Since I was little I have always loved going out for dinner. Even before I got ill and had to do my research, I have always been obsessed with reading reviews and studying menus; spending days getting excited about my pre-planned choices (sad, I know!!).
However, having a stomach condition can really take the fun out of eating out… How do you explain your needs to the waitress? How do you tell your friends that you can’t eat at their favourite place as there’s nothing safe on the menu? Should you just go with it and deal with the consequences later (no, definitely don’t do that). The thought of it all really can leave you feeling so anxious and upset to the point that you’d rather stay in eating your limp dry salad alone…
But don’t do that either. Over the past three years I’ve managed to get eating out pretty much down to a t, and have come up with a step-by-step guide that may help you too!
1. Do your research!
If you have a pre-planned dinner date and are able to influence the restaurant choice then invest some time in a bit of online research. I usually try and stick to small, independent restaurants as find they make everything fresh to order so are much more able to adapt. (I have also written a full blog post on how to research safe restaurants here).
2. Don’t guess!
When I first started following the low FODMAP diet I would rely quite a lot on guesswork. For example, if the menu said steak, chips and salad I would assume that’s exactly what it was. However, some of the biggest FODMAP triggers for me aregarlic, onion and wheat (it’s the fructans within wheat that can be a problem, but for me I’m extra sensitive so am completely gluten free) – and these bad boys lurk about everywhere!
Rather than just choosing what looks safe, ask your server if your chosen dish contains any of your triggers. To make this a bit easier for myself I usually ask for a gluten free menu before I even start looking, as then my choices are more narrowed down and easier to adapt if needs be.
Like I said, I’m really not a fussy eater by choice, so absolutely hate the thought of people thinking I am. Rather than this happening I explain to the waiter that “I have a stomach condition that unfortunately means I am intolerant to a fair few things, with the main ones being gluten, garlic and onion. Because of this please can you check whether dish x has any of these things as otherwise I will be quite ill”. The response is usually pretty good and I find that most places are very accommodating!
This can of course mean that you are then opening up the possibility of endless questions from the rest of your party if you haven’t eaten with them before. However, I usually try and keep the details short and sweet but end up preaching about the life changing magic of a low FODMAP diet – and often get a new follower for the diet each time (it’s crazy how many people suffer with tummy problems)!
4. Double, and triple check!
Even though you have already informed your waiter about your intolerances by the time your food comes out, make sure you double check! It’s scary how many times I have said “just to check, is this garlic, gluten and onion free?” as the plate’s being handed to me, and they look in horror and realise they forgot. So don’t be afraid to ask again!
Do you have any advice or stories on eating out on a low FODMAP diet? If so I’d love to hear!