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Restaurant Rules

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Sensitivity to dairy, gluten, or fructose doesn’t have to ruin your digestive tract – or your lifestyle. However, eating out at a restaurant presents special challenges for a person with a food intolerance. Here are some “restaurant rules” to help you stay healthy when you eat out.

For a lot of people, nutrition guidelines and taste preferences are the only factors steering food choices. But the simple act of eating is more complex if you have what's known as a food intolerance, or difficulty digesting any of a number of common dietary staples.

Lactose (dairy) intolerance, celiac disease (inability to digest gluten, found in wheat), and fructose (fruit sugar) malabsorption can cause a crop of unpleasant digestive woes -- so if you have any of these conditions, avoiding the offending edible becomes of prime importance.

Once you've figured out how to avoid the foods that upset your digestive system, eating at home can be a relatively easy task. But trying to eat a meal at a restaurant -- where you're not in total control of every ingredient and cooking utensil -- can be challenging.

Here's how to make sure your next restaurant meal includes only the foods you want:


  • Preview the menu online. Many restaurants have websites with full menus, so you can make sure there's something acceptable for you to eat.
  • Call ahead and make sure they will be able to accommodate your special needs.
  • Choose your reservation time carefully. Avoid peak dining hours, when the wait and kitchen staff may be too busy to remember your requests.
  • Tell your server about your particular food intolerance. He or she may be able to help you identify menu items that are safe for you to eat.
  • Ask how the food is prepared. Inquire, for example, if the salad includes croutons or the meat is marinated in soy sauce. And don't be afraid to ask that your food be prepared in whatever way you need.
  • Be pleasant and keep your requests simple. The restaurant staff has other tables and customers, and you're more likely to get what you've asked for if you're not overly demanding.
  • When in doubt, don't eat it. If you can't verify that a food or ingredient is safe, avoid it.


Posted in Digestive Health on March 1, 2010
Reviewed January 2011

Medical Disclaimer: This information is not intended to substitute for the advice of a physician. Click here for additional information: Health After 50 Disclaimer

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Health After 50 Alerts registered users may post comments and share experiences here at their own discretion. We regret that questions on individual health concerns to the editors cannot be answered in this space.

The views expressed here do not constitute medical advice, and do not represent the position of Scientific American Health After 50 or Remedy Health Media, LLC, which has no responsibility for any comments posted on this site.

3/7/10, Perhaps the only things I need to worry about are fat & salt. Steak lovers (like me) beware: Steak sauce (A-1)contains 12% salt; Worstershire, 3%. /

Posted by: p.weiters | March 6, 2010 11:14 PM

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