I recently wrote a blog post on how to safely eat out on a low FODMAP diet. The post includes a bit of a step-by-step guide, but I wanted to provide a bit more detail on step 1 “do your research”.
Choosing the right place to eat can be quite time consuming, and sometimes frustrating. However if you get it right, you can avoid a lot of awkwardness when you actually get there, plus the even more importantly avoid the possibility of getting it wrong and suffering with the consequences.
So, here’s my winning formula for choosing a restaurant…
First of all, I start on Tripadvisor. I always start by searching for restaurants in my chosen area and adding the dietary requirement filter of ‘gluten free options’. This is not only because gluten is my number one nemisis, but also because I figure if a restaurant is clued up with gluten, it’s most likely they will also be more aware of allergies in general. I also set up the ratings to 4* and above, because, well I like nice food.
I then have a scroll through the options and usually rule out the cuisines that I know would be a nightmare – garlic and onions are the big ones so Indian is straight off for me, alongside usually having to rule out Chinese (however I have recently found a a really good one locally so it’s definitely not impossible!) and tapas.
For me, I also try and stay away from chain restaurants and stick to local, authentic places because in my experience I have found that many chains (except a few really fantastic ones) pre-make a lot of their food, meaning it’s difficult for them to leave any high FODMAP ingredients out.
Once I have shortlisted a few options I then trawl through the menus. If you just go for sussing out what you can and can’t have, you’re usually just left with salad or steak and chips. Steak and chips is obviously great, but not when you’re eating it three times a week! So instead I try and chose the dishes that are closest to being safe or that I think could be easily adpted.
The FODMAP baddies are usually in the sauces, so once I’ve found a few options I’ll email (or call) the restaurant to find out whether they can adapt for me. I would usually phrase it like this…
Hi Restaurant Name,
I have just found your restaurant online and after looking at your website and reading the reviews it looks I would really love to visit
However, unfortunately I have a few allergies and intolerances; being gluten, garlic and onion.
I have taken a look at your menu and really like the look of x, x and x and was wondering if there is a way that these dishes can be adapted to avoid the foods mentioned – and if not, is there anything else you can recommend?
Thank you in advance and I look forward to hopefully dining with you soon!
*note: I personally often say allergies as my reactions are fairly severe so I feel that they may be taken more seriously. Potentially controversial but I have to put my health first
To date, this pre-planning has worked almost every time, and I have found the manager replying has usually been so helpful and willing to go out their way to ensure I can eat with them. Sometimes they ask me to pre-order if the food requires marinading, which often actually works out better as you don’t have to explain yourself again at the restaurant!
Once I get to the restaurant, I then double check everything with my server (the time of doing so is is dependant on who I am with; if I’m with family and close friends, I will do it at the table, if out with work or others not so close, I usually try and save the long explanations and questions by slipping off to the waiter when out of sight). Usually, the waiter will have already been made aware, but just in case, I use the same phrasing as above to double check.
Following these steps really does help me when eating out, and speaking to the restaurant beforehand really limits the anxious feeling I get when making food not prepared by myself!
Also, if you don’t have the luxury of being able to research ahead of time then you can still carry out the same process but whilst at the restaurant.
I hope this helps and would love to hear your stories on eating out too!