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Home > Vitafriendspku > Your pku journey > Eating Outside of the Home for Children

Eating Outside of the Home for Children

Meals out
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For some families, going out for a meal when your child has 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 your child will certainly be able to enjoy their meal with everyone else. Here are some tips that can make eating outside of the home a lot smoother:  


  • 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 to 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 for your child before you leave the house. This will also alert 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 they often contain meat substitutes such as beans or tofu, which are 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 your child must follow a low protein diet and give them examples of what your child is able to eat. Chefs may even enjoy making something unique for your child. 
  • Don’t be hesitant of visiting independently owned restaurants instead of a chain. They are much more likely to be able to deviate from the menu and make something bespoke for your child.  
  • If you are unsure of what is in a dish, always ask the 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 many phe exchanges are in the meal so that you are aware of how many they have had.  
  • Ask your child to take their protein substitute before you go out so to ensure that they 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 phe exchanges. 
  • 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 for your child. If they are unsure how to cook it, offer to bring a meal with you that you can simply reheat when you arrive.  


Here is some guidance about visiting restaurants based on type of cuisine:  

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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 for your child.  
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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 your child can have a larger portion of these to have as a main meal.  
  • If your child 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 exchange-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 they will always be a good choice if you make sure all the vegetables are exchange-free! 
  • Ask the restaurant in advance if they would be able to reheat some cooked low protein rice for your child to enjoy with their meal.  
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Japanese Restaurants
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  • Vegetable sushi can be a fantastic option for your child with PKU 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 exchange-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 or breadcrumbs.  
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Buffet Restaurants
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  • Buffets can be good choice when you follow a low protein diet! Your child can choose from a wide selection 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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