HOME > Chowhound > France >
Mar 23, 2014 06:33 PM

diet issues in paris

Ok be gentle with me please, I am booking in to an apartment near the eiffel tower in dec for 4 days. My 9 yr old is coeliac and early research shows she seems pretty well catered for in Paris. My 7 yr old has an auto immune allergy to eggs, nuts, wheat, soy and dairy. (Its a proper condition diagnosed at hospital we are not allergy lifestylers!) I am guessing I need to self cater for most meals although he is very happy with meat and vegetables. The 12yr old wants to try every food she can, (no issues thnk goodness) I am planning on bringing two short cards stating in french what they cant eat are we going to get an ok reception in shops/ restaurants or are we going to be thought of as painful tourists?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. You should be able to tell from the chalkboard in front of bistros if any of those ingredients are in the dishes dish - but the cards a re a good idea. But my sense is that the smaller bistros that we frequent are not set up to adjust menus to individual customers -- your choices are those on the chalkboard outside, so prepare for some disappointments. My experience is that smaller places react well to children, and if you observe the courtesies (Bonjour, etc.) and attempt to read the card to them before giving up an displaying it, the reception should be warm, especially if you take any bad news graciously,

    2 Replies
    1. re: dcbbq

      I would echo dcbbq's advice but maybe make it a bit stronger. I would recommend spending a little time to understand what goes into common French dishes so that you can exclude those from your choices. I think the worst thing you can do is to interrogate waiters about every dish on the menu when it is obvious some have the ingredients you want to avoid - or even those ingredients could be what makes the dish. So narrow down the choices to the ones that should work, then use the cards to ascertain they are in fact OK.

      Dcbbq's is also correct that many restaurants don't vary dishes. In France you tend to get it as described on the menu, unlike the US the kitchens don't expect to swop out various ingredients. The dish is the dish and so it can be tricky to get variations.

      You should be OK, but sword of caution, allergies are far less common in France - probably because the absence of "allergy lifestylers" doesn't confuse things - I love the term. I have a tree nut allergy and I am pretty good at avoiding them without too much drama but I did find that in France there was less awareness from waiters about what was in a dish.....so a visual inspection of some dishes was required...!

      1. re: PhilD

        I don't think it's a lack of an "allergy lifestyle", France has been bad at accomodating allergies since at least the 1970's-1980's. I have cousins with tree nut allergies, and they have all chosen to live abroad (Germany, US, Italy) where it's easier to eat in restaurants.

        It is getting better, and Céliac / gluten intolerance in particular is better understood as a real, not fake, thing. But if you eat out at places where they don't know you, you will have problems maybe every week or two. If they can't feel the problem coming before it's serious, I would avoid eating out completely.

    2. The cards are a wonderful idea !
      and will be appreciated.

      I use to prepare similar for my travel clients listing the foods they detested.

      1. Thank you for your replies everyone. It will certainly help me get my head around what I need to do. We rarely eat out here as it is quite difficult even in our own country and language! I guess I had better make sure the place we stay has a decent kitchen and close to a market. Is anyone able to tell me if rice or oat milk is available, it weighs alot to bring with us, also we are able to buy bread made from oat flour only as well has anyone heard of any over there? Honestly lucky my little man is cute because he is trouble!
        Also we have never gotten upset here at anyone who couldn't supply our needs at a restaurant, its part of our life and it isnt always easy for people to understand it.

        4 Replies
        1. re: kroll

          rice milk is available at grocery stores.

          larger markets *might* have gluten free products -- poster Souphie, I think, has a link for a gluten-free bakery that's supposedly very, very good.

          Keep an eye out for a store called Naturalia -- a health-food chain store -- they will probably be your best option.

          1. re: kroll

            An idea for enlivening eating "in" would be to see if you might hire a chef to cook a meal or two in your apartment or prepare "take away" all made as you want it. We did that when traveling where my wife was concerned about local cleanliness, but didn't want to cook every meal. Ask the landlord if she/he knows anyone who might cook. That's how we found ours. And maybe others on this Chowhound page might have leads.

            1. re: hychka

              I'd be far less worried about cleanliness in Paris than I would in just about anywhere in the US.

              1. re: sunshine842

                Sunshine, certainly you are correct. We were in Central American.
                However, to my point now that France has been properly defended....
                an alternative to eating out where you can not control all the ingredients or slaving over the stove while on vacation might be to hire a local chef to cook for you...one who understands the needs and can grasp the responsibility for the children's safety.

                I recall that an old friend's wife, an ambassador's wife, told us about how she hired special help depending on who was being entertained and their special needs. From that conversation, I would guess that the US Embassy's staff might make some suggestions. The 7th is full of diplomats so this wouldn't be a new concept.

          2. "(Its a proper condition diagnosed at hospital we are not allergy lifestylers!) "

            Very considerate for you to specify. So often people write to this board saying that they have allergies or are vegetarian, then they say they actually are just picky and eat meat.
            Many report back and said they had a great time, and that the problems had been exaggerated. And it turns out that their allergies or veg-ism is not that strict, and they just made do and did not die and had good food.
            People with real allergy or are real vegetarian, regardless of their mumbo-jumbo reasons, I respect.

            "My 7 yr old has an auto immune allergy to eggs, nuts, wheat, soy and dairy.

            Since your child's allergies are so extensive, one problem is that in many of the good, smaller bistros that offer good food and good value, you would have to make do with an extensive elimination of the offering of a menu that is already deliberately kept short to offer limited, only in-season ingredients.
            In a Paris bistro, it is not considered strange to have only 5 starters, 5 mains, 5 desserts on the menu.
            In your experience, what is the percentage of dishes did you need to eliminate on a general restaurant menu? Try to transpose the percentage in a bistro situation, then decide for yourself whether it is worth it to eat out and risk the child not liking the handful of dishes that he is reduced to choose from.

            You can go to the bigger brasseries that have a more extensive menu, but the problem with those big places is that the kitchen does things in volume and may not have good control about all the ingredients. Certain sauces may not be made in the restaurant, and the staff may not even know all the ingredients used in a sauce and simply do not have the knowledge to advise you adequately.

            The best is still to eat at home, and use the fabulous Paris markets. Believe me, you won't feel deprived. In fact some foods are often better from a market than from most restaurants, like poulet rôti. Always get a poulet fermier rôti.

            1. I would LOVE to get someone to cook a few meals, however I think it may completely exceed our budget. Parigi, thank you for the information, do you think it would be offensive to bring a small hot flask with a meal inside for my youngest into a restaurant ? We often do this at home when eating out if i don't think he would be able to be catered for. Then at least we would be able to try the resturant scene a little.

              2 Replies
              1. re: kroll

                "do you think it would be offensive to bring a small hot flask with a meal inside for my youngest into a restaurant ?"
                I don't know. I have never seen this done, especially for a 7-year old and not a baby.

                1. re: kroll

                  in my experience, *highly* offensive.