One of the most common questions that I'm asked is how I eat out at restaurants, so today I'm sharing all of my best dining out paleo tips with you!
Whenever I find myself at a new restaurant, I search the menu for any sort of protein that sounds good, and then I look at the vegetables they have available. Most restaurants will be more than willing to accommodate dietary restrictions, all you have to do is politely ask. If it's on the menu, odds are they'll let you create your own meal – I do it all time!
I often bring my own dressings and sauces to restaurants, which has really become my favorite part of the meal! I usually only dine out once or twice a week (unless I'm on vacation), so I'm ok with the food not being cooked in the highest quality oils, as I know that's something I'm not always able to control. With that said, I don't love dunking my fries or covering my salad in a bunch of junky oils, so that's when sauces and dressings from home really come in handy! I carry my sauces in mini mason jars or silicone bottles in my purse to make it super easy! If I don't bring a dressing with me to the restaurant, I'll ask for a side of olive oil and balsamic or lemon juice to use on my salad. Both ways work great!
If you're new to paleo and dining out makes you nervous, simply call the restaurant ahead of time to discuss your dietary needs. Restaurants are here to serve you, and as long as you treat them respectfully, they should be more than willing to accommodate you and give you options for what to order when you're there.
Unless you find a gem of a restaurant like Mission Heirloom, odds are you'll come across some not so awesome oils, and meat that isn't grass-fed/pasture-raised. You know what though? That's ok! To me, life isn't about being perfect. It's entirely up to you with how strict you need/want to be, but sometimes letting go even just a bit can bring you much more happiness. I don't believe that the stress of trying to eat perfectly is worth it in most cases, so do your best to let go, relax, and LIVE life! The longer you stick with something, the easier it will become. What may seem totally overwhelming right now, won't feel that way for long.
Yelp is awesome for finding restaurants in various categories. I use it all the time, especially when I'm on vacation. Search for "organic restaurants," "grass-fed beef" or "gluten-free restaurants." You may be surprised with what you find!
Also, try searching the Internet for "paleo restaurants in (insert your city)." This will usually get you pretty far, especially if it's a popular city such as San Francisco or Denver, etc.! My dining out guides for my favorite restaurants in different cities will be coming up shortly, so stay tuned for that!
The following is a list of different cuisines, and how I dine out at each of them!
TIPS FOR DINING OUT PALEO
In my opinion, one of the easiest cuisines to dine out on is American, as you'll find plenty of options on the menu! If you order a salad, either bring your own dressing or double-check the ingredients with your server. Bottled dressings often contain gluten, so be sure to ask about the ingredients. You can never go wrong with a lettuce wrapped burger and a side salad, which is typically what I order!
Mexican cuisine is easy to navigate, just hold the rice, beans and tortillas and you've got yourself a paleo meal! I typically order a fajitas platter and substitute the rice and beans for extra vegetables. Don't forget to load up on the guacamole and salsa, and ask for fresh veggies to use as "chips!"
It's easy to think that you'll be stuck eating only pasta when you dine out at an Italian restaurant, but that isn't usually the case! I recently ate at a Pizza restaurant with my family, and I was able to get a great meal! I ordered a salad with olive oil and balsamic dressing, along with a chartcuterie board (a meat platter) and I was left feeling completely satisfied!
I loooove Mediterranean food and find that it's quite easy to order paleo-friendly options at most restaurants! I go for grilled meat or fish, kabobs, gyro (double check that they are gluten-free), grilled vegetables and baba ghannouj (a really yummy charbroiled eggplant dip with fresh herbs). With so many choices, you won't even miss the pita bread!
Typically when you think of Asian cuisine, you'd think that most items are made with soy sauce, which most often contains wheat/gluten. While that can be the case at times, you can ask for them to cook your meal in broth or just plain water instead of soy sauce. Consider bringing your own coconut aminos (tastes nearly identical to soy sauce) to put on your food! I do this all the time, especially at sushi restaurants!
Thai cuisine can often feel overwhelming when you're first starting out on a paleo diet, but you'll find many options once you learn how to navigate the menu. Most curries are cooked with coconut milk, just double check that they don't add flour to thicken it. You'll also find lots of options for veggies and stir-frys, and many restaurants will happily leave out the soy sauce when asked.
I'm more than 3 years into eating this way, and I have yet to come across a restaurant that I haven't found at least one decent meal at. Sometimes it takes thinking outside the box and asking questions, but it's worth it to me to know that I'll leave the restaurant feeling good! I hope these tips for dining out paleo are a huge help to you while you learn to navigate restaurants in a new way!
Happy eating and happy living life!
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