Getting Over the Fear of Eating Out on the Low FODMAP Diet
Afraid of eating out on the low FODMAP Diet and wish you could just get over it?
I recently wrote a post on how to eat out on the low FODMAP Diet (here it is). However, lack of confidence is such a huge thing that gets in the way of us low FODMAP-ers eating out, that I think it deserves a whole post of its own.
Being embarrassed to speak up in front of friends or ask restaurants to make modifications is a huge factor that stops people eating out on this diet. Even if it doesn’t stop you eating out, it stops you asking for the right food, leaving you either hungry or anxious of symptoms to come. Well, this is how it felt for me at least. Although I was determined not the let the low FODMAP Diet get in the way of me eating out, I was still nervous about talking about it at first. So, I ended up just picking around things and feeling totally anxious about whether symptoms would come.
However, I gradually realised a few things. These things stopped me feeling so embarrassed about the diet I was on. They gave me the confidence to speak up and to request food that I could actually eat without repercussions.
MY ‘GET OVER IT’ REALISATIONS
1. YOU’RE NOT THE ONLY ONE
Restaurants get requests to tailor food to specific diets ALL the time. A huge proportion of the population has some sort of food intolerance or even just a dislike! According to FARE (Food Allergy Research & Education), more than 170 different foods have been reported to cause allergic reactions. The European Academy of Allergy & Clinical Immunology even predicts that half of the EU’s population will have an allergy by 2025. That’s just actual allergies. There are then a huge number of people with some sort of food intolerance, lifestyle choice (e.g. Veganism) or just a plain dislike (I’ve always hated mushrooms!).
Therefore, you are not the only one who’s every requested a menu change and you certainly won’t be the last. You’re building it up in your head, thinking you’re being really difficult. However, your waiter/waitress probably won’t even flinch. They probably get lots of similar requests every day.
2. GIVE RESTAURANTS A CHANCE TO IMPRESS YOU
A restaurant would rather know about foods your avoiding and be given the chance to do something to improve your experience. It’s much better for them if their customers walk away happy with a low FODMAP meal than annoyed that they had to pick around a meal because they were too afraid to ask.
If you think about it, it’s only going to do their business favours if they’ve been able to customise their menu for you. If they can impress you, you’ll no doubt go away and tell all your friends how great they were for doing it.
I did this recently – my fiancé organised a birthday meal for me and called the restaurant before to request no onion or garlic for me. We had the party menu and the restaurant made a whole garlic & onion free version of it just for me. Amazing. What did I do? I went and posted about how great they were on Instagram, spreading the word about their great customer service. I probably brought them some extra business. Everyone’s a winner!
3. THINK OF THE GREATER GOOD
If these points just aren’t doing it for you and you’re still too embarrassed to ask, try and see it as a service to others. That’s what motivates me! At the moment, the low FODMAP Diet is not widely known and most restaurants don’t cater for it.
However, the more people there are that talk about it and request menu changes because of it, the more likely restaurants are to take note of it. Think of how this happened with the gluten free diet and how many restaurants now offer gluten free options on their menus. Think of you bringing it up as a step in the quest for getting low FODMAP options onto menus worldwide. You are helping low FODMAP-ers of the future.
YOU MIGHT BE SURPRISED
So, be brave and go out there and request a low FODMAP meal. You deserve it, and you might just be surprised. When I first started getting in touch with restaurants about ingredients, I was absolutely terrified, thinking they’d think of me as really difficult.
REAL EXAMPLES TO BOOST YOUR CONFIDENCE WHEN EATING OUT ON THE LOW FODMAP DIET
AN AWKWARD MILK QUESTION
I emailed a local vegan ice cream outlet, asking a very ‘awkward’ question about the coconut milk they use. There are many different types and some are low and some are high FODMAP…it’s one of the most awkward ingredients.
So, I asked “When you list ‘coconut’ as an ingredient in your ice cream, what type of coconut milk is it – is it coconut cream, coconut milk (the canned version used in cooking) or UHT long like coconut milk. I am able to eat some kinds but not others so if you were able to give me the information it would be really helpful."
I felt VERY awkward and thought they’d think I was a complete idiot. I thought they’d never reply. However, I straight away got the following response...
“Hi Sophie. Not a silly question at all. It’s always wise to be an informed customer. I also suffer from intolerances like soy, so if I don’t ask, I pay the price. We use X brand coconut milk. It’s not the cream and I think most boxed products are UHT, so seems like this might be that. Here’s the side label (and she included a photo of the label with the ingredients list so I could see for myself), but this is readily available at the grocery store. Hope this helps clarify. Our sorbets are coconut free if anything. Anything else, just ask :)”
The conclusion was that they use UHT coconut milk, which is low FODMAP at 125ml. This means I can eat a scoop of their delicious vegan ice cream whenever I want. The amazing response I received gave me such a lift and spurred me on to ask more similar questions in the future.
AN AWKWARD DRESSING QUESTION
Build Your Own salad bars are one of my life savers on the low FODMAP Diet. You can pick all the ingredients you want and easily make your own low FODMAP meal. No awkwardness needed. The only thing that isn’t so easy is the dressings. There are often lots of high FODMAP ingredients hiding in them, like garlic and honey, and it’s not easy to tell if they are.
So, I emailed a few of my local salad bars and asked them “Hello. Hope you are well. I have several food intolerances and would love to eat at your restaurant but am currently nervous to try the salads because I don’t know what’s in the dressings and whether I’m able to eat them. The main things I can’t eat are garlic, onion and honey. It would be really useful to know the ingredients in your dressings so I can work out which ones I can eat without feeling ill. It would be incredibly helpful and mean I can try more of your food.”
They actually referred my request to their resident nutritionist, who came back to me straight away. He informed me that they “have 9 types of dressing on our salad menu but we only have 1 dressing that doesn’t contain onion, garlic and honey, which is X. Also, for the ‘topping’ option, please avoid the grilled seasonal veggies as it contains onion.”
There we go. Not only did I get an answer on the dressings, but they showed concern and informed me about something else on the menu. It may be annoying that there’s only one dressing I can have, but at least I know I can eat it with confidence. Also, that one dressing is pretty delicious.
GETTING OVER THE FEAR OF EATING OUT ON THE LOW FODMAP DIET - KEY TAKEAWAYS
You’re not the only one – a huge proportion of people have food intolerances, allergies & dislikes. You aren’t the first one to ask for a menu change and you won’t be the last.
Give restaurants a chance to impress you – if they care about their customers, they’ll love the opportunity of making you a meal you can enjoy. By impressing you, you’ll advocate their restaurant. Everyone wins.
Think of the Greater Good – do it for all the other low FODMAP-ers out there. The more of us that raise awareness of the diet, the more places will start to cater for it.
Go for it, you might surprise yourself – hopefully the examples I gave have shown that most restaurants don’t find your awkward questions awkward. In most cases, they’re more than happy to help you out.
The only person you’re harming by not eating out on the low FODMAP Diet is you. You deserve to be able to go out for dinner and live your life. You also deserve to get to eat a delicious meal when you’re there and not to be worrying about the repercussions. So, I hope this post has made you a tiny bit less fearful about eating out. Go do it and ENJOY.
Thanks so much for taking the time to read this! If you can think of anyone else who’d find it useful, please help them out and share it with them :)