Five Tips for Dining Out with Dietary Restrictions

Five Tips for Dining Out with Dietary Restrictions

By Kristin Houts, MS, RD

Having dietary restrictions and following a low-FODMAP diet shouldn’t keep you from enjoying a meal out with friends or family. I believe dining out and avoiding your food triggers improves with practice! Here are my top tips for dining out with confidence:

1. Be prepared: Recommend a restaurant you are comfortable with or review the menu in advance.
Feel empowered to recommend a restaurant that you know has low-FODMAP options or will be willing to accommodate requests. Restaurants that designate items as gluten-free, dairy-free or vegan are usually well-versed in dietary modifications and accustomed to fielding questions, but you may be surprised what you find out at any restaurant if you just ask!
If you aren’t the one choosing the restaurant, review the menu before you go, and, if necessary, call ahead to ask about how something is prepared or if there are dishes that can be modified. It is less intimidating to do this on your own time (and at a time when the restaurant isn’t busy) instead of in front of others during the meal.

2. Eat something before you go.
Having a low-FODMAP snack before the meal will curb hunger and help you make more mindful food choices. When a bread basket or complimentary bowl of chips and salsa arrives, you’ll be less likely to dive right in if you aren’t extremely hungry, and if either of those are your FODMAP-containing favorite, the choice to consume will be intentional, not impulsive.

3. Look to appetizers and small plates for FODMAP portion-controlled options.
As we know, following a low-FODMAP diet is all about portions– in FODMAP-containing foods as well meal size in general. To avoid the digestive upset that accompanies a large meal, look to appetizers and small plates for more appropriate portions sizes. Meal starters are also more likely to be fresh and simply prepared, which are also helpful for reducing symptoms of indigestion.

4. Always include a (low-FODMAP) veggie.
Vegetables are a must when dining out as they can be a great source of low-FODMAP fiber– one of the most important nutrients for digestive health. Fiber fills us up, which helps with the temptation to overeat and make less mindful eating decisions. Salads, because of their deconstructed nature, can be easily customized, and simple vegetable sides are almost always available.

5. Look for simple preparation methods and hold the sauces and condiments
Simple preparation methods reduce the number of ingredients in a dish along with the risk of FODMAP-stacking. Look for raw, grilled, baked or roasted proteins along with veggies that are roasted or sautéed. Sauces and condiments remain one of the biggest offenders for hidden FODMAPs, so avoid the risk of consuming something unknowingly by asking for all dressings, sauces, and condiments on the side. Stay in control of what you consume!

Kristin Houts is a private practice dietitian in Chicago who specializes in digestive health issues, specifically Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and modified diets due to food intolerance. She lives with IBS and chronicles her experiences living on a low-FODMAP diet on her Instagram account, @KristinHouts_RD.

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