Dining out with friends, family, and coworkers is one of life's little pleasures, but it can turn into a nightmare for a migraineur with food triggers. Learn to ask the right questions and avoid an unpleasant restaurant experience.
When you make the inevitable trip to the mall food court, avoid anything that might be fried or seasoned using MSG. Be wary of hamburgers, hot dogs, seasoned French fries, Asian stands, Mongolian barbeques, or anything else that offers sauces without clear lists of ingredients. Even many salad dressings contain MSG.
The safest (and healthiest and least expensive) bet is to bring food from home, or stick to salads sans dressing, vegetable plates, or “healthy” fare, where you can readily ascertain every ingredient.
Not all fast food restaurants use MSG in their food. Of those that do, some dishes may be MSG free. Most company Web sites list a menu with “nutritional information” that mentions whether each item has MSG or not. Even sauces, dressings, and side items that are considered “plain” or “regular” flavor may contain MSG.
As with mall food, the major migraine risk when eating in a restaurant is MSG or other additives hidden in dishes. Asian restaurants tend to use MSG more than some other types of cuisine; they also make heavy use of soy sauce, another potential trigger food. When dining at a traditional full-service Asian restaurant, asking the wait staff to omit MSG from your order should enable you to enjoy the meal. Also, as MSG sensitivity is becoming more commonplace, many restaurants have stopped using MSG altogether. When in doubt, ask.
Bear in mind that fast food restaurants receiving prepared ingredients from large distribution centers will probably not be able to prepare your meal without MSG. Asking the staff may prove fruitless, as they may not receive sufficient training to know exactly what goes into their hamburgers, French fries, or chicken nuggets. Peruse the corporate Web site or call their customer service department to ask specifically which items contain MSG, BHT, or other additives and preservatives.