a really serious allergy to all fish – shellfish and regular fish. Can you make me something that doesn’t have any fish or shellfish – not even fish sauce or oyster sauce, and is made in a clean pan? I promise to give you a great review Anyway, even if you say you can’t feed me safely. Believe me, the ambulance outside is really bad for business.” Additionally, when I travel abroad, I try to add a note to my phone in the language of my destination that explains my sensitivity.
The devices we carry in our pockets have the power to help us manage everyday life, even when that life includes difficult dietary restrictions. From planning a meal at home to eating out or managing a whole new batch of grocery items, these apps belong on your tool belt.