The truth is, eating out is going to happen. When following a paleo lifestyle, the goal is to prepare most meals at home with fresh, local meats and produce, but it’s also important to balance that with our busy lives, being social and occasional vacations. The basics of the paleo diet (meat, fish, chicken, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds) are available in restaurants, but there are likely non-paleo ingredients lurking in that meal. The goal isn’t perfection, but with a bit of planning, eating out paleo can be great! Keeping these tips in mind can make eating out a little easier.
Most restaurants have a menu online. Check it out in advance to know what’s offered and make a game plan in advance for what to order.
Ask Questions & Make Requests
Many entrees are breaded or covered in sauce. Don’t be afraid to ask the server to describe how the entrée is prepared and request modifications. For example, if the entrée is breaded, ask for it to be grilled, seared, baked or sautéed with spices instead. If there’s a sauce, request it on the side. There are many possibilities—bun-less burgers wrapped in lettuce; grilled meat, chicken or fish; and entrée salads with chicken or steak.
Choose Side Dishes Carefully
Most entrees are served with a starchy side dish (French fries, mashed potatoes, rice or other grain). Request a double portion of vegetables in place of the grains or order a side salad in addition to the vegetables being served with the entrée. Sweet potato fries (without ketchup) is a paleo choice, and fruit salad is a healthy paleo substitute for potato chips, tortilla chips and fries.
What about beverages?
It’s no surprise that water or unsweetened sparkling water are the healthiest choices, but the reality is alcoholic beverages are often a part of the socializing and eating out experience. Red wine and tequila (with an unsweetened mixer) are considered a paleo choice. Skip the beer and sugary cocktails, and limit the amount consumed.
Watch the Extras
Bread, tortilla chips and most appetizers aren’t paleo foods. Sauces, salad dressings and condiments typically contain ingredients that also make them non-paleo choices. This is where the 80% rule comes into play. Try to choose paleo 80% of the time by avoiding the significant sources of non-paleo foods, and choose paleo options (like oil and vinegar for salad dressing) when possible.