Eating out over summer
Dec. 13, 2022
Eating at an unfamiliar location may be difficult for people living with Parkinson’s and Atypical Parkinson’s, particularly for those with more advanced symptoms.
Long summer days can offer a myriad of opportunities to socialise as people come together to celebrate family, friends and faith. It’s also a popular time to attend festivals and events which means you may find yourself away from home and unacquainted with local restaurants and cafes.
For some people, anxiety over eating at an unfamiliar location can exacerbate Parkinson's symptoms, so thinking and planning ahead can help to create a more relaxed meal experience.
Location and environment
The layout and environment of a restaurant or café may significantly impact your comfort, mobility and enjoyment of the dining experience.
You can call the restaurant or café beforehand (or ask a family member or friend to do so on your behalf) to ask about:
Is there easy access to the entrance and amenities? Are there steps to navigate? Is there sufficient circulation space between tables? Is the venue wheelchair or walker friendly?
Is there good space to easily sit down? Are chairs with arms available?
Is the venue noisy, crowded and distracting? Is it easy to be heard and does it allow you to concentrate easily when eating and drinking? Is there a quieter table available in the restaurant or café?
Is the venue’s location easy to access by car or public transport? Is parking available close-by? Will you have to walk far or over uneven surfaces?
Can you view the menu online to familiarise yourself with what options are available and plan your selection?
Parkinson’s and Atypical Parkinson’s can affect your ability to chew and swallow. Some people may have strategies for effective and safe eating and drinking. Be sure to implement these and be clear on what types of drinks or food textures are safe and comfortable for you.
If you’ve been recommended to have drinks that are thicker, special thickeners are available and easy to use in your water, coffee, or any beverage.
You'll find most restaurants will be happy to help, so don’t hesitate to bring your own modified cutlery and utensils if necessary. Also take the following into consideration:
• Foods that are hard, dry, sticky, crumbly, flaky and/or stringy can be challenging for some people. They may take longer or be more fatiguing to eat. Softer, moist foods can be less demanding, making them easier to chew effectively and swallow safely.
• Avoid rushing to keep up with others. Take small sips and cut up food into smaller pieces to make it easier to manipulate in your mouth. Sometimes asking to be served first or ordering an entrée instead of a main can help if it takes you a longer time to finish a meal.
• Avoid distractions or talking at the same time as eating. Parkinson’s affects automatic movements such as eating, drinking and swallowing. When your attention is focused on conversation or a distraction your swallowing skills may be compromised.
• If you require texture modified foods or drinks, ensure you’re well prepared. Know what consistencies or textures you can have. If you have been recommended to have “Easy to Chew” food, choose something from the menu that meets this description such as a risotto. Or if you are on pureed food, opt for menu options such as a pumpkin soup. You may find the restaurant can modify the dish to be softer, minced or even pureed.
If you have any concerns about eating or drinking, you should see a Speech Pathologist for assessment and advice on swallowing management specific to your individual needs.
Further general information, including speech pathologists who work with people with Parkinson’s and Atypical Parkinson’s, is available via our health information line, 1800 644 189.
* This article was first published in the Summer 22-23 edition of Fight Parkinson's member magazine, InMotion. This quarterly magazine is full of information to help you live well with Parkinson's. You will not be alone as you read personal stories of the Parkinson's journey and get to learn more about the leading health professionals and researchers working in the field. Become a Fight Parkinson's member to start receiving InMotion now.