As part of our PKU 7 day 7 exchange diet we were challenged to go out to dinner! We know this is hard as we try and advise our patients which restaurants they can go to and what to chose! We decided to be spontaneous and chose our destination on the day, having no idea if we would find any suitable foods or not. With only 4 exchanges left for the day I was a little worried there wouldn’t be much for us, poor Sarah only had 3 left! I arrived at the bar to find Sarah waiting outside for me sipping on her Lophlex LQ!!

After studying the menu we saw that we could ask for a vegan menu from the bar. Sarah was brave (while I saved the table!) and went up to bar to ask what we could have, she told the bar man that we had to follow a low protein diet for medical reasons. He was very helpful and talked Sarah through the menu.

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There was 2 suitable options for us to consider, the first an all day vegan breakfast which consisted on grilled tomatoes, mushrooms, spinach, roasted red pepper, fried potatoes, baked beans and toast. The potatoes, beans and toast would have to be counted as exchanges. The second was a vegan salad – avocado, spinach, rocket, green beans, broccoli with croutons and a dressing, again croutons would have to be counted (rocket and spinach needs to be counted in large amounts). We both went for the salad option and ordered a side order of fries and sweet corn fritters. We also had Virgin Mojito’s to drink.

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Our meal arrived and we tried to figure out our exchanges. I meant to bring my scales with me to weigh out the chips but forgot. Luckily I had the Carbs and Cals app on my phone so had a good estimate that the portion of fries was about 3 exchanges. We guessed the croutons 1 exchanges, the sweet corn fritters 1 exchange each and the bread 1 exchange each. We couldn’t help our selves and ate everything up, shared the chips and bread between us. There was 3 sweet corn fritters, I had 2 as I had the extra exchange to play with! Unfortunately this took our total up to about 5.5 for Sarah and 6.5 for me… slightly over our allotted exchanges for the day. This took us both up to 9.5 exchanges.

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The lovely bar man took a photo for us of us and our salads.

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We did feel full at the end of the meal and had enough to eat (even though we ate more protein than we should have). We were lucky to have each other to share our experience with, unlike many of our patients who will be the only one in the party eating a low protein meal. We cleared our plates and Sarah even left her empty packet of Lophlex LQ for the staff to clear up!

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So what have we learnt from this? Well it is very hard to stick to your exchanges if you want something nice to eat when you go out. The thought of wasting the food when we had paid for it made me eat it all up. We may have done better if we had researched before we had gone out, looked for a menu that contains sweet potato instead of potato (as not counted as exchanges), or gone to Pizza Express and ordered a gluten free pizza with no cheese (about 3-4g protein). That was too easy, we wanted to see if we could be spontaneous as that is what happens in real life. In adults, the only time we would say not to be spontaneous is if a lady with PKU is pregnant, then she has to be very strict with her diet. In this case we would always advise planning before going out to be absolutely sure you can have something to eat!

If you have PKU, don’t let your diet stop you going out to eat with your friends and family. Don’t be afraid to plan ahead, checking menu’s online and talk to the staff about what you can eat. Lots of people have allergies or intolerances and the staff will be trained in answering your questions on their menu and happy to help. If you are worried there won’t be much to eat, then have a snack before you go out!