Today’s post is a very important one to me. If you or someone you know has food intolerances and finds eating out to be a major challenge, then keep reading!
As someone with food intolerances, I know what a pain it is to eat anywhere other than at home—whether at restaurant or at someone else’s home. I have to eat out quite a bit due to my husband’s job. It comes in waves, so I quickly had to learn how to manage it—and manage it well.
On a regular basis, I’m faced with bread baskets, buttery cakes, sausages filled with additives, and candy (where corn syrup is the first ingredient). While at a recent reception. I had to stare at this massive cake (containing gluten, butter, and a boatload of sugar) for an hour. Then I had to watch every person around me eat it. It felt like they were eating in slow motion.
Gluten, dairy, and corn are in most things these days. While this is fine for many, people with food intolerances that eat these things can be triggered with symptoms that can last for days, if not longer.
You don’t have to eat things that hurt your stomach just because they’re on the menu or on table at an event or gathering. Here are my personal strategies to help you stick to the foods that work for you when you’re out and about.
My tips fall into two categories.
- “You Need a Plan” (tips 1-4)
- “You Need a Back-Up Plan” (tips 5-8)
With a little preparation it’s possible for you to eat well when eating somewhere other than in your own kitchen. Here’s how!
- Create a list of the foods that you CANNOT eat and include a list of what you CAN eat. What you CAN eat is equally as important as what you CANNOT eat because it gives the chef at a restaurant or the host/hostess at an event some ideas of what they can make for you. For the CAN haves, I include specific meats, fishes, vegetables, fruits, nuts, nut milks, coconut, and things as specific as herbs and spices I can eat like cinnamon, nutmeg, basil, oregano, thyme, etc. Keep an electronic copy on your computer and keep a hard copy in your purse or pocket when you go out.
- If you are planning on going to a restaurant
- Read the menu ahead of time to see if there is anything you can eat before making a reservation.
- Call ahead of time to let them know of your food issues. Let them know you looked at the menu and ask if they can make something for you on the menu in a way that you can eat it. (For example, you might see marinated chicken on the menu. Ask what the marinade is and if you can get it without the marinade. Often times, meat can be pre-marinated and you want to ensure that you can get something made without the ingredients that bother you).
- Ask if you can email the restaurant with your list of what you CAN and CANNOT eat. Restaurants have found it to be extremely helpful in many instances, which you will see in my photos at the end of this post!
- If you’re going to someone’s home…
- Call them to ask what they’re serving. Often times, they can set something aside for you. For example, if they’re serving a fruit salad and the only fruit you can tolerate is strawberries, have them set some strawberries aside for you. We were recently invited to someone’s home who knows of my food issues and called ME ahead of time. She set aside strawberries for me! How nice is that?
- Offer to bring something to share with everyone—and make this item something that YOU can eat.
- Make it known that you have food issues. Don’t be shy about it. You can’t get other people on board if you’re not on board. That’s life!
- Personally, I find that people want to help. Many people don’t have food issues and have not been exposed to people that do. So, it can be overwhelming for them if you rattle off a list of things you can’t have. Give people the benefit of the doubt and be patient. Offer to provide the list of things you CAN and CANNOT have if they would like it.
- Bring digestive enzymes with you in the event you unknowingly end up eating something that bothers you. I really like Digest Gold by Enzymedica.
Not everyone will be sensitive to your food issues. It happens. Here are some helpful things that can help you from making poor food choices in these instances.
- Decide ahead of time what you will not eat. Stick to it. You’re stronger than you think. Tell your friends or whoever you are with that you are NOT eating certain things. Ask them to help keep you be accountable. This is critical. Be prepared to be strong.
- Drink water. Water is always a good thing to drink when you are out since it fills you up, it’s a known entity and the purest thing you can have. I stick to water and will occasionally have wine. Moderation is key. But for the most part, opt for water.
- Eat a little something before you go out if you think there’s a possibility that you won’t be able to eat. Bad things can happen when you’re hungry and there’s a dessert buffet in front of you.
- Have an emergency food stash with you at all times. I carry almonds and pecans. They’re filling, they’re small, and they won’t melt. Sometimes I’ll throw in some raisins too.
I photographed my recent experiences while dining out in May during a busy time for my husband’s job where we had almost an entire week of events.
One dinner we attended was hosted by the Commanding Office of the Royal Life Guards. The Royal Life Guards provide a permanent guard at Amalienborg Palace, as well as a few other places in Copenhagen. They wear those sharp uniforms and furry hats. Seeing these guys for real and in action is awesome. This is a picture I took while we were at the dinner. It looks like a giant Christmas ornament.
Back to the food….
My food list was provided to the chef ahead of time. My appetizer was fresh white fish. The appetizer for everyone else was fish, but had spinach puree (which may have contained butter), mayonnaise (which usually contains lots of preservatives, and bread/butter. Because the chefs had advance notice about my restrictions, they happily accommodated me. Denmark is surrounded by water, so the fish was fresh!
The next day, I attended an organized lunch at Fredericksberg Castle. Again, the chef had my list ahead of time and accommodated me with simple greens, chicken, some smoked salmon, pork tenderloin, and a hard boiled egg! The chef must have been using my CAN have list. How nice does this look? It’s making me hungry all over again.
Later that week, we were on the Danish island of Bornholm for a work trip and attended a group dinner at “Stammershalle Badehotel”. The nice folks that organized the trip gave my food list to the restaurant ahead of time. They took things right off of my CAN have list and made some scrumptious dishes for me!
It was a pre-set menu with many courses and they accommodated me for each course. Dessert was three courses! THREE. They were small courses. But still. Oink, oink, and oink.
I’ll share just a couple of photos from this meal. My husband’s dinner is on the left and mine on the right. His chicken had a reduction sauce containing wine and butter. They made my chicken with no butter, no breading, and no onion. They even cooked down some broth and brought it to me in a pan and served it over the chicken. I devoured it. As I’ve mentioned before, Danish chicken is the best I’ve ever had. By far!
This was the second of the three desserts. My husband had some sort of homemade ice cream. The chef served me this beautiful bowl of fresh and lovely flavors: almond milk with berries, coconut, and some delicious green herbs. These were all things that I specifically put on my CAN have list (minus the mysterious green herb which was SO tasty).
We took a ferry from Bornholm to Sweden in order to get back to Copenhagen after this trip to Bornholm. The group was served a pre-fixed dinner on the ferry that included pizza, pork, potato salad, and a dessert. The ferry food looked quite nice! The ferry folks had my food list ahead of time and they prepared a special plate for me ahead of time.
CHECK THIS OUT! Chicken, cucumber, eggs, almonds, carrots, and quinoa. They definitely got this from my CAN haves list and made a dinner for me that I was able to eat. Additionally, while the rest of the group enjoyed a tiramisu dessert, I had a nice cup of fresh strawberries. This is another great example of why it’s good to provide a list to the chef ahead of time.
Every stomach is different and you know what bothers you – so pay attention to that. Trust how you feel and take care of yourself! Don’t be afraid to speak up and use these tips. You matter!