Eating Out at Restaurants

"But Finley! What do you do when you go out to eat?!" [insert dramatic tone of concern here]

Umm...I eat. I'm not sure when or why the notion of not being able to sustain a paleo diet while eating out at restaurants came into play, but I can assure you it's quite easy. Sure, maybe restaurants are more likely to cook with vegetable oil rather than, say, olive oil, but try not to split hairs over details like that and just enjoy your damn meal.

When I'm out to eat, I simply stick with the paleo principles of protein, veggies and fat. Yes, most menus will be stocked with grain-, dairy-, and legume-based foods and sides, but don't let those road blocks get in the way of your feast. Do most restaurants serve protein, like beef or chicken? Yes. Isn't there normally a whole section on most menus dedicated to salads? Yes. If you're not in the mood for a salad, do you think a side of steamed veggies would be impossibly out of reach? Doubtful. And by nature, there will be some sort of fat incorporated in your meal, whether its from avocado on your burger, or olive oil on your salad. Check, check and check.

Making paleo-focused requests is also an easy feat. You do want to be careful, however, about being that pain-in-the-ass customer who asks if the eggs they serve are cage-free. Think about what is really important to you in terms of what you want to avoid eating (for me that's gluten and grains) and go from there. I may ask the waiter if they use pancake batter in their omelets, but I'm not going to ask if the honey they gave me for my coffee is 100% raw and organic. See what I'm getting at here?

Here are some general tips for quick, hassel-free requests you can ask for that won't make your waiter want to add some saliva to your plate, free of charge:

  • For things like burgers or sandwiches, just forego the bun.
  • Rather than a side of mashed potatoes or fries, ask for steamed veggies or a side salad (this is almost always an accommodation that will be detailed on the menu).
  • As most restaurants will likely have avocado in the kitchen, ask to add avocado to your dish (if you're willing to pay a little bit extra)...avocado tastes good with just about everything and is an excellent fat source.
  • If you want to be strict about your salad dressing and don't trust their house balsamic or whatever, just ask for sides of olive oil and vinegar.
  • Use the word "without" if a certain dish that catches your eye includes an item or two that may not be paleo-friendly. "Without croutons," "without cheese," and so on.

If you're simply in the mood for pizza, or are not trying to avidly follow the paleo plan, not a problem there! No one's here to pass judgment. Enjoy yourself - hell, maybe even ask for extra cheese! But playing the "being paleo isn't possible because I go out to eat a lot" card is a cop out and just not true. There is always something that will be available for you - and it will probably be delicious! Unless of course you're eating at a vegan restaurant (not entirely sure why those even exist)...then I guess you're screwed.