Eating out when you're on a typical diet isn't such a big deal. You just take a "cheat" day or whatever and enjoy yours...
How to Survive an Elimination Diet: Part 4
Eating out when you're on a typical diet isn't such a big deal. You just take a "cheat" day or whatever and enjoy yourself. When you're on an elimination diet, it's not quite as easy to take a cheat day. If you do have food intolerances, then a cheat day often comes with uncomfortable consequences. You can of course take digestive enzymes, which I do take any time I eat something I think might hurt my stomach. But I don't want to take them all the time because 1) they're expensive, and 2) they mask the symptoms so I don't really know what my body's true reaction would've been.
So how do you eat out on an elimination diet? Here's a few tips I've learned this past uh...almost a year?!
Tip #1: Listen to your body
I LOVE going out to eat. We have a ridiculous amount of delicious food in the Portland area and it is near impossible to not want to eat it all! But when my symptoms flared up big time and made me very ill after trying to reintroduce, I went a long time without eating out at all. It sucked to be making myself food on a Friday night while the boys were eating pizza, again, ugh. But it was worth it to not make myself sicker. I had to learn to really listen to my body and honor what it was telling me to eat or not to eat. Just more self-love practice. :)
Tip #2: Set Limits
Never eating out is really hard. Aside from just not wanting to cook every day, there's work lunch meetings, traveling, visiting friends and family, date nights, etc. So what I've done this past year, is set limits for eating out when I'm not forced to. Friday nights are usually the only time I do, depending on how I feel. Can I just tell you not only how much healthier I feel from eating out less but how much money I've saved?! It's crazy shit dude. Add up your take-out bill one month and you'll be like WTF?!
Tip #3: Choose the Restaurant Wisely
Since you're not going to be eating out as much, you should be pickier about which restaurants you eat at. Don't waste it on places that are just okay or that you know only have food that will cause you pain. For me, that meant there are several types of restaurants I just don't eat at anymore. It's just not worth feeling sick. Thankfully my taste buds have changed significantly so now I can just sneak a bite of Brian's and it's all I need now. By the second bite, I'm already saying, that doesn't taste that good anymore. Instead I stick to restaurants that have healthy food, or food I’m pretty sure fits into my diet.
Tip #4: Know How to Order
Don't be afraid to ask questions. It was hard for me to ask questions like "does that have any eggs in it? Or diary? Or soy?" At first I felt stupid and snobby, but then I realized a few things. First, it's my body and I have the right to know what I'm putting in it. Second, it's much better to ask before you order it then to get the food and realize you can't eat it. Or worse, eat it and get sick. And lastly, at least here in Portland, they've already heard all these questions and none of it surprises them. Plus I’m not an asshole and I’m always polite to people in food service, as I remember what it was like to work in that industry. (In case you haven’t, it fucking blows when people are jerks.) To save myself some headaches (literally haha), I first researched many of the foods I liked to order to find out what they typically contain. Then at least I had an idea of what foods might just fit into my diet to begin with.
Tip #5: Try New Things
I love Indian food. It's one of my favorite foods. Before this diet, I would always order the same thing, a vegetarian dish that contains cream. But there are lots of vegan and dairy-free foods in Indian cuisine, so I had plenty of options. I have discovered so many other dishes I like now so I actually eat a better variety of foods then I used to. Don't be afraid to try new foods and new places. There are even some allergy-friendly restaurants out there, you just have to ask around.
Depending on where you live and what kind of lifestyle you're used to, eating out less might be a real challenge. But if you're suffering a lot of symptoms, it's best to just make whatever you want at home, where you can control the ingredients. Don't be afraid to get creative and experiment. I've discovered a lot of new recipes this past year from doing this. Which has just added to the reasons why this is all worth it.
Read more about what I've learned on my elimination diet journey at the links below:
About author: Melanie
Mother, wife, web developer, writer. I blog about my life as an anorexia survivor, depression battler, being a mother to 2 boys, 1 with NF1, living healthy, and much more!