At first you may think you can never eat out on a Paleo diet. After all, when you committed to a Paleo or primal lifestyle you couldn’t believe how much better you felt as you ditched those pesky inflammatory foods. You have more energy, got rid of that constant bloated feeling, and are looking better than ever! But the time comes when you realize you can’t live in your home (or ‘cave’) forever. Whether it’s to socialize with friends, connect with family, or simply give yourself a break in the kitchen, you WILL want to eat out every now and then. And unless you live in some trendy big city that might have some actual Paleo style restaurants, chances are you your choices are far from the food ideal you’ve adopted.
Here are 15 tips to make eating out while on Paleo easy.
1. Choose you restaurants wisely
Avoid the obvious offenders like pizza restaurants as it will be really hard to find anything that you can eat while on a Paleo or primal diet. Steak houses are great options and usually have a lot of options. Sandwich shops, Italian restaurants, and Asian restaurants will be more difficult to avoid grains. Many national chain restaurants like Chili’s, Applebees, and TGI Fridays have some decent options. Sure there are plenty of poor choices at these places, but there is a large menu and lots of ways to plan a delicious Paleo meal.
2. Speak out against seasoning salt
Always ask for no seasoning salt when you in restaurants. Most have added MSG and sugar. We love to take our mini Real Salt Pocket Shaker (like this) with us. It fits perfect in a purse or pocket.
3. Ask about the fat
Sadly, the hardest part about eating out while on a Paleo diet is that restaurants are still under the impression that fake butter spreads are actually good for you. You may be surprised how many restaurants don’t cook with real butter. To add insult to injury, vegetables and fried foods are cooked in very unhealthy vegetable oils. We’re all keeping our fingers crossed that someday more restaurants will catch on and use coconut oil or tallow, but until then ask to have your food cooked with olive oil.
4. Ask if something is breaded
Most often the menu descriptions will tell you if something is breaded or not, but there are times when a hidden element of a dish may be breaded. Before finishing your order, clearly ask if your choice has any breaded elements to avoid an unpleasant surprise at your table.
5. In fact, don’t be afraid to ask questions
Too many people assume that what’s on the menu is the only option. Most restaurants are willing to make some modifications if asked. Don’t be afraid to ask about any part of your dish… from how it was cooked to where it was sourced. It’s up to you get the information you need to feel comfortable eating out on Paleo.
6. Play the ‘allergy’ card
If questioning the status quo while out on a socializing experience isn’t in your nature, play the ‘I have an allergy’ card. Restaurants are very careful to avoid liability.
7. Play the ‘diet’ card
If you aren’t comfortable with the allergy confession, you can honestly say you’re on a ‘diet.’ Even though we know Paleo is more a lifestyle than it is a Weight Watcher’s substitute, our world takes the ‘diet’ word seriously.
8. Opt for grilled over fried
Fried foods are often breaded, and even if they aren’t, they are plunged into nasty vegetable oils. Unless you can get your hands on some tallow French fries or coconut oil potato chips, skip the fried foods and go for grilled.
9. Substitute your salad dressing
Salad dressings are some of the worst offenders to real food champions. Full of high fructose corn syrup (that’s GMO) and rancid vegetable oils, you’re better off asking for olive oil and vinegar. Just be sure it’s olive oil, as some people will unfortunately bring you canola. (*head smack*)
9. Don’t forget the croutons!
If you’re opting for a big ole’ salad, make sure you ask for any croutons or tortilla strips to be excluded.
11. Upgrade your sides
Almost every restaurant will trade your side dish for some steamed vegetables, even if it’s not on the menu.
12. Say ‘no’ to any free breads
Don’t let the freebies tempt you on the table. Ask for it to be removed.
13. Hold the gravy
Gravy is usually loaded with flour. Just say no.
14. Be forgiving
Despite this list of ‘strict’ Paleo guidelines for eating out at restaurants, you know your body best. If you know you’ll be doubled over in stomach pains if you touch any gluten, by all means, be strict. Otherwise, consider what can slide every now and then and enjoy your time out.
15. Eat before you go
If all else fails and you don’t want to cheat on your diet at all but have to make an appearance at an event, fill up before you go so that you’re not tempted to eat something you’ll regret later. At the restaurant grab a simple side salad, a hamburger patty, or some veggies and don’t worry about filling up.
Remember, you can eat out at restaurants while on a Paleo diet. It takes some forethought and boldness to ask the necessary questions, but you can still enjoy the time away from your own kitchen!