Sunday, February 17, 2013

Eating 'Paleo' While Eating Out

It's always best to eat at home and cook for yourself when you are adopting a 'primal' way of eating. You have great control over what ingredients you use and how your food is prepared. However, the reality of life is that many of us have to eat out every now and then whether we are traveling, at a lunch meeting or gathering with friends. It can be intimidating to eat 'primal' while at a restaurant. But, with a few strategies you can still make some pretty decent choices.

Here are a few tips to avoid being the freak who never goes out to eat!

1. Check the menu before you go. 
Most restaurants now have their menus available online. Familiarize yourself with it and have a plan ahead of time.

2. Control what you can and let go of what you can't. 
Maybe you have no choice when it comes to what type of oil a particular establishment cooks with; let it go.

3. Ask for a gluten-free menu. 
More restaurants are catering to those with gluten allergies and will often offer multiple dishes or a menu for those people. Let your server know that you have certain "allergies" and it would be appreciated if they could work with you. Gluten doesn't just hide in bread, pasta, or other grains. It's often hiding in sauces, soups, and dips as well. Just the other night, my husband and I went out for a date night and ordered some great quality meat and veggies, however, it came with a light gravy of sorts that we are guessing contained gluten. We both paid the price.

4. Send the breadbasket away so you aren't tempted to munch on it while waiting for your meal.

5. Be proactive! 
Don't be afraid to ask questions about how foods are prepared or what ingredients make up a particular dish. 

6. Make substitutions. 
Ask for extra veggies instead of rice, pasta, bread or potatoes. Ask for extra meat.

7. Eat at places where you can typically make paleo-friendly choices. 

It's usually possible to create a dish with lettuce, meat, pico de gallo and guacamole.

Chipotle salad with extra chicken, extra pico and extra guacamole!

The other day my husband order fajitas WITHOUT tortillas, rice, beans or sour cream. He said, "I would love a big plate of chicken, peppers and onions, pico, guac, and greens." This is what he got - delicious!

Coconut curries can be a great go-to. Ask for your curry over steamed veggies, such as broccoli, instead of rice.

Thai chicken curry served with a side of steamed broccoli. I chopped the broccoli and added it right in.

Steak house: 
When choosing a cut of meat it's helpful to know where the meat is coming from. If it's conventionally raised, feed-lot, you want to choose lean cuts (tenderloin, sirloin, top or bottom round, etc.). If you have a spot that sources grass-fed beef you can comfortably choose fattier cuts knowing you have a good source of omega-3s and CLA. Most steak houses will offer vegetables a la carte. A great option as long as you avoid creamed dishes or those with "gravies" (these often include dairy and gluten/flour). Sometimes you even have the option for a baked sweet potato.

At your typical American style restaurant it's often easy to opt for a big salad topped with meat and various vegetables. Ask to "hold" any toppings that don't fit within your eating goals (croutons, cheese, candied fruit, etc.) and ask for olive oil and vinegar on the side instead of pre-mixed dressings (most salad dressings are made with oils that are not recommended for a 'paleo' lifestyle. You may also opt for a burger over salad in place of a bun and a side of steamed or sauteed veggies in place of fries. Some restaurants do offer "sweet potato fries," but take note that restaurant fries are often coated in flour before being dipped in less than ideal oils. If you have or suspect a gluten sensitivity, it's important to be aware of this.
A burger with sautéed mushrooms and guacamole, served over lettuce with a salad on the side.

I tailored this salad to make it paleo-friendly! You may feel high-maintainance in the midst of ordering, but it's worth it to get what helps you feel good.

Olive oil and vinegar on the side!

Chinese cuisine can be challenging (at least here in the US) because they tend to use a lot of vegetable oils, sugar in their sauces, as well as soy and gluten. It can be possible to get plain meet (steamed chicken, shrimp or beef) and steamed veggies. 

8. When possible, support restaurants that use local ingredients and quality foods!! 
There are more spots that serve grass-fed and finished beef and produce from local organic farms. Demand will encourage more of these offerings! 

9. Try using some of the new smart phone apps geared towards paleo cuisine on the go: 
PaleoGoGo is one.

If anyone has any techniques they use while eating out paleo-style, please share below!


  1. Good post! I'd like to hear about specifics that you order at local PC restaurants.

    1. Yes - I'd be happy to share sometime and will start to post more of that info soon:-) Thanks, Ronna!

  2. Thanks for the info Shannon! I went to No Name yesterday for apres and had a buffalo burger, no cheese, bun or mayo and subbed the chips w/ carrot and celery sticks. Felt good about it considering where we were eating.

    1. Nice work, Lia!! Hopefully you felt better after than you would have with the cheese, bun, mayo and chips;-)