The Paleo Diet has taken the world by storm in recent years and doesn’t seem to be slowing down. Advocates of the diet follow a hunter gatherer eating style believed to decrease risks of modern-era, Westernized illnesses, like heart disease, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and obesity, while also improving overall health and athletic performance. See what Healthy Dining’s dietitians have to say about the pros and cons of this popular diet here.
Dining out while Paleo can take a little more thought, but is possible! If you’ve chosen to follow the Paleo Diet, use these tips from Andi Petty of The Paleo Secret to stay on track without sacrificing dining out.
The Paleo Diet has become quite popular in recent years. For those of you unfamiliar – eating Paleo focuses on mimicking the eating patterns of our ancestors to the best of one’s ability while living in modern times. It involves eating quality protein (grass-fed, pastured meats & wild-caught seafood), good fats and vegetables while avoiding grains, dairy and other processed foods and ingredients.
This way of eating emphasizes whole, REAL, fresh, nutrient-dense foods as well as shopping locally and cooking most of your food for optimal results. Once you’re in the swing of things, eating Paleo at home becomes a breeze. You are able to identify which aisles of the grocery store to shop in, what products to purchase, how to read labels and more.
Problems seem to arise, however, when someone who is following the Paleo Diet goes out to eat. People often feel overwhelmed and unsure of how to navigate a menu.
Generally speaking, restaurants focus on providing a large quantity of food. In addition, many restaurant dishes include ingredients that may not be obvious from reading the menu, like wheat flour, dairy and refined sugars.
You can see that eating Paleo while dining out can be a little tricky…but it’s definitely doable!!
Going Paleo doesn’t mean you’ll never go out to eat again. So many special occasions and celebrations are synonymous with dining out. It’s important to socialize and enjoy life! So, to help you navigate the menu (and alleviate some anxiety) – we came up with 6 tips to help you stay on track:
- Do Some Research: When you decide where you’re going to eat, spend some time online looking at the menu. This is a great tip if you will be going out to eat with a group of people and feel embarrassed about asking the server lots of questions. If you have the time – call ahead! Ask to speak to someone who can answer your questions so you can arrive at the restaurant knowing exactly what you want to order.
- Ask for the Gluten-Free Menu: If they have a gluten-free menu, the items listed there may be better bets for avoiding hidden flour or gluten. Most of the options are simple and include meat and veggies – which are exactly the kind of entrees you’re looking for!
- Keep It Simple and Ask for Modifications: Narrowing your choices down to simple options are the way to go. Look for a protein dish with vegetable sides or one that can be easily modified. For example, if you find a dish that you like (a fish, steak, chicken breast), but with a side you don’t eat (grains, pasta, beans, etc.), ask to swap the side out for vegetables or a side salad. Make sure there is no cheese or croutons on the salad. Usually, restaurants are more than happy to accommodate simple requests such as these. Don’t be afraid to ask!!
- Check the Sauces and Dressings: Many sauces used at restaurants are made with flour and/or cream hiding in them. Unless the sauce/dish is specifically marked gluten or dairy-free, ask for the dish to be made without. An alternative like butter or olive oil with garlic and herbs can be a great substitute. (Note: most Paleo plans allow butter for those that tolerate it). Commercially created salad dressings are often made with added sugar and preservatives. A side of olive oil and some fresh lemon or lime slices are a great modification.
- Skip the Bread Basket: Don’t even let them put it on the table! Bread is a “no-no” on the Paleo Diet, and it’s one of the foods people have the hardest times eliminating. The smell of bread can be quite enticing and can easily get you salivating and craving “just one bite.” Avoid this temptation by politely passing on the bread basket in order to set yourself up for success!
- Support Locally Sourced, Quality Restaurants: Many restaurants are beginning to source food from local farms as well as provide grass-fed, pastured meat and wild-caught fish options. Encourage their success (and save yourself the headache of menu navigation) by visiting restaurants that align with your values.
We hope these tips will help you stay on track while dining out while on a Paleo Diet. Educate yourself, don’t stress and do the best you can!