Socializing Your Diet

Adult with PKU ordering at a restaurant: “I can’t eat anything with protein in it. Going by your menu, I would like your large spring salad with balsamic dressing on the side, please.”

Server asks: “Would you like hard-boiled eggs on your salad?”

Sound funny? It isn’t

As a person with PKU, you are likely already aware that most people do not understand your dietary restrictions—or even understand what food contains protein! You will encounter servers who have no idea how to cater to your low-Phe diet, and cooks who will sprinkle a generous helping of Parmesan cheese on top, just to add flavor.

Tips for eating at restaurants

  • Check out the restaurant’s menu online before visiting to figure out what you can eat beforehand
  • Call ahead if you would like more details about ingredients
  • Have a favorite sauce or dressing? Bring it with you. Many restaurants won’t mind if you explain your dietary restrictions
  • Keep a mental list of foods that most restaurants have that you can always eat, such as French fries and salads. It may not be your favorite food, but sometimes eating at restaurants is more about the company than the meal

Alcohol and Phe

Being on a low-Phe diet doesn’t mean you can’t indulge in the occasional alcoholic beverage.

  • Just remember: It does impact your daily Phe intake.
  • One 12 fluid ounce can of beer has about 40 mg of Phe
  • One glass of wine has about 9 mg of Phe
  • One shot of rum has 0 mg of Phe

Don’t forget whatever you are mixing liquor with may also contain Phe. Consider juices, but NOT diet colas—aspartame contains Phe!


As a young adult, going to college or university can be an exciting and stressful time. For someone with PKU, it can also provoke anxiety. You may be used to your parent or guardian being the person to prepare your meals. You may now have to eat in a dining hall, or begin preparing your own meals for the first time. You won’t be the only person with special dietary requirements, but being prepared will help.
  • Check out the dining hall in advance to know if there are options available for you
  • Speak with the cooks in the dining hall about your special dietary requirements
  • Ask if you can keep some of your specially prepared low-protein foods in the dining hall for days when nothing appropriate is available
  • Don’t forget to carry your formula and a snack with you for those unexpected social events!

John, a former football player for Franklin & Marshall College and an adult with PKU, has some tips on preparing for the dining hall experience. Check out John’s interview for tips on preparing for meals at college.  CLICK HERE