Tips for eating at restaurants when you live with IBD
Members of the IBD Healthline community share their go-to strategies to feel more confident dining in restaurants.
By Emery Wright
If you live with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), you may be able to relate to feeling anxious or frustrated about dining at restaurants. It can feel stressful not knowing how the food was prepared and what ingredients were used.
Many people living with IBD prefer to cook meals at home so they can be sure about what they’re putting into their bodies.
It can feel isolating to always eat at home especially if your friends and family are often dining out. You may miss visiting your favorite restaurants or feel disappointed about not being able to take part in special occasions.
While going to restaurants can feel overwhelming when you live with IBD, it isn’t impossible. There are many steps you can take to help you feel more comfortable dining out.
The IBD Healthline community understands what this feels like and is here to help. Five community members shared their advice for making eating at restaurants feel more manageable.
Choose simple dishes
“Anywhere I can get plain meat or fish with veggies and maybe white rice is a go-to for me! I choose dishes with meat that is grilled or baked and not breaded or coated in a sauce.
“I mix it up by rotating between lamb, beef, salmon, and different veggies so that I don’t get bored usually.
“A place that serves tapas or small plates can often have diverse options too. I also love getting sushi!” — Alexa, IBD Healthline community guide.
Try new ingredients at home first
“I’ve been avoiding eating out since my diagnosis 6 weeks ago. I’ve only been eating food that I make myself so that I know what’s in it and I can add it to my food diary. It’s hard, but it helped with my symptoms.
“I’m trying to add one new ingredient each week. If there is a restaurant you know and trust to make simple plates, that would be a good place to start.” — Csteibdvm
“I always make a plan when going to a party or out to dinner. I find out what’s being served at the party and either eat beforehand or bring food.
“For restaurants, I check menus ahead of time and decide how I will order. I also try to suggest places where I know I can eat when choosing where to go.” — Margie S
Take it at your own pace
“If I’m eating a salad at a restaurant, I ask for the dressing on the side so that I can control how much I add. Ranch dressing is safest for me in moderation.
“If there’s anything ‘iffy’ about your meal, eat a bite or two, savor the flavors, and pass on the remainder!
“For me, it’s not worth the pain if it goes wrong. Sometimes I feel like eating is too much like gambling!” — Linda Mayhan
Don’t be afraid to ask questions
“I have food and sugar sensitivities due to Crohn’s, so I’m a picky eater out of necessity.
“I often question the waitstaff for 5 minutes before ordering. You can ask your server how dishes are prepared and request no sauce, no spice, and for your meal to be grilled or steamed instead of fried.
“Sometimes I also call ahead for information. It is a challenge for folks with intestinal troubles.” — Cindy58
The bottom line
Eating at restaurants can feel overwhelming if you live with IBD, but there are often steps you can take to feel more confident.
Calling restaurants ahead of time, reading online reviews, and choosing places you trust can help you feel more prepared. It can also help to ask questions about ingredients or request modifications to your order.
The IBD Healthline community knows firsthand what it’s like to navigate eating at restaurants with IBD.
Whether you are looking for treatment advice, emotional support, or just great conversations, the IBD Healthline community is here for you.
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