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Home > Vitafriendspku > Your pku journey > Eating Outside Of The Home

Eating Outside Of The Home


Going out for a meal when you have PKU can sometimes feel like a challenge, but it really doesn’t need to be! When it comes to restaurants, cafes and meals cooked by friends or family, all you need is a bit of planning and you will certainly be able to enjoy your meal with everyone else. Here are some tips that can make eating outside of the home a lot smoother:

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  • Check to see if there are any vegan or vegetarian restaurants near you. There are apps that you can download which will help you with this such as Happy Cow or VegGuide. These may be a good starting point when choosing a suitable location.
  • Always try check the menu before you go. Most restaurants will now have their menu posted online so you can read it through and choose the best low protein options before you leave the house. This will also prepare you if you need to bring low protein alternatives such as pasta and rice.
  • Check with the restaurant if they have a separate vegan or vegetarian menu. Always remember that not all vegetarian or vegan dishes will be suitable as often meat substitutes such as beans and tofu will be high in protein.
  • Call the restaurant ahead of your visit and ask if they can cook your specially manufactured low protein foods such as pasta, rice or low protein pizza bases for you. Let them know that you must follow a low protein diet and give them examples of what you are able to eat. Chefs may even enjoy creating a unique dish especially for you.
  • Don’t be hesitant of visiting independent restaurants. They are much more likely to be able to deviate from the menu and make something bespoke for you.
  • If you are unsure of what is in a dish, always ask your waiter if they can provide a list of ingredients so that you can make sure there isn’t any hidden protein.
  • Make sure you keep a note of how much protein is in the meal so that you are aware of how many grams you have had.
  • Take your protein substitute before you go out so to ensure that you don’t overeat and feel too full to drink it afterwards.
  • Bring a set of scales with you to the restaurant so that you can weigh out any food that may contain counted protein.
  • If you are going to eat at a friend or family members house, make sure you ask in advance what they will be cooking and suggest low protein alternatives.
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Italian Restaurants
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  • Ring the restaurant in advance and ask if it would be possible for them to cook with your low protein pizza bases, pizza dough, pasta, rice or low protein cheese.
  • Most Italian restaurants will have salads on the menu and some may even have salad bars with a range of suitable salad vegetables.
  • Vegetarian pasta sauces such as Arrabiata, Napoletana, Primavera and Basilico are delicious and tend to be very low in protein. Make sure you always check the ingredients before you order them.
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Indian Restaurants
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  • There are lots of low protein vegetarian dishes in Indian restaurants, many are side dishes. Ask if you can have a larger portion of these to have as a main meal.
  • If you would like a curry, opt for a vegetable curry that is tomato based such as rogan josh, bhuna or jalfrezi rather than a creamy one such as a korma.
  • Ring the restaurant in advance to ask if they will cook or heat up low protein rice that you provide yourself.
  • Often chutneys and pickles are protein-free but always remember to check the ingredients as recipes will vary from restaurant to restaurant.
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Greek Restaurants
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  • Like all Mediterranean countries, the Greek have a whole host of delicious low protein vegetables in their cooking. Opt for a vegetable kebab with salad and dips made with permitted vegetables.
  • Avoid high protein dips such as hummus or tzatziki.
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Chinese Restaurants
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  • Vegetable stir fries are abundant in Chinese cookery, so are a good option to consider.  Do watch out for the sauces, soya and oyster sauces contain protein and so need to be counted. 
  • Ask the restaurant in advance if they would be able to reheat some cooked low protein rice for you to enjoy with your meal.
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Japanese Restaurants
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  • Vegetable sushi can be a fantastic option if you call ahead and ask if they can use low protein rice instead of standard sushi rice.
  • Tempura vegetables can also be delicious and protein free if the chef uses your low protein flour in the batter.
  • Vegetable katsu or yasai katsu is also a lovely alternative if the chef is able to use low protein flour and breadcrumbs.
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Buffet Restaurants
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  • Buffets can be a good choice when you follow a low protein diet! You can choose from a wide range of salads, fresh fruit and vegetables and vegetable soups.
  • Many cities and towns now have international buffets so you will have even more choice.
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If in doubt, make sure you ask for the advice of your dietitian and enjoy!
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