The seasonal aisles in the pharmacies have turned from Christmas red and green to Valentine’s Day hearts and flowers. For some, this time of year may involve a dinner date in a restaurant, complete with gifts, which often include sweets and chocolates. Planning a good date can be a challenge in and of itself but planning a dinner date in a restaurant when you’re following a renal diet adds even more complexity. If you hope to splurge with a dinner date to celebrate St. Valentine’s Day, don’t despair. We have some tips to help you out.
Steps for a Successful Valentine’s Dinner Date:
- Planning – One of the things that can turn a date sour for me is when my partner asks me out and then says, “where should we go?” Planning is key! Give yourself time to find the best restaurant to meet all your objectives – a romantic ambiance, and healthy menu options. Start planning early and consider asking your renal dietitian for restaurant recommendations in your area. Now that most restaurants have their menus available online, take the time to review the offerings. Calling the restaurant ahead of time to inquire about low sodium, low potassium, or low phosphate options can be a significant help in choosing suitable menu options. Most good restaurants will be happy to accommodate you, so feel free to make requests – it’s a special occasion after all!
- Choosing the Restaurant – A restaurant with a simple menu that uses fresh and local ingredients whenever possible is a great choice. This is good advice for everyone, but especially if you need to consider your dietary restrictions.
- Considering your Options – When discussing your options with the restaurant you’ve picked, start with seasonings. Ask if it is possible for the chef to prepare your meal without additional salt. A quality chef should be able to prepare a delicious meal using their knowledge of herbs and spices. Refer to the food lists in our Potassium and Chronic Kidney Disease and Phosphorus and Chronic Kidney Disease fact sheets when speaking with the restaurant as guidelines. Since you are dining out, why not considering trying a new vegetable offered on the menu as a side dish to help increase your variety, and awaken your taste buds. Choose smaller portions of meats, opt for fish, or try a vegetarian option, such as a vegetable pasta dish. Limit the use of sauces, appetizer foods, and soups, as they are often higher in additives and sodium.
- The Day of the Date – If you have fluid restrictions, consider saving throughout the day to allow more options when you are out. Also cut back on serving sizes earlier in the day and avoid salty or high potassium foods. If you are taking phosphate binders, don’t forget to bring them with you.
- At the Restaurant – If you haven’t been able to pre-arrange your meal ahead of time, read the menu carefully and ask your server lots of questions. They should be knowledgeable about the menu and can help convey your restrictions to the chef. Also, consider sharing an appetizer or entrée with your date since moderation is key. But mostly, enjoy yourself and the company you’re with.
- An alternative – Eating out in a restaurant might not be everyone’s ideal for a romantic date. Invite friends or share in the cooking process with your partner. Consult point number 3 and plan a special menu designed with your diet needs in mind. Check out our featured recipes for some ideas.
- One final word on chocolate. Since chocolate is such a traditional part of Valentine’s Day, and because it’s high in phosphorous, it means your options are limited in a renal diet. Whether you eat in or dine out, treat yourself to this Chocolate Zucchini Cake that will satisfy the chocolate craving while still respecting your kidney diet limitations. Bake it in a heart-shaped pan and share it with someone you love.
Edited and verified by Dani Renouf, RD, MSc, CDE