Tervis Tumbler + Olive Garden = Awesome PKU Dining Experience!

Earlier this week, I ventured out for my first restaurant meal since returning to the PKU low-protein diet. I was meeting my mother for lunch and we selected Olive Garden because we knew the unlimited salad (minus croutons and cheese) would be very PKU friendly. I also had the idea to bring some of my Aproten low-protein noodles with me. I had a batch already cooked and sitting in a Tupperware container in my refrigerator so all I had to do was re-heat them and find a way to transport the noodles while still keeping them warm. I immediately thought about a casserole dish/thermal carrying tote combo that I have, but I didn’t like the idea of walking through the restaurant carrying a large dish.

Tervis Tumbler, Low-Protein Noodles, Eating out on a PKU Diet

An insulated Tervis tumbler is a great way to transport low-protein noodles when eating out on a PKU diet.

What did I do next? Well, this may sound a little silly, but I transferred my noodles into a Tervis tumbler. If you aren’t familiar with the brand, Tervis tumblers have a double-walled design that allows the air in between to keep hot drinks hot and cold drinks cold. Knowing about the tumbler’s insulated properties, I thought it might also be feasible that the tumbler would keep my noodles warm. Even better was that after sealing the tumbler with its tight-fitting travel lid, I was able to discretely carry the noodles in my purse (For the record, I do carry a very large purse!).

When I ordered my meal, my mother and I explained to the waitress that I had special, dietary needs and asked if it would be possible to order just sauce and an extra plate. Specifically, I wanted to order the sauce that came with the Penne Rigate Pomodoro, a mixture of roma tomatoes, garlic, fresh basil, extra-virgin olive oil and marinara sauce. Rather than charging me full-price for the dish, the Olive Garden staff was kind enough to provide me the Pomodoro sauce at the cost of two dipping sauce orders. When our entrees arrived, the waitress brought an extra plate and two dipping saucers full of Pomodoro sauce. I grabbed the Tervis tumbler from my purse, dumped the noodles on the empty plate and covered the noodles with the sauce. Over all, I had a completely awesome experience and I give the staff at the Knoxville/Turkey Creek Olive Garden mad props for helping to make my dining experience as pleasant as it was!

Finally, in closing here’s an update on how my return to diet is going: Yesterday marked three weeks since returning to the low-protein diet. My first on-diet blood level, taken on Jan. 27, came back at 4.3 mg/dl. That’s right in the ‘sweet spot’ of my clinic’s desired treatment range between 2 and 6 mg/dl. I was definitely impressed at how quickly my phe levels dropped, especially considering the last level I had prior to returning to diet was 20 mg/dl. I’ll be taking another level later today since my goal is to send a level to my clinic every two weeks.



Filed under Lo-pro Diet Management

14 responses to “Tervis Tumbler + Olive Garden = Awesome PKU Dining Experience!

  1. This is awesome! Our twins still don’t eat so much that we can’t bring a little bit with us and order a veggie side, but it’s good to know that in the future restaurants will be willing to work with us!

    Also, way to go getting back on diet and getting your levels down so quick!

  2. Nicole Pallone

    Great job on your levels!

  3. wow – sounds like a great idea. I thought of taking the raw noodles with me but I have never tried since I thought they might refuse to cook it. But this is great. Will you try this more often? I would be interested whether it works nearly everywhere. I mean what could they earn with you when you only order sauce… how much did they charge you btw?

    Katie xxx

    Congrats on your level!!! 🙂

    • I’ll definitely try it again…maybe at Carrabbas…they are another one of my favorite Italian restaurants. Not sure about the cost…my mom was sweet and picked-up the tab. It’s whatever they charge for dipping sauce, times two.


  4. Reblogged this on thepkutreasurechest and commented:
    great idea from Nicole’s blog!!! Worth a try!

  5. Emily

    We frequently go to Olive Garden. We bring my daughters unprepared pasta they make it for us put it on a plate and put the sauce on it. It comes out with our food just like it was regular item on the menu.

  6. Katie

    Dear Nicole,

    I am very happy that I found your blog by chance – I am from Munich, Germany. My little daughter (13 months old) has the classic form of PKU and has therefore obviously special dietary needs. For our future holiday planning or for simply restaurant visits I really like your idea of bringing the noodles already hot with you. But to be honest I haven”t understood the way you did it. What is a tervis tumbler or better where can I buy it? How long can the noodles be kept warm inside? Were they still hot or luke-warm?

    Thank you so much and warm regards from Munich,

    • Hi Katie,

      I’m so glad to hear from you all the way from Germany! I actually bought my Tervis Tumbler from a chain retail store we have in the states called Bed Bath & Beyond. Tervis has their own website where you can purchase them directly: http://www.tervis.com/. Or you may be able to also find them cheaper through http://www.amazon.com.

      The time when I took the noodles with me already prepared to Olive Garden, I had a 20-minute drive to the restaurant and it was probably 20 more minutes before our entrees arrived. So in that 40 minutes or so, my low-protein pasta still stayed warm in the insulated tumbler. There was still a little steam inside the tumbler, but even if they were lukewarm, the hot pasta sauce brought by the server helped warm it up significantly.

      Hope this is helpful. Please stop by PKU Parlor often!

      — Nicole

      • Katie

        Hello Nicole,

        thanks a lot for your response. I will have a look on amazon as I really fancy this tervis tumbler 🙂
        I will share my experiences once I’ve received it. I really like your blog and trust me, I will be here very often to try one or another of your recipes 🙂
        As I am “new” on your blog, may I ask you how high your tolerance is and if you have BH4 Sensitivity i. e. do you take Kuvan? My little daughter Anna is taking Kuvan since 6 months now and her tolerance increased from 260 PHE to 550 PHE which is absolutely fantastic for us. We hope that it will increase even more as we’re still in the testing phase.
        I just read your recent post on PKU Maternity. If I understood it right, you’re not sure whether you’ll be able to keep the diet on a level that would ‘allow’ you a pregnancy?! My husband and I are thinking of a brother or sister for our little girl and of course we know about our risk for our second child to have PKU. But should PKU be a barrier for us or for you or for everybody to change the life plan? I think if you really wish to have a baby (and this decision is of course irrational) you would do everything to make this wish come true. I know many couples that have problems in getting pregnant. They’re obliged to do all this hormonale treatment and in-vitro fertilization. They would do everything… and of course they would agree to every diet in the world just to have a baby. And having all this low-protein substitues available I think it is really possible to keep this diet ongoing. What do you think?

        Hope to hear from you soon.
        Sunny regards from Munich,

      • Hi Katie – so glad you returned & submitted another comment! My current phe limit is 500 mg but that might change as I get closer to a preconception diet. I did attempt a KUVAN trial but the results of that trial were determined to be inconclusive (you can read more about it here: https://pkuparlor.com/2012/02/19/kuvan-responder-trial-delayed-results-presented-and-explained/). I realize Kuvan does work for some PKU patients – and I’m very happy to hear that your daughter is one of them – but I’m not planning to take Kuvan during a pregnancy. I’d rather do it the “old fashioned way” (a.k.a. through a low-protein diet) if at all possible. The good news is that so far, I have been seeing good success with keeping my levels within range so you’re absolutely right, anything is possible. I really appreciate your inspiring words, Katie! Please tell Anna I said hello.


  7. Sarah

    Love this idea! My daughter, Addison, is 12 years old with PKU. Sadly, she didn’t respond to Kuvan and is currently in a very rebellious stage as far as her diet goes…we’ve been battling high levels for quite some time. Do you know how much PHE is in the sauce you got from Olive Garden?

    • Hi Sarah,

      I’m not sure exactly how much phe is in that particular sauce at Olive Garden but for the sake of my food diary that day, I estimated a cup of Classico Traditional Sweet Basil spaghetti sauce which comes to approximately to 112 mg of phe.

      I definitely went through a rebellious stage at that age too but that rebellion probably has more to do with your daughter being a normal teenager who is currently testing the boundaries of everyone’s authority. She’ll grow out of it! 🙂


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