Crohn’s Disease? 8 Tips for Eating Out
Restaurant survival guide
If you have Crohn’s disease, you have to be picky about what you put in your mouth, and going out to eat may be a challenge—particularly if you’re having a flare-up.
“Crohn’s patients have anxiety about eating period, but when you’re not in your own home and bathroom it can cause a lot of anxiety,” says Tamara Duker Freuman, a registered dietitian in New York who specializes in digestive disorders.
However, if you do feel up for eating out, check out these 8 tips to avoid aggravating a flare-up and make the most of your dining experience.
Study the menu
Many restaurants will modify their dishes—swap heavy cream for low-fat milk in their soup or mashed potatoes, for example—especially if you ask them ahead of time.
Know your triggers
On the other hand, sandwiches with lean meat like turkey (and avocado instead of lettuce and tomato), or well-cooked foods like mashed potatoes, rice, and veggies tend to be better tolerated, Rosenau says.
If you're going to a chain restaurant, those that have extensive menus, such as Chili’s or Applebee’s, are more likely to offer something you can eat.
Explore different cuisines
Spicy foods like Indian or Mexican usually do not go down as well as blander meals. Japanese food like miso soup, sticky rice, or salmon can be good choices.
Freuman suggests figuring out what agrees with you. “Eat to your limit of tolerance for quality of life and also for nutrition.”
Fast food can be OK
“I usually don’t object to most fast foods,” says Stephen Hanauer, MD, chief of gastroenterology, hepatology, and nutrition at University of Chicago. “It gives you the calories you want and it’s tasty.”
However he points out that it’s often high in fat, which may aggravate symptoms. For lighter fare, Subway or Chipotle can be good spots.
Make it a social occasion
“Even if you just went and had a hot tea or a glass of juice or chicken broth, you can be with the people you want to be with,” Rosenau says. “Just be there for the sheer enjoyment of other’s company.”
Rosenau recommends carrying some granola or a bottle of Ensure or Boost with you in case you feel hungry, and maybe having a bite beforehand.
See if your friends or family could meet for a late lunch or early dinner. That way, you will probably have more control over how long you spend in the restaurant—and get better service while you’re there.
Another tip that Rosenau says could be helpful and give you peace of mind is to ask for a table near the bathroom. “You’re going to feel more secure.”
“If you think it will make you sick then it just might,” Rosenau says, adding that being relaxed and as stress-free as possible will increase your chances of being able to digest your food.
Another tip to make your food more digestible is to take the time to chew it well.
Be a regular
Don’t be afraid to suggest going back to a restaurant that you have enjoyed before. “Just finding the restaurant that works for you is a great strategy,” Rosenau says.
Some restaurants might even show you their appreciation for being a regular with discounts and special dishes.