We love to eat out. Before we began eating Paleo, our weekends may have consisted of at least 2 – 3 meals out. That has decreased substantially. Now, we eat out maybe 1 time per week unless it is a special circumstances.
We are lucky enough to get to spend (almost) every weekend with the greatest 11-year old alive, my step-son. We usually bring him with whenever we go out of town but there are of course, grown up weekends from time to time. This past weekend was one of them which was hard because Halloween fell on Friday. Ideally, we would have made something to eat at home but with Landon’s mom living in Stillwater that just wasn’t possible. So in order to make sure Landon still had time to go trick or treating with his friends – we took him out to eat. He is his father’s son, so naturally his favorite restaurant and choice for that night was Buffalo Wild Wings (the grown up loves wings too.)
Then, on Saturday we made the 6 hour drive to Davenport, Iowa for the night to see an Invicta FC fight that my husband’s gym was sponsoring. This means that all weekend, we were faced with a lot of opportunities to not eat paleo. We were semi-prepared (you will hear that a lot as we get the hang of this) with nuts and other paleo food to snack on along the ride.
So we come to the rules of restaurant eating. Because you don’t know whether the meat is grass-fed or if the vegetables are the most fresh, there are still some smarter choices when eating at a restaurant.
- Skip to the entrée/salad portion of the menu. Looking at the deep fried mozzarella sticks, nachos and spinach artichoke dip isn’t going to do you any favors.
- Look for the meat and vegetables or salads – you usually can’t go wrong with a salad sans cheese and croutons with balsamic vinaigrette. The great thing about Buffalo Wild Wings is that you can add their dry rub flavoring to the grilled chicken in your salad to give it a bit more flavor. (BWW lemon pepper dry rub is spectacular). If it is restaurant with a bit more variety – seared salmon or chicken breast with steamed vegetables is a great option too! My rule of thumb when eating out has always been to choose something that I couldn’t make myself at home. What was the point of eating out if I could have made it for less at home? So, in paleo world – I order really delicious chicken breasts or steak. Neither of which I am skilled at cooking at home. (I always overcook the chicken breast, better safe than sorry!)
- Ask questions – what is in the dressing? Is there cheese in that dish? The menu doesn’t say it all. If you are unsure if something will contain dairy, peanuts, wheat, etc – just ask politely. It’s easier than ordering a meal and having to leave half of it behind on the plate. Which by the way, is exactly what I did at Boozies in Davenport, Iowa. I’ll talk more about that later.
- Didn’t ask the question? That’s okay too – you can discard the bun, take off the cheese, scrape off the mayonnaise. Stick to the core of the food – the meat and vegetables.
- Don’t waste your time pondering the other options. We are still very new to the paleo lifestyle so from time to time, we still get cravings. I’m not going to pretend that it is easy to go into a restaurant, look at the menu, and choose the healthiest option on it. It definitely isn’t easy. When we ate at Buffalo Wild Wings, they had just started advertising their new burger topped with a brat and sauerkraut on a pretzel bun. Do you think I wanted to order that instead? Absolutely. Should I have even looked at their “game day specials,” knowing it would be full of poor food choices? Probably not. But we are human. Making the smartest choice on the menu will leave you feeling good when you walk out of the restaurant, not bloated and full.
Getting the hang of the new eating style is the hardest part. We were with another couple on our Iowa trip this weekend and when offered a beer, I had to think twice about my answer. (Don’t worry, I passed up the beer – no gluten for this gal.) When everyone else was eating delicious burgers WITH their buns, it was hard not to eat mine. But it is also really difficult because I am not gifted with a lot of self-control when it comes to food or drinks. I am not someone who can eat a pizza one minute and then vegetables the next. It is sort of an “all or nothing” mentality for me. I need to stay strict in order to stay on track. And even more than that, I have to stay on track to stay healthy.
My husband has an iron stomach, lucky guy. He can eat pretty much anything, anytime. He can also have a cheat day while still eating healthy 90% of the time. He had no problem using the evening of our Iowa trip as his first real “cheat.” He was drinking beer, ordering hamburgers and even eating the bun (I was a bit jealous!)
I ordered a Santa Fe chicken sandwich, served on Texas Toast at Boozies, topped with Swiss cheese, lettuce and tomato with a side of sweet potato fries (baked, not deep fried). This chicken sandwich sounded so delicious to me that I was fully prepared to have my first cheat meal. Although I, unlike my husband, struggle with intensely painful and unpredictable stomach problems. I never know what food is going to set it off. And, there is no worse place to have a “stomach ache” than at a sporting event. So I have to look at my eating from a different standpoint. Reality hit, it had been three weeks since I ate bread or cheese. What was it going to do to my stomach? I decided not to take the risk and discarded the Swiss cheese and the bread. I left the restaurant feeling satisfied but not full and have kept my record of the longest running stretch without any stomach aches since I was 14– almost two weeks!
I guess the point of this is that it is really easy to find an excuse to make bad choices. What is more easily available? Fast food, processed food, BAD food! It is harder to stay consistent and make good eating choices when you are out. It definitely is about balance and I am sure that in the next 20 years of my life, I will eat a non-paleo meal here or there. But, maybe I’ll stick to a splurge of ranch dressing on my chicken salad or a little bit of dark chocolate here and there. I’ll stay away from my normal habits of frozen pizza, Wendy’s chicken sandwiches, and Jimmy Johns.
Thought of the day: If the food you are eating not only benefits your body with every bite but also makes you FEEL better on top of it – why would you eat any other way?
Until next time.