Eating out is an important part of social life. Whether you’re celebrating a birthday or grabbing lunch with a client, restaurant dining is necessary from time to time. For people with ulcerative colitis (UC), dining out can be a scary proposition.

Food is a delicate issue: what you eat won’t cause you to have a UC flare-up, but it can make symptoms of a flare-up worse. When you’re not cooking at home, it can be hard to find food that fits all of your needs and doesn’t aggravate your symptoms. But it can be done.

Food and UC have a strong connection. The foods you eat do not cause UC, but foods can affect your UC symptoms. Certain foods may aggravate your intestines when you have a flare-up. During times of remission from UC, you may be able to return to a normal diet and enjoy foods you normally avoid during a flare-up.

When you’re diagnosed with UC, you may wonder how the disease affects what you can eat. The truth is, you can still eat a wide range of food — you just need to be more attentive to what you’re eating.

There is no one-size-fits-all strategy for eating out with UC. You need to know what effects certain foods have on you so that you can decide what is safe and what isn’t. You know your body and how it responds. Keep that in mind as you read these strategies and when you’re dining out.

Restaurant portions are huge. Large meals create a lot of work for your stomach and intestines. Skip the giant platters of food — your intestines will thank you.

Instead, think small. Many restaurants offer downsized dishes for customers. Whether they’re appetizers, tapas, or just small tasting plates of different foods, ask your server about these smaller portions of food. If you can’t order a small meal, split your meal with another person, or save half for later.

If you know where you’ll be dining, look up the restaurant’s menu online before you head out for your meal. Scan the options for plates that might not upset your UC.

Don’t be afraid to call the restaurant and ask questions. You’ll be able to narrow down your options even more, and you’ll be able to make a choice more easily when it’s time to order. This will help you feel confident in your choice and will save you time. It also means you have more time to converse with your eating companions.

Special requests are not as special as you might think. Servers and cooks are often accustomed to altering dishes to accommodate customers’ special diets.

Your server can help you better understand how foods are prepared so you can decide if they’re safe for you. They can help you determine the best way to request your food so that it meets your needs. The more you know about a dish before you order it, the better. You’re more likely to have a fun, delicious dining experience.

You can have your appetizers, main courses, desserts, cocktails, and more. Just be sure to keep one word in mind: moderation. Your body can often handle all the foods you want to try. However, it may not be able to handle it in the large portions restaurants typically serve. If you’d like to try several different dishes at one restaurant, ask to split dishes with someone else. This way you can sample more dishes and reduce unwanted side effects.

Proper nutrition is very important for people with UC. The condition makes nutrient absorption more difficult. UC symptoms, such as diarrhea and ulcers, can affect the body’s absorption of vitamins and minerals. That means the food you eat should provide the most nutrients and do the least damage to your body. Next time you’re out with friends perusing a menu, keep these tips in mind to keep your body well.