BLUF: How to handle meal etiquette when I probably can't eat anything on the menu.
I've listened to the Meal Etiquette podcasts and read Stephen Booth's follow-up question on meal etiquette with food allergies. I have a variation of that question: what to do when you can rarely ever eat anything on the menu? My food allergies & intolerances, which I won't go into for the sake of brevity, prohibit me from dining at most restaurants (there are literally four in my area, I've done extensive research). Because of the nature of my business, I rarely have control over the meal arrangements and even when I do, the options which are safe for me are inconvenient or impossible to access from the areas where I usually have to do business.
I have no problem sitting down with associates or clients and having only coffee or water but this always seems to bring up questions about why I'm not having a meal. I play the "I already ate" card when I can but it's not always a possibility. I've also tried the tact of simple honesty about the fact that I have food intolerances. This inevitably seems to lead to more questioning, comparison to some family member who can't eat anything either, pity from diners or waitstaff, or, occasionally, mockery.
While all of this is somewhat irritating to me, what concerns me is that it diminishes my effectiveness. It takes the focus away from my message and puts it on some aspect of my life which has no business being in the public anyways. More so, I'm not remembered as "the guy who had a pretty good solution to my problem," I'm remembered as "the guy who can't eat anything."
So any suggestions on how to better deflect questioning along this line and guide the conversation away from my (lack of) meal choice and back to business?