IBS Restaurant Guide & the IBS Restaurant Cheat Sheet
A little bit of planning goes a long way...
The easiest way to eat safely for IBS at restaurants is to choose a good prospect in the first place. Yes, the bad news is this might rule out most fast food restaurants and burger joints.
The good news is you have better options. If you know the questions to ask and the menu items to look for, then an IBS friendly restaurant world will open up to you.
You'll have traditional American, Asian, Italian, Middle Eastern, sub shops, delis, diners, barbecue, vegetarian restaurants, and more.
If you're eating out with friends. it's important that you speak up and make it clear that the restaurant of choice needs to serve food you can actually eat.
Don't be afraid to make yourself heard. You deserve a little special consideration here, and this means that you should have veto power if everyone else wants to eat at a place that simply won't work for you.
Remember that going out to eat is as much about socializing as it is about eating, so rest assured that your real friends will be happy just to be with you, regardless which particular restaurant you choose. If someone is consistently less than gracious about catering to your special dietary needs, feel free to drop them from your social circle. Anyone who doesn't consider your good health a reasonable priority is really no friend after all.
Before you venture out to eat, just go online to all your favorite local restaurants and look at their menus. Print them out, look them over, and see what your options are. Begin compiling a list of restaurants that you know have safe choices for you.
When you read the menus you're looking for low fat, high soluble fiber
meals. At traditional restaurants, this might mean grilled chicken (skinless white meat only) or broiled seafood with a rice or pasta side dish, a pasta primavera, or a veggie fried rice. Watch out for
words like crispy, crunchy, creamy, and rich, which typically mean fried or dairy. Pay attention to sauce descriptions. You're looking for butter, cream and oils.
If you have questions, phone the restaurant and ask for details. Once you're in the habit of doing this you will never cease to be amazed at the trigger foods restaurants sneak into the safest sounding dishes. Just because they don't list an ingredient you're trying to avoid (especially cheese) does not mean it isn't there. Trust me, you should always ask.
Make notes right on the takeaway menu if you like, and find out if dishes can be easily altered to make them safer for you. It's usually a very simple matter for a restaurant to leave the cheese off a dish, sauté something with less oil, add extra rice or pasta or a baked potato, and put sauce on the side.
Once you're actually in the restaurant take a preventive dose of your prebiotic soluble fiber supplement or a peppermint oil capsule to actively prevent pain, spasms, cramps, bloating, gas.
Order an extra basket of dinner rolls. Choose the white bread ones, not whole wheat, to get a nice soluble fiber foundation with no risky insoluble fiber from the bran.
Remember to eat any green salads last, not first, and only with a fat-free dressing.
Watch out for creamy soups that start a meal, such as clam chowder. Cast an especially suspicious eye on the appetizers, which for some mysterious reason are often deep fried at all kinds of restaurants. Skip those entirely unless you can find a low-fat choice hiding between the cheese sticks and onion rings.
I always bring my own high volatile oil peppermint or fennel tea bags to restaurants. I'll try to order mint or fennel tea first, but if they don't have it I just order hot water and brew my own. This is a super helpful trick. I promise the waiter will not hassle you about it, and you will greatly minimize your risk of an attack.
Ready, set, go!
You've scouted the local restaurants with safe and appealing choices for you.
It's time for a test run.
Go by yourself or take a single close friend or family member.
Order an item you've previously scrutinized.
Take your soluble fiber supplement at the table.
Drink some high volatile oil peppermint or fennel tea.
Divide your appetizer, meal, dessert servings in half.
Half to eat, half to take home.
Then relax and enjoy your meal.
You're in a no-pressure situation here, and you have permission to bail at any moment you feel uncertain or uncomfortable. Taking control of the situation in advance should allow you to feel at ease once you're there, and having a supportive person with you will add to your peace of mind.
Once you've eaten out a few times successfully, you will gain confidence that you can always eat out successfully, even at a new restaurant, even with a large group.
Why? Because knowledge is power over IBS. If you know how foods can help or hurt you, it's as easy to eat safely in restaurants as at home.
When you've reached this point you will be controlling your IBS. IBS will no longer control you.
For all restaurant adventures, make sure to use the:
IBS Restaurant Cheat Sheet
1. Order a meal based on soluble fiber (rice, noodles, potatoes, white bread, oatmeal)
2. NEVER assume anything on the menu is safe - ask to be sure
3. Avoid all red meat, dairy, eggs, and fried foods
4. Fill up on the (unbuttered) white rolls in the bread basket
5. Order peppermint or chamomile tea, or brew your own
6. Divide your plate in half and eat one portion only - take the rest home
7. Remember that drinks (soda, fruit juice, coffee, alcohol) can be triggers, too
8. Take Heather's Tummy Fiber right before the meal to buffer your gut's response to food
9. Don't be afraid to make special requests - you're the customer so you're always right
10. Eat your green salad (with fat free dressing) last, not first
How - exactly - to eat out without passing out.
First, once you're at your previously scouted restaurant, take your Tummy Fiber
, especially if it's the insoluble fiber in restaurant meals that you are most sensitive to.
If it's the higher fat levels in restaurant food that are more likely to cause you problems, take a Tummy Tamer peppermint oil cap
right before you leave for the restaurant (if you're not prone to heartburn, you can take the cap right at the table).
Now it's time to get down to the business at hand and figure out exactly what to order.
Be wary of anything the menu describes as:
Instead, choose items that are:
Don't be embarrassed to ask questions or make special requests.
Always ask if what you're ordering is made (or can be made) without red meat and dairy products. Always ask that as little oil as possible be used in cooking.
Make sure that your meal comes with a soluble fiber foundation (rice, pasta, potatoes, etc.) Focus on seafood, skinless chicken white meat, or vegetarian options (minus the cheese).
Insider suggestions for making sure your restaurant meals are IBS-safe:
Dairy, especially butter, is unfortunately hiding everywhere. For example, sandwiches that are grilled almost always have a thick layer of butter spread on the bread before they are thrown on the grill, even though it doesn't say so on the menu. In fact, almost anything on the grill, from buns, to chicken, to eggs, gets a huge dose of butter. Make sure you ask for "seared" instead of "grilled", as "seared" means cooked on the grill without a butter spread.
Many vegetable side dishes are also cooked in butter, although the menu doesn't say so. To be safe, always tell your server you want no dairy at all.
Some restaurants offer an entire separate menu dedicated to dietary needs and allergens. Always ask.
Don't assume you can't eat at certain restaurants until you look at the menu and ask questions. They may have options that aren't listed on the menu at all.
Take immediate control of your IBS symptoms with Heather's IBS diet kit...
Read on to learn all about your soluble fiber safe foods...