How to Eat Out with a Food Intolerance
If you spend hours reading menus online, you probably have a food intolerance and worry about what to choose and if you will come out unscathed.
Living with a food intolerance or IBS, always brings the risk of an upset tummy when eating out. But, there are ways you can minimise this and maybe even get away without any negative after effects.
Before you go:
- Start by checking the menu online and even ringing ahead to check what meals are easy to modify.
- Return to your baseline diet, be it fodmap or failsafe, by returning to your baseline diet for a day or two, you will be as close to baseline as possible and have more room to move before you hit that threshold.
- Have a snack just before you leave so that you don’t get to the restaurant starving and be tempted by that garlic bread on the table.
When you arrive:
- When you get there, excuse yourself to the bathroom and go and have a chat to the waiter or chef in private.
- Focus on meals that are easy to modify e.g. fish and salad with sauce on the side. Many “saucier” dishes are partly premade and can’t be modified as easily
- Focus on your major triggers and things that can’t be removed at the table like onion or garlic in a sauce. Firstly, it can be confusing for chefs if they get a huge list of “can’t haves” so your much more likely to get what you need if you can reduce the list to 2 or 3 foods. Secondly, with food intolerance we don’t have to worry about cross contamination, so you can easily pick a piece of mushroom out of a salad and leave it on the side of your plate.
- Always be polite, staff will bend over backwards for someone they warm to.
- Stress can be a trigger and exacerbate symptoms, so try and use your relaxation techniques on the day, during the meal and the day after.
- Try not to “overeat”, choose small serves of the foods you really enjoy and get maximum pleasure by eating mindfully.
One thing I want to put on the table (no pun intended) is that the great thing about living with food intolerances is they aren’t a game of perfect. You don’t need to be 100% strict with it all the time. This is because food intolerances and IBS are all about threshold and small “cheats” here and there are seldom enough to upset the apple cart or affect your progress. If you do accidently go over your threshold and suffer the after effects, just look after yourself, wait for things to pass and then pick up where you left off.