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Dining Out With Interstitial Cystitis: How to enjoy your food with confidence!

Updated: May 3

Have you ever wondered which fast food restaurants have the best choices for bladder-friendly dining? Or what food to choose when your office is ordering lunch from the local ethnic restaurant? Well you are in the right place to get your questions answered and dine out with confidence.

In this post, we will...

  • Discuss how to quickly analyze a menu to identify main triggers, underlying trigger foods, and potential hidden triggers such as soy and MSG

  • Provide tips for empowering YOU to have the best dining out experience ever

  • Divulge the fast food restaurants and menu choices that we rated to be the best for IC Warriors.

Let's dive in!

Recently, the team at Callie K Nutrition, poured over the nutrient, allergy and ingredients lists from various top fast food and chain dining establishments. We analyzed and gathered information as to which restaurants and menu items are the best for those with interstitial cystitis (IC). All this amazing info was shared within an hour-long Masterclass for IC Collective members.

The class was such a success that we wish to share a few highlights with you, right here and now!

Let's start with a few questions:

  • Are you the type to just order plain chicken and vegetables at every restaurant?

  • Are you afraid to try anything else on the menu out of fear of eating a trigger ingredient?

  • Does the thought of dining out give you anxiety?

  • Do you stress yourself out before during an after dining out so much that you cause a flare?

It can be very daunting to order food at a new restaurant or at an ethnic restaurant when you are not familiar with preparation methods or even what goes into the dish. With our guidance, you will learn how to turn menu fear into empowered eating.

When you review a menu at a restaurant for bladder friendly choices, it can help to break it down into 3 steps as outlined below:

1. Main entree ingredients

Here you can look for clues in the title. Avoid foods that are described with the following: spicy, hot, red, tomato, curry, citrus or lemon. For example, Red Tandoori Chicken is giving you a clue that the spices are going to be chili or tomato based due to the red color.

Instead, choose dishes that are described as fresh, honey, garlic, white, herb-crusted, cheesy, or creamy. For example, Honey Garlic Chicken Wings or Creamy Pasta Alfredo could potentially be IC friendly options.

2. Underlying ingredients:

This is where you have to do a bit more investigating into the process. Look at the potential marinades, sauces, condiments and dressings that go with your entree of question. The most bothersome on this list are salad dressings, pickles, ketchup, mayonnaise, mustard, aioli, chutneys, asian sauces, hot sauce and worcestershire sauce.

In our research we also discovered that almost every type of chicken (fast food and sitdown dining) is marinated in vinegar or citrus prior to preparation. In general, safer protein choices include fish or ground beef.

Be prepared to ask the restaurant manager or your server questions about the preparation method, sauces, spices or condiments. You can always ask for your sandwiches or burgers to be made plain without spreads or condiments. If you like, ask for a side of butter or cream cheese to liven up your sandwich.

Most restaurants are very accommodating if you ask your server to have the chef omit ingredients or put a sauce on the side. For example, “I would like to order the Herb Crusted Salmon with NO lemon sauce and extra vegetables instead of coleslaw.”

3. Hidden ingredients

According to the Interstitial Cystitis Association, soy, MSG and artificial sweeteners are at the top of the most bothersome food list. These foods and additives can be tricky to avoid when dining out.

In our fast food research, we discovered that soy is included in almost every bread, bun, breading and crust in the fast food restaurant world. Unfortunately almost every fast food restaurant also uses soybean oil in their fryer.

If you are sensitive to soy, we recommend ordering beef burgers without the bun or asking for a gluten free bread or bun, if available. (Typically the gluten-free breads are soy free but please check first as this is not true of all restaurants)

The good news is that most popular chain restaurants have an online allergen guide to their menu. Top allergens like gluten, soy and MSG are typically included in these guides. If these hidden ingredients are surefire triggers for your bladder, we encourage you to do your own research prior to dining out.

BEST Fast Food Choices for IC friendly dining

Drumroll please…After a careful review of ingredients, the Registered Dietitians at Callie K Nutrition proudly name Panera Bread® to be one of the most IC-friendly chain restaurants. Panera commits itself to using only whole, natural ingredients, soy-free breads and nitrate-free meats.

Our favorite IC-friendly dining choices include the Egg, Cheese and Bacon Sandwich on Brioche and Mac and Cheese with Fuji Apple Salad (omit dressing, tomatoes or onions).

Subway® was also a top choice for having IC friendly options. The gluten free bread and artisan wholegrain wraps are soy free choices. We especially like Subway® as you can watch your sandwich being made and of course pick and choose your ingredients.

Our favorite suggestion is the nitrate free roast beef artisan grain wrap with green peppers, spinach, black olives, mushrooms and cucumbers. Dress it up with olive oil and salt and pepper.

And last but not least, Starbucks® can definitely be IC-friendly! Yes, you can find a few foods and beverages to enjoy without worry.

We recommend a mint medley tea with a splash of cream or an almond milk steamer. For a decadent treat, pair that drink with a Marshmallow Dream Bar or plain bagel with butter.


Here at Callie K Nutrition, we encourage you to feel empowered by this information and take your dining out experience to an exciting new level! Remember, the keys to eating out with confidence include: proper planning and menu research, looking for menu trigger keywords and asserting your needs at the restaurant. Then you can sit back, relax and enjoy!

Learn fabulous dining out tips like these plus tons of more helpful information inside The IC Collective. The IC Collective is a monthly membership where IC Warriors can connect in real-time, get access to exclusive monthly education Master Classes from IC experts, and participate in weekly Q&A's with Callie. We can't wait to see you inside the Collective!

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