19 'Hacks' That Can Make Dining Out With Crohn's Disease Easier
When you have an illness that affects your gastrointestinal tract, eating can become more complicated, and you may be required to plan your meals ahead of time to accommodate your specific dietary needs. For those with Crohn’s disease, a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), dining out can be a daunting task. Will the restaurant have food that’s “safe” for you to eat? Will your friends or family be upset if you request to eat somewhere else? What will you do if you accidentally eat something that sends you into a flare? Is there an easily accessible restroom nearby?
Although it might take some extra planning, many people with Crohn’s (and other food restrictions, allergies, etc.) have found that it is possible for them to dine out. So, in partnership with Girls With Guts, we asked their community as well as our Mighty community to share their “hacks” for making dining out with Crohn’s disease easier. Maybe some of the following can help make eating out more of a relaxing and enjoyable experience for you, too.
Here’s what the communities shared with us:
1. “I always order everything as plain as possible and stick to places I know I can get something that won’t bother me.”
2. “I try to find menus online before going to the restaurant so I am prepared for special accommodations I need to make for my order.”
3. “I scope out the bathrooms ahead of time. I try to avoid restaurants with no bathrooms! Those are the worst!”
4. “Without making a big deal of it, if I’m having a bad flare and can’t handle food, I encourage friends to eat what and where they want and don’t mind me if I can only do lukewarm water or ginger ale. It’s about shared company more than food. I try to normalize that, so people don’t feel uncomfortable eating around me. The needling, mocking and pushing me to eat comes from their own discomfort, so minimizing that helps everyone.”
5. “I often stick with water since soda increases my output.”
6. “If ordering carryout or delivery, I write down my order to make sure I get everything right, especially with brain fog.”
7. “I do my best to be kind to my servers and explain that I legitimately cannot eat certain things and I’m not trying to stick to some fad diet.”
8. “Sometimes I eat a little something before going so I don’t want to eat as much at the restaurant. But now I have an ostomy and just empty it before I leave.”
9. “I have a mini pharmacy in my purse! Tums, pepto, Imodium, gas relief pills, everything for digestive help!”
10. “I make sure I’m able to go home straight after eating, just in case something affects me.”
11. “Do a movie and then dinner, not the reverse.”
12. “I’m very open about things and have zero problem sending something back if it was not what I ordered. I tell them straight up I’m not paying for this because it’s just going to go to waste if it’s something I can’t eat.”
13. “I always order off the kids’ menu!”
14. “I try to eat ahead of time so I have something in me I know my stomach can handle, then I can get something small on the menu and not feel pressure to eat it all.”
15. “I always check the menu before agreeing on a restaurant. If I can’t eat anything on the menu, then I’m honest with whoever I’m meeting and suggest a different place. If I really don’t have a choice then I stash safe snacks in my purse.”
16. “Sometimes, planning to meet at a place with several dining options is good, because a group can negotiate on the spot to meet everyone’s needs/preferences. I also encourage potlucks/picnics. Whether homemade, from the store, or picked up from a favorite restaurant, it’s a good way to make sure you can eat something. Also, places like malls, especially outdoor malls: everyone can go to the place they want, order to-go and meet back at an outdoor bench or table to eat together.”
17. “We try to go before or after the dinner rush. Less people, less of a wait. Easier on me by a lot.”
18. “Mostly get take-out, otherwise eat and immediately go home.”
19. “Always get the outside seat of the booth!”
What are your “hacks” for dining out with Crohn’s disease? Let us know in the comments below!