As we move forward into the full-swing of summer, cookout season is at its peak. While having friends and family over for a cookout or attending one you’re invited to can be fun, it can also be challenging when you are limited by your IC diet.

Instead of just saying no and missing out on fun and good food, try some of these suggestions to make your summertime cookout season the best without ending up in a flare!

1. Bring your own food to share.

Potlucks are ideal for this. If everyone is bringing a side dish or dessert, make something you know you can eat. Then if your options are few, you know you will at least have food you can eat without worrying about it. Even better, bring more than one dish to share!

2. Talk to the host ahead of time and make arrangements.

Not all hosts are into having other people bring dishes for various reasons. If that is the situation, talk to the host ahead of time and ask what menu is planned. Good friends and family members most likely know that you have dietary restrictions and will understand why you’re asking about what is being served and even how it’s prepared. If they don’t know, you can easily explain that you are following a special diet for your health.

Knowing what is being served will help you plan. Is it food you can eat? Great! If it isn’t, eat ahead of time or talk with the host about making some changes that would work for you, like a plain grilled chicken breast versus one slathered in barbeque sauce. You could also pack a meal for yourself to bring along just for you.

3. Consider hosting the cookout yourself.

If you’re the host, then you know what is being made and whether you can eat it. Even if you do a potluck style where your friends and family bring in other food, you can ask them for specific food that is IC friendly or at least know the main foods you are making that will be IC friendly. Most meat that is lightly seasoned is IC friendly. Typical cookout fare prepared on the grill would be fine for an IC bladder as long as it isn’t heavily seasoned or doused in sauce: hamburger, hot dogs, chicken or steak.

Good options to make or have folks bring are plain potato chips, raw veggies with hummus, corn or watermelon (usually IC friendly). You can also ask someone to bring beverages you know you don’t usually have on hand like lemonade or soda since you know you’ll have plenty of good drink options for your guests.

4. Get creative with condiments.

Condiments can be quite irritating to IC bladders but eating plain food can get boring. Try chip dip instead of ketchup or mustard for some added flavor without added acid. It works well on burgers, hot dogs (trust me on this one!) and raw veggies. I can only guess it’d work well on grilled chicken, too. Another option is Hidden Valley Ranch dressing, which has a very low vinegar content. Many IC patients can tolerate it well. If you can tolerate plain Greek yogurt, add a packet of Ranch dressing seasoning into Greek yogurt for a great veggie dip or burger topper with the bonus of added protein.

5. Look for desserts that are low in acid.

Blueberries are usually around throughout cookout season and make for great desserts. Watermelon also tends to be IC friendly and is very popular for cookout season. (Just beware it may increase your frequency!)

If smores are on the menu, but chocolate bothers your bladder, just go for a toasted marshmallow with or without graham crackers. Both marshmallows and graham crackers are on the usually bladder friendly list.

Go for strawberry shortcake with just the cake and whipped cream if strawberries bother you. If you’re hosting, offer IC friendly jam in place of fruit for shortcake. Both blueberry and pear jam would be yummy on shortcake topped with whipped cream.

Other options would be blueberry pie, blueberries with whipped cream, sugar cookies, angel food cake, vanilla ice-cream or watermelon. Check out this white chocolate lasagna or white chocolate blonde brownie recipe from Carole on the IC Network patient forum that look delicious! Chewy toffee cookies are another good option in place of chocolate chip cookies.

6. Stick to drinks you know won’t hurt.

Drinks can be the bane of existence to IC patients. Popular cookout beverages like soda and lemonade are often problematic. Some patients even have trouble with certain brands of water. Stick with drinks you know won’t hurt you.

If you’re hosting or bringing things along, consider this blueberry herbal tea recipe from Bladderella on the IC Network patient forum.

Even better, bring along your own drink. I seldom leave home without my double-walled stainless-steel tumbler filled with ice water. It’s not only cool and refreshing, but it works well when there are no other IC friendly options!

7. Watch out for side dishes.

While desserts, drinks and condiments can steal the show for not being IC friendly, don’t forget about side dishes. Popular cookout side dishes like potato salad, macaroni salad and baked beans can have acidic foods in them like mayonnaise, vinegar and barbeque sauce. Be careful with risky sides. Look instead for plain potato chips, pretzels and raw veggies.

Consider an IC friendly salad or try a modified version of a traditional side dish, like potato salad with creamy dill dressing recipe or this macaroni salad with creamy dressing from Carole on the IC Network patient forum.

You could also bring along fresh cut veggies like cucumbers, carrots and bell peppers with hummus, chip dip or seasoned Greek yogurt for a dip. Grilled corn with some butter and salt is also a great cookout side dish that is IC friendly. Plain potato chips are also well tolerated by most patients.

8. Take Prelief before you eat.

If you’re not positive everything you’re eating is IC friendly or you really want to have a reasonable amount of something you know can bother you, take some Prelief just before you eat. It can help reduce the acid in food so that what you eat won’t bother your bladder at all or nearly as much. Tums can sometimes work the same way. Be sure to pick and choose what you want to take a risk on, and don’t go overboard.

9. Have the right attitude.

While the food at a cookout is incredibly good, the best part of cookouts is the time spent with your friends and family. Remember to enjoy their company even if you can’t enjoy some of your favorite cookout foods. You have the choice to not feel bad and enjoy their company instead of eating something, being miserable and having to go home early.

And while it’s perfectly fine to ask questions about the food being served and how it was prepared, don’t get so caught up on your diet that you don’t enjoy yourself. Instead of focusing on what you can’t have, pay attention to all you do have.

10. Eat before you go.

If you have no control over the food served, you can have a snack or even eat a meal before you go. If you aren’t ravenous when you show up, you will be less likely to eat something risky or hurtful to you. You can have a small snack of whatever is friendly at the cookout and spend the time chatting with your friends and family instead.