Start crossing pressure and anxiety off the menu with these tips for eating out.

Before you dine out:

Call ahead to get nutrition facts

1. Find out what’s on the menu before being served

With this knowledge, you can prepare for your dining experience and make the right choices to avoid the pressure of the actual social situation. Ask the person in charge of an event or dinner party about the kind of food you can expect. If you’re going to a restaurant, check to see if they have nutrition facts or a menu posted online. If not, visit the restaurant to pick a menu up or call to see if the manager can provide some information.

2. See if you can make special food preparation requests

Depending on what’s being served, you may be able to make them more FCS-friendly with certain modifications. Don’t assume family, friends, or chefs will make changes on the fly, though. Ask and confirm before you get there.

3. Find out if you can bring FCS-friendly food with you

If there are no safe options, or you do not want to take a chance eating something you did not prepare, you may be able to bring something with you instead. Get the okay from the restaurant’s manager and, if you’re eating at someone’s house, let them know you may have to bring your own food.

4. Offer alternatives

When all else fails, see if there is someplace more appropriate near the original dining location (if changing venues is an option). Or offer to provide a recipe to an FCS-friendly substitute for a planned dish.

And be prepared for changes in plans by knowing other FCS-friendly restaurants in the area, in case the first choice falls through.

While dining out:

Make informed decisions and take control

5. Share your FCS wallet card with servers, and waitstaff

Let them know that you can get sick if you eat any fat. Using the phase “allergic to fat” will get wait and kitchen staff’s attention, even if it is not an accurate description of FCS.

6. Skip items with FCS danger words

Words like fried, crispy, breaded, sautéed, in a butter sauce, au gratin, and creamy indicate high-fat foods – stay away from these food items.

7. Narrow choices down to FCS-friendly descriptions

Choose foods with words that include: steamed, poached, baked, grilled, broiled, and made to order. Double check that they are not prepared with any fat.

8. Pick a go-to dish

If you’re still not sure what to eat, common FCS-friendly menu items include: shrimp cocktail, baked potato, steamed vegetables (without added oil, butter, or other fats), vegetable salads (without cheese, crunchies, nuts, or dressings that have fat), grilled chicken breast prepared without oil, or baked fish entrées with steamed brown rice. Just make sure they are prepared without added fat or sauces.

9. Ask for flavor enhancers you can add yourself

Fresh lemon or lime, vinegar, mustard, cracked pepper, fat-free salsa and other spices can put some control in your hands. You may also take along your own packets of fat-free salad dressing to flavor not just salad, but also chicken, fish, veggies, and baked potatoes.

10. Stay hydrated

And stay away from certain beverages. Drinking plenty of water may not only decrease the occurrence and severity of pancreatitis, but will also help keep you feeling full. On the other hand, alcohol, sugary soft drinks, and fruit juice may cause increases in triglycerides, so avoid those. Enhance your water’s flavor by adding a few strawberries, cucumbers, and sugar-free mixes with FCS-safe ingredients.

After dining out:

Take a moment to reflect

11. Use this experience to make the next one even better

Think about what you enjoyed and how you can build on that next time. Also, acknowledge what did not go so well — and figure out how you might do things differently next time.

Bonus Tip

Identity three restaurants within 10 minutes of your home that have FCS-friendly menu items. Use these as your ‘go-to’ back-ups when on the road.

If you are not sure where to start, check the Healthy Dining Finder website and search by restaurant or zip code. A list of restaurants with menu selections that meet the healthy dining criteria will appear.