Before You Eat out When You Have IBD

Your social life can continue if you do a little planning

Friends At Dinner
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Eating out at restaurants or at social functions can be a tricky situation for people with inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis). It is especially difficult when you are dining with people you know either through a professional or casual relationship. These people are not likely to know about your health problems, and you're probably not going to want to bring it up over dinner. (In addition, you might not even want them to know.) When you're dating, it would be nice to put IBD on the back burner How can you handle a high-powered business lunch or romantic dinner without bringing attention to your problem?

Have a Restaurant Plan

Before you leave for the restaurant, decide on what you will eat and how much you will eat. If you're afraid that you will be hungry and tempted to eat something you shouldn't, have a safe snack before you leave.

Peek at the Restaurant Menu

If you know what restaurant you're going to, do a little reconnaissance first. Many restaurants and catering halls have web pages that include their menus. If you're really concerned, you can even call the restaurant and ask if they serve any dishes you know are "safe" for you to eat.

Locate the Restroom First

Ask the host or hostess where the restroom is located before you are seated or right after being shown to your table. If your dining companions don't know about your health problems, you can use the excuse of wanting to wash your hands before dinner. This way, you know where the facilities are located and you can check to be sure they're clean and stocked.

Skip the Cocktails

Alcoholic drinks may not be a good idea for people with IBD. Try sparkling water or a virgin cocktail (or a "mocktail") if you're concerned about appearing chic but don't want to drink. If you need an excuse, you can always say you're taking antibiotics or other medications that don't interact well with alcohol. Or there's always the old standby—"I have to drive myself home so I'm not drinking."

Watch out for Appetizers

Appetizers such as mozzarella sticks, hot wings, nachos, and chicken fingers are all fatty, fried or dairy-filled foods that might not be good to your digestive system. If everyone else is having an appetizer and you're feeling left out, have some soup instead or dig into the breadbasket.

Anticipate Any Awkward Questions

Not everyone is tactful. Someone may ask you "Why are you ordering chicken at a famous steakhouse?" Decide beforehand how you will answer. You could mention your illness briefly if you think it will be well received. If not, "I'm on a diet" or "I stopped eating red meat and dairy" are also common reasons that aren't likely to bring up more questions.

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