Friday, April 18, 2014

Eating out when your gut is touchy

Adhering to a new way of eating is difficult enough when you're cooking for yourself, let alone when you find yourself away from home.

Let's face it - dining out while on a special diet is tough. And I don't mean a diet to lose weight. I mean a diet that is sometimes imposed on you, like when you're allergic to some kind of food or trying to heal an inflamed gut. 

But sometimes there's no way around it. Maybe you're travelling for business or are on vacation. Or you've been invited to a birthday party or a holiday event. What are you going to do - stay home because of the foods that might be there?

Eventually when you're on a special diet long enough, you become familiar with and more confident making it work for you. Eating out should be an enjoyable social experience. The trick is to look for friendly places to dine. Places that demonstrate an awareness of gluten-free or dairy-free eating, or are willing to make substitutions. I can't stand it when I see this written on a restaurant's menu: "NO substitutions". Run, don't walk!!

A good idea is really to telephone ahead to a restaurant or cafe and explain your special dietary needs to the chef. Chefs are becoming increasingly aware of food intolerances. Tell them what you can and can't eat. Ask about the ingredients in specific dishes. They are intimitely familiar with what's on their menu and what would be suitable, or how they can modify a dish to work for you. If they want your business, they'll make it happen.

If you're following a low-FODMAP diet such as myself, there are several cuisines where you can assuredly find something that will work:

Middle Eastern and Indian

Kebabs (skewered meats), tikka dishes, tandoori dishes, plain cooked rice

Southeast Asian
Fried rice (without scallion), steamed or sticky rice, rice paper rolls, sushi (check the fillings), omelets (check fillings), steamed fish, chili, ginger or peppered shrimp, meat, fish or poultry; roasted meats, steamed and stir-fried vegetables, rice noodle soup (pho), sorbets

In my opinion this is one of the toughest, although not impossible. You're just going to have to ask a LOT of questions.

Risotto (no onion, no garlic), gluten free pasta with pesto (check for garlic), carbonara or many marinara sauces without onion and garlic (good luck); steamed mussels, grilled chicken or veal, shrimp cocktail, mozzarella salad (if not dairy intolerant), antipasto, polenta, steamed vegetables, gelato, granita, and zabaglione (if not dairy intolerant)

Another tough one because of the beans and salsa. But, you can try.

Plain corn chips, tacos (no salsa), tamales (without onions or garlic), tostadas, fajitas (without the onion and ask for corn tortillas), arroz (rice), and some of the desserts like flan or arroz con leche (rice pudding) depending on your level of dairy tolerance

Pub Food
plain grilled or roasted meat with vegetables (check gravies for onions, garlic), grilled fish, risotto, salads, flourless cakes, sorbets, meringues.

Another option is to "take your own"

Take your own salad dressing, to make sure it doesn't contain garlic or onion or any other high-FODMAP ingredient
Take your own wheat-free bread or roll to a sandwich bar and ask them to fill it
Take your own wheat-free bread or roll to a hamburger place where they provide the patty and fillings
Take your own gluten-free pasta to have it topped with low-FODMAP sauces, etc.
Take your own pizza base to a restaurant and ask them to top it with onion-free sauces and low-FODMAP ingredients.

Eating at a friend's or family's house

Ask politely what they intend to serve and then decide if you'd like to ask them to make alterations or if you'd rather bring some of your own food. This way you won't starve while everyone else is eating. If necessary, eat something before you go. Then just nibble on appropriate snacks during the event. Don't let the food (or lack of it) spoil your good time or anyone else's.


The key to successful vacationing is planning, planning, planning!

Bring your own food on board the airline. That stuff they serve is crappy anyway, even if you didn't have a special diet to follow! 
Take snacks and easy-to-transport foods with you so that in a pinch, you won't be stuck with nothing and starve. Nonperishable foods such as breakfast cereal, crackers, appropriate trail mixes and nuts are always easy to take with you.

Overseas Travel

You may have to check with US Customs anad Border Protection and inquire about food restrictions in the country to which you are travelling. But once you're there, especially in many countries, such as the UK, Ireland, Italy, Germany and Australia, gluten-free products are relativey easy to purchase. While in other countries, especially in Eastern Europe and across the Middle East, it can be more difficult. In many Asian countries, much of the local food is rice, tapioca or potato based so it's a lot less challenging to find foods that will work for us.

Travel within North America is undoubtedly easier without the language barrier to deal with when trying to make oneself understood abroad. But I say, never pass up an opportunity to get out of your own country and see another part of the world.  Even if you slip up a little and end up not feeling well the next day, you make note of what didn't work and move on.

The easiest solution to eating while travelling is camping...I can pre-cook food at home, put it in plastic storage containers and bring it along with me to reheat. Easy, peasy and no gut-wrenching stomachaches to deal with.

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