Following the Paleo Lifestyle and eating out can present interesting challenges. I have found that these are even more challenging if you have anyone in your family who is absolutely gluten intolerant or suffering from celiac disease. The Paleo Lifestyle is great for the gluten-free, it is a completely wheat, barley and rye free diet. However, the challenge really comes when eating out and you have to make absolutely sure that your restaurant can support a truly gluten-free diet.
It seems like at restaurants I’m always ordering either a salad or grilled steak/chicken/fish and vegetables (hold the potato please!) However, this can get a bit boring after a while. It is also important to make sure that none of the spices or sauces added to the grilled meats contain any gluten.
For a long time, it seemed like I never got food out for my family. However, this week I’ve had several successes, so I thought it worth sharing.
First, I made a trip to the nearest Thai restaurant where I ordered Tom Kha Gai (Thai Coconut) soup. This wonderful, spicy soup is gluten-free and made with coconut milk. I ordered ours with chicken and enjoyed. I should point out that one should be careful of some other items on the menu. Soy sauce is not gluten-free and it can be hard to tell which menu items contain it and which don’t.
Next, I found a local burger store (Willamette Valley Burger Co) that uses locally grown beef or lamb for their burgers. Upon request they will prepare a burger without a bun. I ordered a grilled chicken breast topped with lettuce, tomato, fried onions and bacon and it was delicious. I also discovered upon asking that they prepare their home-made french fries in a completely gluten-free environment (see my comments on eating potatoes You Say Potato, I Say Replace It) However, if you’re going to have a french fry, this is the way to do it.
It isn’t impossible to eat out and stay with your Paleo Lifestyle. It can be done. Here are some quick tips to do this successfully:
- Call ahead or look up the restaurant’s menu online. This will help you know what type of foods you think you’ll be able to order.
- Ask questions about the menu items – feel free to ask if menu items contain sugar, come with sides that you don’t want to eat, or if items can be substituted.
- Make your own menu item. I do this a lot. Most places are very nice when I ask, as I do at my local Mexican restaurant, to hold the beans, rice and tortillas and please give me a salad with my grilled veggies and meat.
- Explain your situation – for people with gluten intolerance, celiac disease, diabetes, allergies, or any other health issue share your concerns with your server about the menu items. I can’t eat beans. That’s all there is to it. So, I make sure that it’s clear that beans will make me ill. No restaurant employee wants a customer to be sick from eating their food.
- View educating your server as part of the process of eating out. I’ve taken several classes in hospitality and tourism management and food service staff are learning more and more all the time about food issues. Often you’ll find an ally within the restaurant staff who is willing to help you out.
- Give a good tip and support those restaurants that support you.
While eating a home cooked meal is often healthier and more economical than eating out, don’t deprive yourself of a break out of fear of eating the wrong thing or not being able to find something to eat. Do your homework, communicate with the restaurant staff, and enjoy your dinner out.