If you are trying to avoid soy in all forms including soybean oil, it is very difficult.
Unfortunately, for whatever reason, most restaurants do not list what oil they fry in. That information usually requires a phone call or a visit.
We can now say fairly confidently that if a restaurant has a fryer, most likely it is filled with soybean oil. That will eliminate all fries and fried chicken as well as a lot of appetizers like fried mushrooms, onion rings, mozzarella sticks and sauerkraut balls.
Almost all breads contains soybean oil (in both restaurants and grocery stores). Tortillas and taco shells also generally contain soybean oil.
Because almost all breads contain soybean oil, that includes most breadings also. So even if you’re lucky and a local restaurant fries in not-soybean-oil, breaded items like mozzarella sticks and onion rings will most likely have soy in them.
For the most part, Processed American Cheese is made with soybean oil, which seems to include most cheese in most restaurants. “Real” cheese like Swiss, Colby, and Cheddar, generally do not contain soy.
Most chocolate is produced with soy lecithin so that eliminates most candy bars and cookies with chocolate in them. Tragically even the most expensive chocolate and chocolate from foreign countries all seem to use soy lecithin any more. Some of the really fancy ones will use palm oil AND soy lecithin.
If it’s creamy or gooey, it’s probably got soy in it. Gooey usually has hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated soybean oil in it (think Oreos and frosting, and the filling in Twinkies). If it’s creamy it probably has soybean oil in it: (think salad dressings and mayonnaise, and therefore potato salad and macaroni salad, dips and sauces).
We also know that you’re never going to find out of there’s soy bean oil in restaurant or grocery food by looking at the allergen lists because they don’t consider soybean oil to be made from soybeans.
The presence of soy in the fries, bread, sauces, and cheese pretty much eliminates all of the standard fare at most fast food restaurants.
Fortunately, our son does not appear to have an issue with cross contamination with soy, so as long as we avoid it as much as possible, he seems to be OK.
If you are extremely sensitive to soy to the point that cross contamination to soy is a problem, I’d recommend staying out of all restaurants. Our allergy doctor told us of a lady who was highly allergic to soy and had a reaction because somebody used tongs on her bread that were used with bread that had soy based margarine on the bread. If you’re this sensitive, being in an any restaurant in this day and age is probably like playing Russian roulette.
Here’s a list that we’re trying to build of all of the hidden soy in restaurants.