For us, the answer is a very large, flashing "NO".
And now you get to listen to me ramble on about it for awhile.
All three of our kids have some sort of sensitivity or allergy that causes their bodies harm, to recap:
*Rebecca: Avoids Sugar and Carbs (carbs act as sugar in our bodies)
If she eats these types of foods, baked goods, bread, pasta, grains her insulin level sky rockets and she becomes...insane. Grumpy as hell, extremely emotional, and she loses her impulse control and ends up making some really bad decisions.
Last year she begged to eat the school lunches and since we had just moved and it was the middle of the school year and various other reasons we said yes. Biggest mistake ever. Her behavior was so bad we were at our wits end, it was so horrible. As soon as we put her back on packed lunches....she was totally sane and mild again. We were so relieved to get our sweet girl back!
(If I eat sugar my bones ache. If Jason eats it he gets migraines - has since he was a kid.)
*Jarod: Eats only meat, veggies, fruits, and nuts. (Would be a huge list of foods he avoids. lol)
Most of you know it took ten years to figure out what he could and couldn't eat. We finally feel like we perfected his diet with some major changes we made over the summer and he's healthier than ever.
All his life he's had a bloated stomach, tiny arms and legs but big belly and he constantly had tummy issues; diarrhea and cramping all the time. He also had some pretty bad eczema. Last year he missed so many days of school because of tummy problems. (I won't even go into his reactions to food dyes and preservatives - but they cause him to regress back to the level of a toddler.)
This year,with his new "caveman" diet he's has not missed one day nor complained once about his tummy! He's also not had a spot of eczema on his body. Within weeks of switching to only those 5 foods his tummy was flat! He went from having to wear a 14 husky size jeans to a size 10! (He's ten years old so that is a normal size for his age!) He didn't lose much weight, which would have been a concern, just lost his belly!
(I also get tummy aches if I eat grains, not fun.)
*Alex: Avoids dairy and salt
Alex has the same problems I do, inner ear trouble. We both gets motion sickness and are prone to ear infections. I also have tinnitus and a mild hearing disorder. These can all caused by too much fluid in the ears.
Ears require drainage by the eustachian tube, which opens into the back of the throat and is very susceptible to being blocked by inflammation. Anything that causes inflammation can block the eustachian tube, resulting in a warm moist breeding ground for bacteria in the inner ear, which leads to ear infections. Usually this inflammation is caused by a food allergy, most often dairy.
Salt also retains fluid in your ears, which is painful.
Once we took Alex off dairy and salt he never got another ear infection or ear pain. (I don't either!)
OK, back to the eating away from home topic....
We basically eat fresh meat, fruit, veggies, and nuts.
Our meat is pure and cooked in coconut oil, not breaded, coated, processed, or full of nitrates etc.
Can you think of very many restaurants that offer that type of food?
Or even one? (Maybe a heath food store cafe but nothing in small cities.)
So why would we want to pay crazy amounts of money for foods that would make my daughter insane, my son have diarrhea and eczema, and my toddler have an ear infection?
We cook all our meals at home about 99% of the time.
If the kids feel like they really want to have a special day and eat out we might consider it, especially with Alex and Rebecca as we just have to avoid dairy and sugar. In fact I do like to take Rebecca out once in a blue moon so she can learn how to find healthier options at restaurants.
Jarod however is a bit harder... there is not a single place that won't give him a reaction. We can take him to a steak house type place though and let him get a meat and veggie and he usually just has a mild reaction, if we do this on a Friday most of the time he'll be back to normal by school on Monday...but again, is it worth it? Feeding your child something you know will make him sick? He's eaten out once since May.
"What about eating at friends houses or holidays?"
As of right now....we try to avoid it.
For all the same reasons and also because we don't like the concept of food and holidays. We do not teach our kids to stuff themselves but rather offer the "Let's eat to live, not live to eat" concept.
Plus it's just soooo stressful to be at an event with tons of "normal" foods and have to keep telling people "No, he can't have that. No, it's not ok, we brought our own food." and so on. And there is always someone who thinks we are such mean parents and will try to sneak food to our "deprived" kids. (Deprived hah! Our kids eat the best foods known to man, I spend hours each day in the kitchen whipping up gourmet meals for them, we spend more on food than we do on rent. Deprived of sickness and pain - yes.) Or there is someone who thinks they know better than us what our kids can eat and will feed them things thinking it's ok because "I read somewhere that's it's healthy." Or someone doesn't understand that Jarod has lots of disorders, one of which is that his body does not understand common signals...the feeling of being full one of them so he does not stop eating, ever. We have learned to do portion control with him - I make one plate for him containing all the food that he needs at each meal. If he sees food on the table he will beg for it even if he's had enough to feed a small army, so we do not put dishes of food on the table - they stay on the stove. Needless to say, holidays where all this food is all over are really hard on him and to others it can look like we are being mean because he is crying that he wants more food and we saying no, but he will not stop eating and will end up in massive amounts of pain all night long if left to eat on his own.
Because of all his issues we've had to implement a "Do not feed Jarod" rule when ever he goes to play at other houses. Even if it sounds safe, it can end up going horribly wrong. Over the summer he had went over to his grandparents one afternoon and they thought it would be ok for him to eat some watermelon...which if they had just given him one piece would have been fine but they didn't limit what he ate and he ended up eating a tons of slices...the result was that he sat on the toilet for hours screaming.
So as you can see, the "Do Not Feed Jarod" rule saves him a lot of pain.
When we go to friends houses or to holidays we go after dinner, which always turns out to be more enjoyable anyways as the host is not busy and we can all play and talk much better. Or we plan a trip to the park or museum which is better for kids anyways than just sitting around a table, less stressful too.
In the past we've tried to do all the dinners and holidays and and eating out but it always, every single time, ends in someone getting sick or having a reaction. So to us...it's just not worth it at all expect for very rare, special occasions.
How about you? If you're kids have allergies, how do you handle eating out?