Ep. 119: Navigating Dietary Restrictions While Out

By: Cassy Joy Garcia
Fed & Fit
Fed & Fit

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On today's episode, I'm talking with Fed & Fit listener Emily as we chat about how to navigate dietary restrictions while eating out or at someone's home.

Fed and Fit podcast graphic, episode 119 navigating dietary restrictions while out with Cassy Joy

We're back with our 119th episode of the Fed+Fit Podcast! Remember to check back every Monday for a new episode and be sure to subscribe on iTunes!

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Episode 119 Sponsors

  • Aaptiv – be sure to enter the promo code “FEDANDFIT” (one word, all caps) at checkout, and your first 30 days are on the house!

Episode 119 Transcription

Today’s show is brought to you by Aaptiv! Aaptiv is a fabulous app and robust online community that allows you access to top notch, motivating personal trainers who guide you through an audio-based workout that is timed to your choosing with fun, perfectly synchronized music. Like Netflix for fitness; Aaptiv gives members unlimited access to their entire bank of high-end, trainer-led workout classes. So if you’re looking for fresh, high quality, on the go, motivating workouts that adapt to your lifestyle, I highly recommend Aaptiv.

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Cassy Joy: Welcome back to another episode of the Fed and Fit podcast. My name is Cassy Joy Garcia, I am your host! I am the owner and founder of www.FedandFit.com, author of the Fed and Fit book, and also creator of the Fed and Fit Project online. A food and fitness program. I’m really excited about today’s episode. I have invited a fabulous listener to come on the show today for a reverse interview.

If this is your first introduction to a reverse interview, I’ll briefly tell you what that is. A reverse interview is when a reader, or a listener, writes in with a great question. And instead of emailing them back or responding to their question like they’ve asked, I invite them to come on my podcast to record their question and our conversation. And it’s so nice when they say yes. {laughs}

So I ask folks to come on when I really think their question could resonate with other listeners out there. So today I’m excited to introduce you guys to Emily. Emily is an interior designer. I’m trying to harness some of those skills coming up really soon, Emily. And she lives in the Chicago area. Welcome to the show, Emily!

Emily: Thank you so much for having me. This is such an honor that I get to be on your podcast. And thank you for even just trusting me to kind of take the reins and ask you whatever I want.

Cassy Joy: Oh my gosh, I’m so excited! These are so much fun for me. Well that’s exactly it. I guess I left that off. Emily is going to interview me, and ask whatever she wants. I’m her interview; oh gosh. Those words. They always escape me. Interviewee? I don’t know what I am. {laughs} but I’m at your disposal for the next 30 minutes. So any questions you have, I’d love to chat.

Emily: Awesome. So yeah, today I wanted to kind of focus on navigating food sensitivities, food allergies, or maybe someone that might be starting a new health program. Kind of like your 28-day Fed and Fit program. Where you might eliminate some foods you might typically eat, and how to handle some of those restrictions when you're dining out. Or, at a bridal shower, or wedding, or business dinner. All those types of social interactions over food that I think many of us with restrictions maybe get a little nervous that we don’t want our diet to be a burden on others.

So, I reached out to you because I figured you would be great to figure out what the proper etiquette may be in those types of situations. And I think your listeners are probably going to agree with this. That you are one of the most kind, humble, and sweetest paleo bloggers I’ve come across. So thanks for letting me pick your brain on this.

Cassy Joy: Oh my gosh, you're the best! {laughs}

Emily: You're the best, Cassy. So the question that sparked this topic is, I have this bridal shower this weekend that I believe will be a served breakfast at the hosts home. And I only know the bride, and because I have gluten and dairy sensitivities, I would usually eat beforehand to kind of avoid snacking at the party. But since this is a seated meal, I feel a bit awkward sitting at a table with others and not eating what’s served. Do you have ideas for how to handle that?

Cassy Joy: Such a good question. Ok. So, to get started. Do you hear an echo Emily?

Emily: It’s ok.

Cassy Joy: It’s probably just me. Ok. I’m probably not even going to edit this out. {laughs}

Emily: {laughs} We’ll go with it.

Cassy Joy: You're just along for the ride. OK. This is such a good question. Man, I really think it’s such a relevant important thing to talk about. I have an older podcast episode, while it comes to mind, called How to Paleo with Grace. And it’s a slightly different spin on your question. You're coming in this very conscientious of how your restrictions might have an impact on others, and that one is slightly different. It’s coming from the other side. When we get a little overzealous. Anyway, that one might be a good one to listen to. If someone is listening, and I don’t touch on what you're hoping to hear, that might be one worth looking up.

But I think this is a really great question. And it’s so interesting; especially when you're new. When you first find that there is a food that wasn’t agreeing with your body. And that might have been the answer to symptoms you would have been experiencing, maybe for years. Oh my goodness, it’s so freeing! It’s such a really good feeling. And we don’t want to give up on that. And I absolutely understand it.

I still; I’m extremely sensitive to wheat gluten. And even I was at a friend’s wedding this weekend, and I turned down the wedding cake. And I love wedding cake! But for me, it just wasn’t worth the 5-day stomachache. So I absolutely get it. When you find something that has had a big impact on how you feel, you don’t want to give it up. And I think that that’s ok. So I want to start off by saying that. I think it’s definitely ok to honor what you now know about what works for your body. OK?

Because sometimes, for folks who aren’t extraordinarily sensitive, I’ve also talked about on this podcast. I’ve also said the words, “Just eat the cake!” Because for people who are not extraordinarily sensitive, or the significance of the event outweighs possible impact, that’s a decision only you can make.

In the instance of a bridal shower, or any other kind of similar, smaller occasion, I understand how it can be a little tricky to navigate those waters. So I have a couple of ideas I’m going to throw out. And what I want you to do, Emily; and also other listeners. I’m throwing out kind of broad ideas, because you're going to know your friends best. And you know the social circle, and maybe how best to proceed. So I would trust your instinct there, and know that it’s probably all going to be ok.

At the end of the day, the people who are the most worried about maybe rubbing someone else the wrong way or coming across as something possibly negative. The folks who are actually worried about that in advance are actually usually the last people that wind up upsetting anybody, or being offensive. Is something I’ve found. Just because we are aware. So I think we can kind of find some comfort in knowing that, also. You're over half of the way there.

So I would say one option is, when you're going someplace and you have an extreme sensitivity to, let’s say wheat gluten and dairy, like Emily. Those were your two, right?

Emily: Yep.

Cassy Joy: Ok. Then I would say, when a special event is coming up, we can start by nipping it in the bud by reaching out to the host and asking some questions. And I think that’s ok. Of course, it all depends on how we correspond with that person. I’ve been in situations where I’ve had family members be very obtuse. And not very gracious in their requests, and that’s a completely different story than reaching out to somebody and saying, “I really hate to bother you. But I also don’t want to offend anybody when I’m there.”

Emily: Right.

Cassy Joy: And just being as honest as possible about some of your dietary restrictions. I cannot eat wheat, you can just say that to keep it kind of simple. I can’t eat wheat or wheat products, or dairy. And I don’t want you to make an entire special meal, but I also wanted to just let you know that if we’re sitting there and it’s a seated meal, if I don’t eat something I’m really not trying to be offensive.

And when we speak from the heart in those kinds of scenarios, we’re not going to offend folks. People are really understanding. Especially in such a sweet occasion like this. And I have a really good feeling that this person is going to be gracious in return.

So what you can do is offer up some solutions. You can say, “I’m happy to eat in advance. And if you have a bowl of fruit, or something like that, I would love to enjoy that with everybody else.” Something like that. So they don’t have to feel like they have to make a special quiche.

Emily: Right.

Cassy Joy: Or you can offer to bring something. That’s another option. And at the end of the day, what you’re really trying to do. How you're honoring this host, is you're honoring them by letting them know in advance, so they’re not surprised. Because that’s really the impact, right? When the surprise. Let’s say it’s a quiche, because that’s what I’m imagining for a brunch. But the quiche goes out, and one of the slices comes back uneaten. Or you're not eating it. It then becomes sort of a thing that needs to be addressed. Or if it’s not addressed, it’s even more awkward in that instance. So I would give them a heads up.

And it’s out of respect for them as the host. And it’s all in how you write to them. And I have every confidence in the world in what little you and I have interacted with each other, that you're going to handle that beautifully.

Emily: Oh, thank you.

Cassy Joy: So I think that will be great. So you can either offer; I would make it very clear. “Please don’t make me anything special.” {laughs} My dog. Gus. I have a Great Pyrenees; a big dog. And he’s got a boo-boo on his foot. And I’m sorry for the side note. But he’s just woken up for his nap, and realized I have a Chipotle bowl on my table.

Emily: {laughs}

Cassy Joy: And because he’s got a boo-boo; he normally doesn’t stand up and look on the table. But he can get away with a lot right now because I feel so bad for him. {laughing}

Emily: Aww. Poor Gus.

Cassy Joy: Anyway. I know. Little muffin man. He’s got an appointment to see the doctor. He’ll be ok. But it’s a pretty big deal for him.

Ok. So I would say problem solve. Right? I would problem solve in advance. The communication is a huge step. Your awareness overall is the majority. You're over halfway there, like I said. I think communicating with the host out of respect. And I would reiterate that; this is just out of respect for you and your home. The last thing I want to do is offend you, or anybody else there. And then I would offer, for problem solving, I would say, “Please don’t make anything special for me. I just wanted to let you know in case you are plating. If you’ve got a grapefruit that you're serving, feel free to only send that out for me.” And then you can also offer to bring something.

Emily: OK. You don’t think that maybe offering to bring something would be stepping on their toes? I kind of debated that one, and I didn’t know if it would offset their menu or anything in that way.

Cassy Joy: You know, before you offer it, you could ask her what she thinks. You know? And maybe that’s a good way to enroll this person in problem solving with you. Because as a host, when I think about it, as a hostess. If somebody reaches out to me in advance, and says, “I’m vegan. And a very, very strict vegan.” Right? “I can’t have honey on those pecans.” Or whatever it is that I’ve made. Then I really appreciate it when they reach out in advance just to let me know. And I would like to then be a part of the problem-solving process. But that’s also my personality. {laughs}

Emily: Yeah.

Cassy Joy: So it might depend on her. And you can open it up before maybe proposing solutions, if you're afraid of insulting her. You could say, “I’ve got some ideas, but I would love to hear if you have any inclinations on how I could make this easiest on you.”

Emily: Yeah. Ok, so what about; in kind of keeping with the bridal or maybe baby shower topic. What about when it’s at a restaurant, or maybe it’s a catered event. Or even a wedding. Does your advice kind of change for that? Who would you reach out to maybe to kind of coordinate on the meal?

Cassy Joy: Yes. So that makes it even easier. {laughs}

Emily: Yeah.

Cassy Joy: Right? Because dining establishments at this point are used to these things. So in that case, I would absolutely reach out to; let’s say I were going to a hosted brunch. I just went to one yesterday. And I’m giving Gus a couple of piece of chicken, he’s talked me into it. {laughs}

Emily: {laughs}

Cassy Joy: So let’s say I’m going to a hosted brunch and it’s at a restaurant. Instead of bothering my friend, who is hosting it. Who is coordinating all these things. I will call up the restaurant, and say, “Hey, I know you're preparing a special menu for Will’s brunch. I’m one of the guests in attendance there. And I know you have 40 of us coming. But I just wanted to let you know that I have a very, very severe gluten allergy. Do you have anything that I can eat there?” And more times than not, they’re going to say, absolutely. Don’t even worry about it. And you can tell that person, “I didn’t want to bother the host.”

Emily: Right.

Cassy Joy: Right? So I figured I’d just come to you. And when you're dealing with a dining establishment, they’re usually going to be really accommodating. And if they’re not; if they say, “No, sorry we don’t have anything.” If you're celiac, for example, you would need that to be prepared in a separate part of the kitchen. But if we’re just gluten intolerant; like I’m severely gluten intolerant. I can tell them that. I can say, “You don’t have to use a separate fryer for the French fries. But do all the sauces have soy sauce in them?” Something like that. Is there anything I can get to customize?

And usually they’re happy to help you brain storm. If they say no, I’d be really surprised. But if they say no, then I would say, “Could you please adjust their bill to only reflect 39 meals instead of 40.”

Emily: Yeah.

Cassy Joy: I might nibble on the side salad, but don’t worry about me. I’m just going to come, and take up a chair, and I’ll drink water. Right? And in that case, of course, we would eat beforehand.

Emily: Yeah.

Cassy Joy: So it’s an adjustment. At this point, my friends and family are pretty used to it. But I think it all depends on how you communicate with folks, that makes the real difference.

Emily: Cool. Ok, so what if I flip the question, and say advice for someone that is the host of a party of shower. So, would you kind of preemptively ask for allergens on the RSVP? Or do you just plan to have a variety of foods to accommodate various food sensitivities or allergens when people show up? Would you do anything?

Cassy Joy: Really good question. That’s a great question. So, I’m going to give you two scenarios. If it’s a dinner party at my house. Let’s say I’m inviting 12 people over for dinner. I have a group of friends, and we do something called a dinner club. Everybody comes over. What I do in those instances is I email everybody, or I text everybody, and I say, “Please send me your food sensitivities.” Because I can’t make that many varieties. Right?

Emily: Yeah.

Cassy Joy: So if I’m preparing a roasted tomato bisque, for example, and somebody has a pretty severe tomato allergy, I’m not going to have a substitute for that person. Right? So I would rather then choose the cucumber gazpacho. Something like that. It will help me build my menu. So I like, for a smaller party, I like to ask folks in advance.

And it depends on you. If you're the home cook, and you're actually preparing this food, I would ask people in advance just so if you go across the lines and you see, “Nobody is allergic to rice. Nobody’s allergic to bison. And nobody’s allergic to broccoli.” We can make this work. Right? You can make something that works for everybody, and it makes it easier on you, the host, then to prepare that meal for everyone.

Now, if you're hosting other scenarios. If you're hosting a wedding. I keep coming back to a wedding because I just came back from one. But if your hosting a wedding, and you're wanting to make sure. Let’s say; we had a huge wedding. We invited close to 300 people. And in that case, there’s no way I’m going to prepare a spreadsheet of food allergens. So what I did in that case is I just made sure there was something available for everybody. I made sure that it was clearly labeled. The bridal cake was gluten free, but my husband’s ice cream cake definitely was not. He had a true old-fashion cake basis. And I told folks, gluten free cake if you want it. And it was delicious, of course.

Emily: Right.

Cassy Joy: Everybody had some. So that was one. We had a food truck that had options, and I just requested that they labeled. For example, the brussels sprouts were gluten free, so please put that in parenthesis next to it. Or the kebobs are dairy free, so please put that next to it. So I would have an option for folks. Ours was more of a buffet. We had food trucks come and feed people, so that’s how we labeled things.

And then if you have, let’s say you're doing a seated meal. The wedding I just went to this weekend was 40 people. And they did a very nice, seated meal. And the RSVP, of course, included meal options. You could either get the beef or the fish. And he had labeled on there that the beef was dairy free, gluten free. And the fish was not.

Emily: Oh nice.

Cassy Joy: So if you had a dietary restriction, you could just choose one or the other. Or you could just choose based on your preference.

Emily: OK.

Cassy Joy: So I hope that’s helpful.

Emily: Yeah. Ok, so what about thinking about going out to dinner with people. Thinking about business dinners, or maybe you're going out with someone else that’s picking up the tab. I know I might be willing to spend a little bit more that kind of aligns better with my diet by adding sides or paying for substitutions. But what’s the advice that you may have when someone else is paying?

Cassy Joy: That’s a really; man. These are great questions Emily. I think people are going to like this episode. You know, that depends also. My mom, whenever she asks me a question, and I give her a response, “It depends.” She rolls her eyes at me! {laughing}

Emily: I promise I’m not rolling my eyes.

Cassy Joy: Oh good. I believe you. But I apologize in advance if that’s annoying to some. So, I think that there are a couple of different ways I would handle it. Let’s say it’s a true business meeting, and you're wanting to maintain etiquette, and you're really not wanting to draw any attention to dietary substitutions at all. Because maybe it’s a really important meeting, and you just want to minimize the other variables, then I would eat something small before and go and order something that’s priced similarly to what they’re ordering.

Emily: Ok.

Cassy Joy: Even if that means you order a very simple salad. I’m thinking about an Italian restaurant, for example. That’s usually the most difficult for me. Because of all the bread, and breading, and pastas, and dairy and things like that that are usually out there. They usually will have some sort of a grilled chicken salad somewhere on the menu. But when I’m there, and I’m paying for myself, I’ll say, “Please double the chicken.” Or I’ll say, “Can I have some of the roasted eggplant you have listed on this other menu item.” Right, to kind of give myself more of a complete meal.

So if I’m not really wanting to draw that much attention to myself, instead of doubling the chicken, which is an extra cost, I would probably say, “I’ll have the chicken, no croutons, dressing on the side. Thanks so much. Hold the cheese.” That’s a very reasonable order. And I will know that I have either eaten something in advance to make sure that I’m going to be satiated by the end of that meal, or I’ll have something planned for afterwards.

So in a more strict environment, I would eat something in advance. I would half-meal it at home, where you know you can get some good nutrients in. Look up the menu, maybe, and kind of be able to prepare in that way.

Now, if it is a more casual meal, and it’s not that big of a deal. Let’s say you're going out with your boss, and your boss is actually one of your closest friends at this point, and you feel really comfortable around them. If you order the double chicken, and you also ask for a baked potato on the side of that salad in order to just make a complete meal. If you're boss pays, I would look at them and say, “Do you mind if I leave the tip?”

Emily: Ok.

Cassy Joy: Something like that. Something to show a gesture. I added about an extra $5 worth of food onto the bill, and I would love to leave the tip.

Emily: Mm-hmm.

Cassy Joy: And I would just make sure you’ve got cash on you in that instance. So it kind of depends. If you're comfortable with whoever is there. And I’ve done that exact thing on occasion with even close friend groups, going out to eat. And the same thing goes for people who have cocktails. I’m pregnant, so I’m obviously not drinking a bunch of cocktails right now. But if I ever do have a glass of wine, and the other person doesn’t, in that instance I would offer to leave the tip. To kind of help compensate for what I had ordered.

Emily: Yeah. That’s a great suggestion. Ok, I think I have one more question. If we have time for it.

Cassy Joy: Awesome! Yeah.

Emily: What are some of your tips for finding restaurants when you're somewhere new. Are there certain search terms that you use, or an app that you like best?

Cassy Joy: Yes.

Emily: {laughs}

Cassy Joy: That’s a good question. So, there’s a couple of different ways to go. I’m a big fan of Yelp. And it’s easiest; I’ve found it’s easiest to use on an actual laptop or desktop computer. Not on a mobile device. The mobile device is fine in a pinch. It’s fine in a pinch. But if you can, if you're going someplace and you're doing some research, I would pull up Yelp.com, and I would type in where you're going. And I would add in some search phrases. Like gluten free, dairy free, allergen friendly. Something like that. I would search for allergen. I would search gluten. I would search dairy. Things like that, and see what comes up, and start narrowing down your search from there. It’s just easier to use on a larger computer in that regard. On the phone, the same thing will happen. But that way you can scroll through and start reading some of the things and you can click on menus and make sure that that that place actually does have an option for you.

Emily: Yeah.

Cassy Joy: So that’s one way … Go ahead.

Emily: I was just going to ask if there’s something you typically look for on the menu when you're ordering. Is there key; if it has this, I know I’m good.

Cassy Joy: Yeah, absolutely. What I will do if I do find a PDF of the menu, I will open it and I will scroll down to the very bottom. And usually you will find some sort of a key or an index that says, “Anything with a star is gluten free.”

Emily: Yeah. Gluten free or vegan or, yeah.

Cassy Joy: Exactly. And those are really helpful. And if you're dairy free, that’s a really good point, Emily. I’m glad you said vegan. Because if you're dairy free, if you find a vegan option, you can always just find protein and therefore your meal is dairy free. In addition. So I would say finding either of those on the menu is really helpful. Or if they say gluten free menu available upon request, I know that I’m probably going to be good there.

But it’s not always going to be present. So when I was just in Palm Springs, for example, we were looking for a takeout place to get a slice of pizza. And a couple of people had recommended places for us to go and try. And I pulled up this one spot, and gluten free was not listed anywhere on their menu. But in some of the Yelp reviews, because I did that keyword search for gluten free, gluten free had shown up in some of the reviews. And somebody said they actually do have a gluten free crust, which is great. So I called them to verify, because it wasn’t on their menu. And then of course, they did. And it actually happened to be the tastiest ever, and I’m going to write a review on it. But those kinds of things are really good to do. I hope that was helpful.

Oh, and then the other. What was it? Looking for a restaurant. The other app I was going to tell you about. Especially for people who are highly sensitive to wheat gluten, like myself. There’s actually an app out called “Find Me Gluten Free.” Have you heard of it?

Emily: Oh yeah. Uh-huh.

Cassy Joy: That’s a great one. And I’ve been pleasantly surprised by find me gluten free. You can look it up, and what it does is it will pull up a list of other users who have gone to restaurants, and it will rate that restaurant based on the reviews of diners who have had positive or negative experiences there. So it may not always be hard data you’re getting. For example, there’s a barbecue place around the corner from me. And I had no idea that their food is actually gluten-free friendly, because they don’t advertise it. But they had a super high rating on that app. So that’s a really good one to look at.

And then the last app I would tell you about is the Nima app. And they have a gluten sensor. It’s a portable gluten sensor you can take around with you. Which is really great. But anybody can use the app. What the app does. Let’s say I have the sensor. I went to my favorite salad bar and I tested it. And the results came back gluten free. So that means I can then go to the app and I will load that good test result into the Nima system, so that other people can see that that salad bar had, at least my negative for gluten result. So that is hard data.

And Nima, they don’t have it out yet, but they’re working on other allergen sensors. Their podcast actually just went up today, so spoiler. This was recorded on August 14th. But they're working on a peanut sensor and a dairy sensor, things like that.

Emily: Oh, cool.

Cassy Joy: For folks in the future. So the Nima app would be a really good one also. Now, for right now it’s just specific to wheat gluten. But hopefully that will expand in the future.

Emily: Cool. I didn’t know about the app. I think I had seen that you posted about the device. It's cool to know about the app that they have that goes with it.

Cassy Joy: Yeah, it’s great. And they have hundreds, maybe thousands at this point, of data points that had been collected. So it’s really, really nice.

Emily: Cool. Very cool.

Cassy Joy: Awesome Emily!

Emily: I think that’s it. This was fun! Thank you so much!

Cassy Joy: This is fun! This is great! This is totally my pleasure. I hope it was helpful for you. And I hope it was helpful for some listeners, also.

Emily: Definitely. Thank you.

Cassy Joy: Of course. Well thanks everybody for listening. As always, you can find the completely transcript of today’s show over at www.FedandFit.com. And as always, we’ll be back again next week. Emily, thanks so much for joining us.

Emily: Thank you everyone! Thanks for having me, Cassy.

Cassy Joy: My pleasure.


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