Co-author, Let’s Eat Out, a 7-time award-winning book series, R&R Publishing 2009
Creator of new iPhone / iPod Touch applications – iEatOut and iCanEat OnTheGo Gluten & Allergen Free
President and CEO, AllergyFree Passport
Partner with Accenture, a management consulting firm
B.A., Purdue University; M.A., International Management, Thunderbird School of Global Management
Has travelled over 2 million miles, eaten in 35 countries and 5 continents and presented to audiences in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the U.S.
Kim Koeller: Eat Out Anytime, Any Place
ALLERGIC TO EVERYTHING
As a little girl, Kim was allergic to cats, fish and seafood, which she says didn’t change her lifestyle very much. She experienced symptoms like her throat closing, her eyes watering or breathing difficulties.
As a teen, Kim had skin reactions, and after a process of elimination, she discovered she was allergic to goose feathers, down and wool. She also developed reactions to various chemicals and additives in detergent, soaps, creams and make-up. Kim’s intolerance to food progressed from seafood and began to include dairy and pork allergies.
As an international consultant for 20 years, Kim ate 80 percent of her meals in restaurants around the world and learned to manage her food allergies. Then seven years ago, Kim was diagnosed with Celiac disease, a disease where a person is highly intolerant to the protein found in wheat, barley and rye.
She started doing her own research on managing her disease and discovered that the only way to manage the disease was through a strict gluten- and allergen-free diet. “One of the hardest things to give up for me was dairy,” says Kim. After eliminating dairy from her diet, Kim says she immediately felt a difference in her throat and joints. She continued to eliminate various foods from her diet while focusing on how her body responded to different foods.
While traveling, Kim noticed she was getting sick within 30 minutes after eating airplane meals and snacks (and later discovered this was due to preservatives). At this time, Kim was stil unaware of hidden allergens in foods and finally was able to follow a 100 percent gluten- and allergen-free diet.
For Kim, it was difficult because there were no resources for her to rely on for eating out in restaurants safely, regardless of her location or destination. “There were only books on preparing allergy-free foods at home,” she says. “For me, learning to eat anywhere and traveling with celiac and all of my allergies was priority number one.”
One day one of her friends from graduate school introduced her to Robert La France (co-author of the series) who was in the restaurant business living in Manhattan. They met for dinner. While ordering, Robert noticed Kim ordered plain salad, chicken and broccoli. He started convincing her that she could expand her food choices. Based on her dining experiences with Robert, they combined their knowledge of safe and unsafe ingredients. They developed their own list of what questions to ask and what areas of food preparation would pose the biggest concerns. Kim realized this information would be valuable for others who had to live with special diets.
COMMON FOOD ALLERGIES
Kim says 90 percent of all allergic reactions come from milk, eggs, wheat, soy, peanuts, treenuts, fish and shellfish. It is important for anyone who suspects food allergies to consult a physician for a proper diagnosis. For those allergic to milk, many times cross contamination is involved. For example, if you order fries, you need to find out if the fries are fried in the same oil as cheese sticks on the menu. It is important to ask if the vegetables are topped with, or sautéed in, butter. If ordering dessert, you should determine if it is topped with whipped cream.
For wheat and gluten sensitive people, Kim says many things are hidden. For example, soy sauce and malt vinega contain wheat as does bacon bits and mashed potato mix. Many restaurants dust their chicken, veal, and fish with flour. “So you have to ask if your meat is flour-dusted,” says Kim.
While eating corn chips in a Mexican restaurant, you might have to ask if the chips are fried in the same oil as a chimichanga (which has wheat). For those with sensitivities to nuts, you will have to ask for your vegetables to be sautéed in butter rather than oil.
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