What this means: For those who follow a gluten-free diet only, FindMeGlutenFree makes it easy to spot restaurants that offer gluten-free options. Users can filter by dedicated gluten-free restaurants — that is, they do not create anything that contains gluten — or restaurants with separate glue-free menus. Restaurants are peer-reported, so if you find one that isn’t in FindMeGlutenFree’s database, you can recommend it through the app. (At the same time, this means you should double check the restaurant to make sure you get safe food for your gluten intolerance.)
The app also offers a bookmark feature for storing a gluten-free product database and lists that you may want to check out later. The premium version of the app has additional search filters such as “Open Now”, “Most Celiac Friendly”, and a directional search that finds restaurants on your route. My gluten-free friends have told me that this app was an absolute savior for them in the first weeks and months after being diagnosed with celiac disease, helping them eat and discover new products during a very stressful change.
Blind spots: Obviously, this is not an app for you if your food allergy / sensitivity is not gluten. Also, FindMeGlutenFree’s data is only as good as the ones that add to its knowledge base, so restaurants with good gluten-free options may not yet appear in the results if no one takes the time to access them.
What this means: Spokin makes it easy to find a restaurant, bakery or ice cream parlor where eating is safe for anyone with your allergies or limitations. Also, the app contains hundreds of resources for allergy research, safe food and travel advice. Once you’ve filled out your profile with the foods you’re avoiding, the app will show you all the possible safe places to eat on a detailed map of your area. My mother-in-law has recently moved to a new town, so I use Spokin to search for restaurants around her where I can safely order takeouts. We were thrilled to find a local pizza place that offered milk-free or regular cheese in their pizza, giving us a fun option for everyone.
Spokin even allows you to connect with other users in your area, including those with food allergies (assuming they’ve agreed to make their profiles public) and write reviews of the restaurants and products you use and enjoy.
Blind spots: This app Only Available on iOS devices. The FAQ on the company’s site claims that it is working on one for Android, but has no estimated launch date. Also, although most restaurant lists include a link to the restaurant’s website, you usually need to leave the app to see a menu.
Eating out can always be a bit scary when you’re trying to manage food allergies, but these apps will hopefully start a race before you visit an unexpected restaurant and share your concerns with the wait staff. Since I have a potentially fatal seafood allergy, I’ve perfected my “restaurant shakedown” speech. I called and said, “I have a really serious allergy to all the fish — shellfish and regular fish. Can you make me something that has no fish or shellfish — not even fish sauce or oyster sauce, and can be made in a clean pan? I promise to give you a great review, even if you say you can’t feed me safely. Believe me, outside is really bad for an ambulance business. “Also, when I travel abroad, I try to add a note to my phone, in the language of my destination, explaining my allergies.
The devices that we carry in our pockets have the potential to help us manage our daily lives, even when life involves challenging dietary limitations. From planning a vacation at home to dining or managing a whole new range of groceries, these apps are included in your toolbelt.