How to Eat at Restaurants When You Have Food Sensitivities - Aspire Natural Health

How to Eat at Restaurants When You Have Food Sensitivities

4417950887 5cfb28945a z - How to Eat at Restaurants When You Have Food Sensitivities

Eating out healthfully is a challenge, let’s be honest, if you’re on any form of restricted diet – from allergen avoidance diets, to gluten-free diets, to vegan diets, to Paleo diets, to anything in between. Finding an accommodating restaurant can be challenging.



The First Step – Assessment
The first step is to put eating out in context
1. How often are you doing it?
2. How important is keeping a strict diet?

If eating out is a rare thing for you, say once every month or less AND you are eating a strict diet, say Paleo for it’s health benefits and not to treat any particular disease or dysfunction you have, or that disease or dysfunction is well managed and ‘not that big of a deal’ then I recommend NOT fussing or working yourself up over eating out. It’s an uncommon thing, and the side effects from eating out are not that big of a deal, eat whatever you want. As long as you enjoy yourself and enjoy your food, throw your restrictions to the wind and enjoy. Want gluten? Dairy? Sugar? Eat them. Then the next day, the next meal get back on your healthful eating plan.

Of course if you’re eating out regularly, weekly or more often then you’re going to have to keep an eye on yourself and see how indulging affects you. How does it make you feel? How does it affect your body composition (level of fatness)? If it’s negatively affecting you, then you’re going to have to cut back.

Moving on
Okay, so let’s say for whatever reason you’re not going to throw caution to the wind and indulge, you need to be more selective about what you eat. How can you eat out and still maintain your eating plan?

Here are 8 steps to eating out with food sensitivities

  1. Have a plan in place – ‘winging it’ is almost sure to end in failure. Think through the meal. What are you going to drink? What are you going to do when they bring bread? (Hint: You can ask your server NOT to) What are you going to do/say if your fellow meal-goers question your behavior? Are you going to have dessert? By making these decisions in advance you reduce the spur of the moment pressure on yourself to break your eating plan, and suffer the consequences. By knowing what you are going to do before you go out, you dramatically increase your chances of coming away from your meal feeling good.
  2. Don’t go very hungry – better to have a snack (or even a meal) of ‘good’ food before you go. Hunger beats will power every day of the week. In the same way you shouldn’t go to the grocery store hungry because you’re sure to come home with more junk than you want, you shouldn’t go out hungry unless you plan to indulge.

  3. Pick better restaurants – most low end restaurants are going to use cheap ingredients, the very ingredients that cause the most problems. Picking a higher end restaurant ensures that it’s likely they’ll use, or at least have, better ingredients, AND be more responsive to your requests.

  4. Look online – most restaurants post their menus online. So have a look at what they’re serving. Inline with point #1 pick out what you’re going to eat, so when you get there the temptation to eat something that doesn’t work for you is drastically reduced.

  5. Always be VERY nice to your server & tip well – face it, you’re going to be ‘THAT’ customer, the one that makes everyone at the restaurants life harder. So, always be VERY nice to your server, empathize and apologize for the trouble you’re putting them through. Then explain what you want, and if they do a good job, tip them well for their extra effort.

  6. You may need to talk to a manager or the chef/cook – if you feel like your server is not getting it, you may need to ask to talk to the manager or even the chef/cook to make sure your needs get met. Don’t be shy, you are paying them after all.

  7. Tell them you have allergies, ask if they have a gluten free menu – generally if you mention allergies they’ll think of you less as a ‘weirdo pain-in-the-butt’ and more as someone with a medical condition. I’ve known people who claim that they have severe food allergies and they may have to go to the hospital if they get served this food, but that’s pretty extreme. I’ve also known some people with celiac who had a laminated half-sheet that they took with them and gave to the server to take to the cook listing all the things that they could and could not eat and which briefly explained how serious celiac disease is. Also if the place has a gluten free menu you know that at least have a sense that some people can’t eat certain things. If they look at you like you have two heads, you’re probably in the wrong place.


8. Bring condiments – tamari or coconut aminos, real butter, salad dressing. If you need something and are confident that the restaurant is not going to have it, consider bringing your own. One common issue is with sushi. Soy sauce contains gluten, and most restaurants do not have tamari (gluten free soy sauce) so many people bring their own. Some people bring their own butter to add, and I’ve seen people bring their own salad dressing for salads as well. The point is NOT to bring your meal, but if you need key elements and you doubt they’ll have them, consider discretely bringing them.

Plus one more:

  1. Consider gluten and casein (dairy) digesting enzymes and probiotics – Let me be quick to point out that these are NOT a license to eat gluten and casein if they give you problems, but can help for the occasional indulge or slip. Certain enzyme formulas (the label will include the enzyme DPP IV) are better at helping to break down gluten and casein and can help (but not completely prevent) complications from eating them for sensitive people. Similarly there are probiotic strains that will do the same. If I needed to be careful of gluten and casein and was going out I would do a small to moderate dose (depends on the product, but say 2 enzymes and 1 probiotic capsule) before going out for food. If I thought despite my efforts I had eaten some of my problem food I would take a high dose (say 4-6 enzymes, and 2-3 probiotics) afterward to help reduce the complications.

Bringing it all together
So, eating out with food sensitivities. First, decide if this is an occasion to indulge. If it is, you’re done, go enjoy and don’t worry about it. The worst thing is to eat something you want but to be so worked up about it that as you’re eating it you don’t enjoy it, and then you beat yourself up about it for the rest of the day and possibly days afterward. That’s lose-lose. If you’re going to eat it, then darn well eat it and ENJOY, end of story.

If you’re not going to indulge then you need to be smart and proactive about it. Plan out what you’re going to do, find a good restaurant, get your server on your side and tip them well.

If you have food sensitivities then you honestly should not be eating out often, but you should also not be an exile or hermit either. Smart eating out, while your health practitioner helps you heal your gut (food avoidance does not equal the whole treatment, but that’s another article) so you’re not so sensitive is a way to feel good and enjoy those oh so important social interactions.


At Aspire Natural Health we are experts at helping people suffering with digestive issues and autoimmunity.

Are you looking for help?

Email us at or call us at 425-202-7849.  The first step of our process is to see if we’re a good fit for one another.  If we are, we’ll talk about next steps.  If not, that’s okay, and we’ll do our best to help you find the right person.

Everything is no-obligation and no-pressure, so you don’t have to worry.  You have nothing to lose!

Call us at 425-202-7849 or email us now!


Photo attribution –

Another Interesting Post

Is the gluten-free diet a fad?