Dining out can always be a hassle when you have special dietary needs. Depending on where you go, there are usually only two or three options that fit into your dietary requirements and 9 out of 10 times they don’t sound appetizing or are even what you’re craving. Over the last couple years I’ve picked up a couple of tricks for getting around my dietary needs when dining out.

First and foremost, never hesitate to ask questions. If you are unsure about the food content ask your server what options are available that meet your needs. Also, don’t be afraid to ask if they can substitute or if you frequent a place that makes the food in front of you, if you can bring in your own. A Subway I occasionally visit has agreed to toast cheese I bring in on my sub for me.

I generally find that substitution works better at smaller chain/local restaurants, so eat more frequently at local restaurants and not national chain. Here’s an example. For my birthday this year my parents took me to Olive Garden. I wasn’t feeling my usual Venetian Apricot Chicken, so I found something else that sounded good and asked if they could substitute the cream sauce for a garlic olive oil sauce to fit my dietary needs. The server informed me that they allow no substitution or changes in recipes. In the end, I went with my normal Venetian Apricot Chicken. Yesterday I tried a local restaurant called The Spinning Fork. They were very accommodating for dietary needs. I ordered the Sun-dried tomatoes and Chicken and substituted the cream sauce for a garlic olive oil sauce. Local restaurants are more connected to the community and more appreciative of the business you provide. As such, they tend to be more accommodating in my experience. This is not to say that all national chain restaurants won’t be accommodating. I was taken on a date to a TGIF once and they had one of their 3 course meal deals going on. I couldn’t have any of the deserts so they substituted the dessert for a salad in which they held the croutons and the shredded cheese and put the vinaigrette dressing on the side to avoid contamination at no extra charge.

Lastly, look around town for specialty restaurants that cater to people with Dietary needs. In Northside there is a small restaurant called Melt that caters to Vegans, Vegetarians and anyone who wants to eat healthy. A lot of their foods are dairy and beef free made from all natural ingredients. Most larger cities will probably have a restaurant like this where you can find more tastier sounding options.

Never let dietary needs stop you from going out and having a good time with friends, family or a date. Social excursions are good for relieving stress, which is a good thing when dealing with some digestive issues that are aggravated by stress.

Feel free to leave your own tips and tricks for dining out with dietary needs in a comment!