Eating Healthy at Restaurants: A Paleo Dieter’s Guide

Nell Stephenson is the coauthor of The Paleo Diet Cookbook. She contributes to The Paleo Diet Newsletter, USA Triathlon, and other publications. She owns and operates an online Paleo nutritional counseling business and is a competitive endurance athlete and has raced Ironman World Championships. Visit her at Paleoista.com.

DiningOut_Woman_Solo_300“Paleoistas” eat a balance of lean meats, seafood, vegetables, fruits, and raw nuts (like our ancestors). Here’s how to order a Paleo-friendly meal when dining out, whether you’re at a fine restaurant or a diner. From Paleoista: Gain Energy, Get Lean, and Feel Fabulous with the Diet You Were Born to Eat  by Nell Stephenson.

Paleoista: Gain Energy, Get Lean, and Feel Fabulous with the Diet You Were Born to Eat

Paleoista: Gain Energy, Get Lean, and Feel Fabulous with the Diet You Were Born to Eat

by Nell Stephenson

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  • Get Paleoista: Gain Energy, Get Lean, and Feel Fabulous with the Diet You Were Born to Eat
  • Get Paleoista: Gain Energy, Get Lean, and Feel Fabulous with the Diet You Were Born to Eat
  • Get Paleoista: Gain Energy, Get Lean, and Feel Fabulous with the Diet You Were Born to Eat
  • Get Paleoista: Gain Energy, Get Lean, and Feel Fabulous with the Diet You Were Born to Eat
  • Get Paleoista: Gain Energy, Get Lean, and Feel Fabulous with the Diet You Were Born to Eat

Have you seen When Harry Met Sally? I’m the first to admit that I’m so Sally when I order food at a restaurant. And you will be, too, only to the degree that we must become quite comfortable with modifying our ordering from the menu when dining out. I’ve put together some guidelines for menu ordering even when there don’t seem to be any Paleo options! First, call ahead and explain your food requests to the host. I’ve found very often that when asked in advance, the chef is happy to prepare alternatives that are Paleo-friendly.

• When you arrive, read the menu thoroughly to determine if there are, or are not, any outright Paleo options. Things to look for are poached, baked, grilled, or roasted proteins, vegetable dishes, and salads. These tend to be the easiest to modify, if need be, simply by asking for no cheese, no sauce, or no croutons. Always be sure, though, to confirm that there are no hidden ingredients that might cause harm. Gluten and soy, two very common hidden ingredients in sauces, stews, soups, marinades, and even roast veggies, are probably the best examples. Explain that you have food allergies to soy, gluten, and dairy and ask the server to please double-check with the chef that he or she will be able to prep your food to your specifications.

• If nothing is screaming “Eat This” at you, start getting creative. Now it’s time to get down and dirty. Scan for mere mentions of Paleo food in the menu. Do you see spinach listed as part of their veggie omelet or arugula in the warm bleu cheese–laden salad? That means they have leaves! Perhaps you spot grilled chicken as an offering to top their Caesar salad; aha—protein!

• Keep in mind that even in the most seemingly dire of situations, you can almost always find something. While crewing for one of my husband’s 100-mile running races, I stopped off at none other than a Denny’s restaurant and came up with an omelet with vegetables, a side of green salad, and another of fresh fruit. Don’t mistake me; I’m not pretending that Denny’s is a great place to eat and you should go out of your way to get there. The bottom line is that there is always a choice; not having access to the lovely, fresh organic salad at Whole Foods does not have to mean a deep-fried, battered chicken and biscuits free-for-all!

It’s all about the delivery! No need to be rude or condescending, of course; rather, when you position yourself in a friendly manner, nine times out of ten you can rest assured that your server will try to oblige your special dietary requests. Not only will you be able to dine at your favorite restaurants; the server will also stand to receive a higher gratuity.

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Dr. Mike Moreno is a graduate of the University of California at Irvine and Hahnemann Medical School. Following his residency at Kaiser Permanente in Fontana, California, Dr. Mike moved to San Diego, where he now practices family medicine and serves on the board of the San Diego Chapter of the American Academy of Family Physicians.

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Have you seen When Harry Met Sally? I’m the first to admit that I’m so Sally when I order food at a restaurant. And you will be, too, only to the degree that we must become quite comfortable with modifying our ordering from the menu when dining out. I’ve put together some guidelines for menu ordering even when there don’t seem to be any Paleo options! First, call ahead and explain your food requests to the host. I’ve found very often that when asked in advance, the chef is happy to prepare alternatives that are Paleo-friendly.

• When you arrive, read the menu thoroughly to determine if there are, or are not, any outright Paleo options. Things to look for are poached, baked, grilled, or roasted proteins, vegetable dishes, and salads. These tend to be the easiest to modify, if need be, simply by asking for no cheese, no sauce, or no croutons. Always be sure, though, to confirm that there are no hidden ingredients that might cause harm. Gluten and soy, two very common hidden ingredients in sauces, stews, soups, marinades, and even roast veggies, are probably the best examples. Explain that you have food allergies to soy, gluten, and dairy and ask the server to please double-check with the chef that he or she will be able to prep your food to your specifications.

• If nothing is screaming "Eat This" at you, start getting creative. Now it’s time to get down and dirty. Scan for mere mentions of Paleo food in the menu. Do you see spinach listed as part of their veggie omelet or arugula in the warm bleu cheese–laden salad? That means they have leaves! Perhaps you spot grilled chicken as an offering to top their Caesar salad; aha—protein!

• Keep in mind that even in the most seemingly dire of situations, you can almost always find something. While crewing for one of my husband’s 100-mile running races, I stopped off at none other than a Denny’s restaurant and came up with an omelet with vegetables, a side of green salad, and another of fresh fruit. Don’t mistake me; I’m not pretending that Denny’s is a great place to eat and you should go out of your way to get there. The bottom line is that there is always a choice; not having access to the lovely, fresh organic salad at Whole Foods does not have to mean a deep-fried, battered chicken and biscuits free-for-all!

It’s all about the delivery! No need to be rude or condescending, of course; rather, when you position yourself in a friendly manner, nine times out of ten you can rest assured that your server will try to oblige your special dietary requests. Not only will you be able to dine at your favorite restaurants; the server will also stand to receive a higher gratuity.

Get fit. Find nutrition facts. Live a healthy lifestyle. Sign up for our newsletter!

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