Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Pleasures of Restaurant Dining on an Interstitial Cystitis Diet!

Friends at dinnerHaving a chronic illness like interstitial cystitis can deplete your time and energy, and it can be tempting to order in or eat out. However, eating meals prepared away from home is not always a time saver. Waiting in line for fast food or sitting down to eat at a restaurant often takes just as long as preparing a simple meal at home. It is also much harder to stay on an IC Diet when you eat out because you have less control of the ingredients and seasonings, leaving you at risk for bladder pain and frequency that becomes an IC flare.

That being said, even interstitial cystitis patients have times when they need or want to eat outside of the home. Even if your IC diet is fairly limited, there are steps you can take to make sure the food you eat is as IC/bladder friendly for you as possible. Fast food restaurants offer plain hamburgers and milk or milk shakes in a pinch. Most other restaurants will gladly accommodate special orders from their customers. In most restaurants, you can order baked or broiled chicken with no seasoning, a baked potato or plain rice, and steamed vegetables. When in doubt, ask to talk to the chef personally.
Navigating food choices in other people’s homes, on holidays, or at events like weddings can be slightly more difficult for someone with interstitial cystitis. Your best strategy is to find out ahead of time what is being served and work around it. If you know in advance that the food choices will not be IC/bladder friendly, eat a sandwich or small meal before you go. You can also offer to take a dish to pass, (IC diet friendly, of course) if that is appropriate for the situation. The book Confident Choices: A Cookbook for IC and OAB has dozens of recipes that are suitable for these occasions, including a variety of appetizers. Who knows, your recipes might just become crowd favorites!

I have become a great "window shopper" of food! I can admire it and smell it, but I don't have to eat it!

Finally, keep in mind why you are eating out. I used to remind my weight management patients to "socialize with people not food." The same goes for interstitial cystitis patients on an IC Diet. Part of learning to accept a chronic illness is learning when to let go of the mind set of "it''s not fair." Instead of looking at the great buffet set out at your niece's wedding and worrying about what you cannot eat, choose what you can eat, enjoy that, and spend your energy and emotions connecting with friends and relatives you may not have seen for awhile.

Similarly, when you are at a restaurant, stop focusing on the foods that are not IC friendly and order what will keep your bladder happy. (I have become a great "window shopper" of food! I can admire it and smell it, but I don't have to eat it!) Then focus not only on the people you are with, but also on the other great benefits of eating in a restaurant. Somebody else is doing all of the work! You don't have to grocery shop for the food. You don't have to prepare it. You don't have to set the table. And the best reason of all? You don't have to clean up afterward.

What are your favorite restaurant foods? How do you navigate the food served at a family event our party?

Julie Beyer, MA, RDN
Author, Speaker, Patient Advocate Just Tell Me What to Eat!

For step by step guidance for creating your own personal interstitial cystitis meal plan, see: Confident Choices®: Customizing the Interstitial Cystitis Diet.

For some basic, family-style, IC bladder-friendly recipes, see: Confident Choices®: A Cookbook for Interstitial Cystitis and Overactive Bladder

For health care workers:  Interstitial Cystitis: A Guide for Nutrition Educators 

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  1. "it's not fair". That's where I am at right now. I'm a 32 year old wife and mom of 2. It's been three weeks since my diagnosis, and I'm apparently not doing the diet correctly because I'm currently in a flare up. Social eating is killing me. I hate missing out on what others are enjoying. But, I do like reading how others deal with's encouraging to know I'm not alone.

    1. I'm 16 and have it. Be glad you're so much older

  2. I gotta say, I have only been diagnosed about 2 months ago, and I am currently in a PMS state, so I am craving everything I can't have right now. VERY AGGRAVATING:) But I am still not comfortable enough to stray outside of my own comfort zone.

  3. I am dying not being able to drink my usual caffine free ice-tea with lemon or Sonic diet coke!!! It has only been 10 days since my diagnosis. I don't feel like I follow the general patterns of most others, although my urologist dilated and lasered off the inflamations. I have just never had much pain with urination, or the frequency issues. My pain has never been too intense or chronic, but more like constant cramps I use to experience before periods. Anyway, I am really going to have trouble drinking milk and water only. I am lucky my kids are grown, this would be very difficult if I still had kids at home.... Anyone have any good beverage suggestions--hate the blueberry juice!!

    1. Karen, you prob already figured out some great stuff (since its been years), but for anyone new reading this... I've found that Celestial has a flavor of tea: Honey Vanilla Chamomile tea that is great for when I'm sick of milk and water.

  4. ovaltine, this well give you the chocolate, we all crave. I just found out yesterday I had this. There are coffees you can drink as well KAVA and ROMBAUSTS have the acid removed. If you know of foods I can eat please let me know. Can I have margarine in place of butter? stuff like that. my email is thanks

  5. I wish there were restaurants and grocery stores that only carried IC friendly foods. It would be soooo much easier.