You may think it’s impossible to eat out primally. Well you’d be wrong. First of all, there are plenty of ways to manipulate current menu items to make them more Paleo, and secondly, more and more restaurants are actually moving to “healthier” menu items. Obviously it is worth discussing what exactly “healthy” means, but for a lot of restaurants that are becoming more health-conscious, it is great for the Paleo lifestyle enthusiast.
Let’s start with an important point. “Healthy” to a chain restaurant trying to make boatloads of profit is completely different than a locally owned and operated dive that is just trying to get by while making their customers happy. Generally speaking, chains look for the cheapest ways to make the most money. For those of you who are Business majors, it’s obvious; spend less, make more. So what that means in the food world is taking shortcuts. That can be in anything from using vegetable oil to cook vegetables and meats to serving salad dressings that come delivered in the thousands in neat “Tear Here” packages. That is why I do not usually eat at chain restaurants, as I believe my health is more important for me. I used to have some serious dental issues because of bad eating habits. I even had a serious dental procedure ( I mean dental implants in Calgary), so not I am very picky about food. So based on that observation, the first tip is this: if it comes in a pre-sealed package, it’s probably processed and most likely contains processed ingredients. Run and hide from this stuff.
Here are a few ways you can eat out and stay healthy at the same time:
1. Bet on Butter
Whenever you eat out at a sit-down restaurant and order a hot entree, it’s simple, ask that your dish be sautéed in butter; by doing that, you will know exactly how your dish is being prepared as opposed to it probably being sautéed in some strange mix of vegetable and canola oil. This is also a great way to get some of your daily saturated fat. If you’re wondering about the effect saturated fat on your body, or any fat for that matter, check out Max’s post on saturated fat.
2. Salad on the Side
Almost all restaurants have an option to get a side salad, if not also a side order of vegetables. No matter what you get for your entree, by ordering a salad or a heaping portion of veggies you will guarantee you get your daily micronutrient load as well as the soluble and insoluble fiber that is crucial for your intestinal and digestive health. Following this principle as well as getting your daily allotments of fruit, your body will thank you in the long run (a post on the importance of fiber coming soon!).
The building blocks of that chicken breast or steak and all of the micronutrients within are crucial for your development and longevity. Because you really have no control of the quality of protein you will be consuming, go for lean meats and poultry where the fat content is negligible (and since the animal was probably fattened up with grains, that’s a good thing). Think chicken breast, steak, fish, turkey breast, ham, bacon (but this should really count more as a fat source), lamb. I’m sure you get the picture.
4. Hydrate! Think Water.
So you’ve got some healthier fats in and your micronutrients from the salad. You also ordered a mouthwatering piece of juicy protein. You’re all set. Oh my! All of a sudden your lips go dry! You forgot to order a drink. You motion to the waiter and say, “one soda–” but you inner paleo conscious says whoa there. Soda is a definite no-go. “One large water, please.” People don’t realize that Americans are drinking themselves fat. While I also agree that added sugar and gluten and carbohydrates from food are all major players, the sugar, specifically fructose from sugar-sweetened beverages is the real culprit. It’s simple; don’t drink soda. If you want to go a little wild get some tea or seltzer water on occasion.
5. Skip the Bread Basket
One of the easiest way to cut some unnecessary carbohydrates from your days total is to just ask for the server to skip the bread. If there’s no bread on the table, you can’t eat it. If you can’t eat it, you can’t turn it into that tire around your waist. Simple trick to cut some serious carbs. You may not realize but those add up. In my experience, the bread is warm, soft, slightly crunchy on the outside and nice and flakey on the inside, basically addictive, and the first basket is gone in two seconds flat. A slice of white bread can have around 13 grams of carbohydrates per slice. Even if you only eat two or three, you’ve already eaten 1/3 of your daily allotment of carbs to be able to burn fat. Now you have no wiggle room for those important fruits and veggies you need during the day.
What do you do to try and stay healthy when you eat out? Leave a comment below.