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Tips to Feel More Confident While Going Out to Eat With IBD

Updated: Dec 19, 2022

by: Mackenzie Thomas, MS, RDN, CDCES

Eating out with Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis (IBD) can be a challenge but should not be off the table completely. Throughout this series, we will review foods that are considered “IBD friendly” through a variety of cuisines and recommendations to help make your time away from home enjoyable with your friends and family. Below are some helpful tips to navigate eating out with confidence.

1. Plan ahead. Restaurants now make it easy to access menus beforehand to help an indecisive friend or people with food restrictions and allergies. Read the menu descriptions carefully to ensure you will be able to tolerate the foods they have available. If you are still unsure, call the restaurant with questions you may have to help narrow down your options. If all else fails, don’t be afraid to suggest going back to a restaurant you have enjoyed before! Your friends and family may even prefer someone else to make the decision.

2. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or make special requests. Servers and cooks have become accustomed to modifying dishes for customers with dietary restrictions. Whether it’s asking for the sauce on the side, no spice, or grilling instead of frying, they tend to be accommodating. If you need to completely omit something from the dish, it may be easier to disclose you are allergic or intolerant to certain foods. This will ensure they understand the importance of making your dish without that item and eliminate additional questions that you would have to answer.

3. Avoid Crowds. If crowds and having access to the bathroom cause anxiety when eating out, try going to a restaurant for a late lunch or early dinner to avoid those peak hours. Not only will you be able to take you time and relax, but the service will also be more accommodating with less tables to take care of. To help you feel more comfortable while dining, try asking for a table closer to the bathroom if possible.

4. Eat a Smaller Meal. Eating smaller, more frequent meals is recommended for IBD to prevent feeling uncomfortable after a large meal. Restaurants are known for having huge portions so being mindful while out is important. Try looking at smaller portion options such as appetizers or tapas for example. If those options are unavailable, try splitting the meal or ask your server to bring a to-go box to save the rest for later. Your gut will thank you!

5. Don’t Experiment. Going to a new restaurant can be tempting for trying new food items you wouldn’t typically have. Be mindful of your gut and make sure the ingredients in the dish are options you have been able to tolerate in the past. This will help avoid triggering symptoms and reduce unwanted side effects while out.

Remember, IBD is very individualized and is not a “one size fits all” approach. Always remember your triggers and keep a list of “do not order” foods to help ease your mind while eating out.

Resilience for IBD is Resilience for Life!™

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