On Saturday night, my husband and I went to a local sports bar/restaurant to watch our favorite team play some basketball. We had a great time, and had some pretty good eats! While we were there, I had a few thoughts about eating out while trying to eat Paleo-style, and I thought I would share them with you.
First of all… what did we eat?
Dustin got 15 chicken wings in a homemade sauce (it probably contained some sugar, unfortunately).
I ordered a bacon-burger (with no bun) with a side of sauteed vegetables. Don’t worry- I did remove the cheese before I ate it! It just didn’t look as “pretty” after that.
Overall, the food was okay. One thing both Dustin and I noticed was that everything tasted VERY salty. It is amazing to see how your palate changes when you go strict Paleo for an extended amount of time. Before we started eating this way, we were eating loads of salt/preservative-filled processed foods, and we craved it! Once we cut all that out for 30 days, and allowed our palates to come off the salt/sugar-“high,” we started enjoying the natural flavors of meats and vegetables SO much more.
Here are a few thoughts and guidelines that you can use for eating out.
1. Look at an online menu first. When you are planning where to go, take a few minutes to google the restaurant. Most places have websites with their menu posted. This will save you some frustration… We have been to so many restaurants where the only Paleo options are side salads. This is never a fun experience!
2. Tell the waiter/waitress to hold the pre-meal bread. If you are starving, and a loaf of steaming bread with butter is sitting in front of you, it is far more difficult to resist.
3. Gluten hides in so many places! It is easy to sit back and think “as long as I don’t order bread or pasta, I’m good to go!” Well, unfortunately that’s not true at all. If you order chicken tenders, they will likely be breaded with a flour mixture. If you get a salad, there will likely be croutons on it. If you order soup, there will likely be breadcrumbs, crackers, or croutons already added to it. If you choose meatloaf, it is likely held together by breadcrumbs. And the list goes on… Do not just assume that it is not there just because you cannot see it.
4. Don’t be afraid to ask! Very often, I ask the waiter/waitress if there is any gluten in a particular menu item. Sometimes they do not know, so they will go and ask the chef. My opinion is this: I am paying good money (sometimes too much money!) for the food I am ordering, so I want it the way I want it! Keep in mind, we should not be unreasonable about this… I would never ask a chef to make a whole meatloaf without breading simply so I can have a slice, but I will absolutely get a burger without the bun, a salad without the croutons, etc. If you have to, let the waiter/waitress know that you do not eat gluten for health purposes.
5. Watch out for dressings and sauces! Most salad dressings are dairy-based. And almost all of them contain ridiculous amounts of sugar. When I order a salad, I ask for olive oil and vinegar, or fresh lemon juice, on the side. You can also ask for sauces on the side so you can control the amount that goes on your food.
6. Choose lean meats when you can. Since most restaurants do not serve grass-fed beef, you will get more anti-nutrients from grains in the fatty cuts.
7. Don’t be afraid to request extra servings of vegetables to make up for your lack of bread!
8. Beware of omelets! One of the things I learned from the folks at Whole9 is that many restaurants infuse their omelets with pancake batter to make them fluffier. Disgusting!
9. When all else fails, order a huge salad. If I am having trouble finding a decent Paleo option on the menu, I am almost always safe ordering a huge salad. I usually choose one with grilled chicken and a ton of vegetables. As I said above, just ask for oil and vinegar on the side.
10. Enjoy! Do not stress out over eating out. It should be a relaxing break from your own kitchen, so sit back and enjoy it! If you start freaking out because there may be one speck of sugar on your plate, you are taking the diet a little too seriously. While gluten is VERY important to avoid, items that contain dairy, corn, sugar, or similar non-paleo ingredients will not cause serious damage if rarely consumed, and in very small quantities. Take a chill pill, people (unless you are on a Whole30… if that is the case, freak out all you want. It is important, and it will be worth it!)!
The GREAT News!
Every time I eat out, I think about how much better my own food tastes now that I’m using fresh, whole ingredients. While we were eating our wings and burgers on Saturday night, I kept thinking “I could make these items taste so much better than this!” And I like that thought…
Feel free to add to these tips in the COMMENTS section below!