Whether you’re trying out the Whole 30 or are paleo eater for life, one of the most challenging parts of this lifestyle can be dining at restaurants. Eating out in the company of loved ones is one of the many joys in life, and you don’t want to miss out.
As you know, we’re firm believers that the paleo diet needn’t chain you to your kitchen. You just have to know how to play it when you’re out and about. Here are our top tips for eating out – and enjoying it! – on the paleo diet.
1. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
We’ve encountered waitstaff who are totally nonplussed by our “weird” questions — in a restaurant that values customer service and using high-quality ingredients, they really won’t mind your additional questions.
2. If someone says it’s “probably paleo,” then it’s probably not.
A lot of people (including people working in restaurants) don’t actually know what “paleo” or a “primal diet” is. Extra, unnecessary ingredients (especially sugar and soy!) are lurking everywhere. We’ve even encountered a few restaurants with menu items specifically labeled as “paleo” when they weren’t paleo at all!
We don’t say this to scare you, but to encourage you to ask specific questions about the ingredients you’re trying to avoid. That way waitstaff can give you a firm yes or no answer.
3. Pick your battles.
If you are 100% committed to never consuming ANY canola oil, for example, then you might want to stick to salads when you’re eating out. The fact is that many (if not most) restaurants use processed oils for cooking, and they can be pretty hard to completely avoid. We’re certainly not health experts, but in our opinion, mentally and emotionally allowing yourself to enjoy a meal out is more important than a few teaspoons of crappy oil every once in a while.
4. Sides are your friends.
Often, sides are simple menu items meant to be added onto a meal. These are your friends, especially if you’re at a restaurant that’s not especially paleo friendly. We love mixing and matching sides to create our own meal, or subbing them in for beans/rice/bread and other non-paleo items.
5. Ask if substitutions are possible.
“Is it possible to switch out the rice for salad?”
“Do you think we could get potatoes instead of the English muffin?”
These are perfectly acceptable questions, and more often than not, servers are happy to make simple switches!
6. It is possible to drink alcohol out. Kinda.
“I’m paleo… except for the alcohol. I need my wine!” – Alyssa
Is this you? We get it — you’re trying to eat real foods, but having a drink with dinner or at happy hour after work is something you enjoy and might not be willing to give up. Luckily, there are a few paleo-friendly alcohol options you can still indulge in on occasion. We recommend organic red wines, 100% agave tequila, and other fruit-based, no-sugar-added options. It’s not always easy to find these options, but a good bartender will know what to serve you. You can always ask for a 100% agave shot of tequila with a splash of fruit juice and sparkling water! Simple and delicious (and as paleo as it’s gonna get).