While figuring out what to eat day-to-day is one of the most difficult aspects of living with gastroparesis, going out to eat is that much harder. My friends and I often eat out on Saturday nights and while it’s an enjoyable experience for them, it can be stressful and uncomfortable for me if I don’t plan ahead.
Here’s how I typically prepare:
- Speak up: If possible, I suggest a restaurant that I know will have something on the menu that I can eat. A diner, for example, since pancakes almost always work well for me. While most restaurants will have at least one “safe” choice, like a plain baked potato, I know I deserve to enjoy the experience as much as everyone else. For me, that means going somewhere I’m comfortable and ordering something I actually want to eat.
- Research the menu: Once I know where I’m going, especially if it wasn’t my choice, I try to research the menu. Almost all chain restaurants and many independent establishments post their menus online. Some also provide nutrition information, which is extremely valuable since seemingly healthy dishes can sometimes be surprisingly high in fat. I also tend to call ahead to find out what the soup selections are for that day.
- Decide what to order in advance: One of the most stressful parts of going out to eat is deciding what to order. I want something that is least likely to cause symptoms – especially if we have plans after dinner – but I also want to enjoy my food. It can also be uncomfortable to look over the menu as the others in my party look on, asking if there’s anything I can eat or suggesting things that they think I should be able to eat. If possible, I almost always decide what I’m going to eat before I arrive so that I don’t even have to open the menu.
- Eat a satisfying snack/meal ahead of time: There’s nothing worse than being hungry and finding there’s nothing on the menu to eat. So sometimes I’ll simply eat before we go. I try to choose something I really enjoy and find satisfying so that I won’t feel as deprived as I watch others eating their meals later.
- Enjoy the company: Whether I choose to eat at the restaurant or not, I always do my best to focus my attention on the people that I’m with and just enjoy the company and conversation. I’ve found that being social and continuing to spend time with friends – even if that means watching other people eat – is usually better for the spirit than sitting at home!
While all of this can certainly take the spontaneity out of going out to eat, in the long run I find it makes the experience more enjoyable and less stressful. What are your tips for eating out with GP? What are your favorite restaurants or menu items? Please share!