When eating Paleo, ideally you’ll buy fresh, local meats and produce and cook them yourself; but we all know there will be times you go out to eat or order in. Just remember: giving yourself a break on cooking doesn’t mean you have to break your Paleo plan. There are plenty of folks in the CrossFit Matthews and CrossFit Charlotte communities trying to make the same healthy choices as you. So, find out each other’s favorites, and be sure to use these tips to help you stay on track.
Mentally order before you actually order.
Look up the menu online and decide what you’ll order before you arrive at the restaurant (or call the takeout number). This will help take the pressure off in the moment and will give you time to make smart choices. Also, remember: many of us are creatures of habit, so ordering and eating the same or similar Paleo foods throughout a week will make this easier. Don’t overthink it.
Don’t arrive on an empty stomach.
If you arrive starving, you’ve already set yourself up to fail. Snacking well throughout the day is one key to success on a Paleo diet, so always keep snacks accessible to tide you over until your next meal. Almonds, pistachios, beef jerky, apples and bananas are all great portable snacks. Go ahead and have a Paleo snack right before you go to the restaurant. This will help you order with your head — not just your stomach.
Ask specific questions and make specific requests.
You’re the paying customer, so don’t be shy about asking questions and making requests about the food and its preparation. If the server doesn’t know an answer, have them ask the chef. Be polite of course, but don’t be afraid to ask specific questions before you order. You should recognize that not all restaurants will be able to accommodate your requests, so get the information and then make your choices according to what you will compromise on (and what you won’t). Here are some standard culprits to beware:
- Oil/Butter: Most restaurants prepare food using vegetable, corn, or canola oil. Ask if it’s possible that your food be prepared using olive oil or real butter. For vegetables, order steamed veggies or request they be prepared with olive oil or butter.
- Salad dressing: Most salad dressings are loaded with high fructose corn syrup, so it’s best to ask for olive oil and vinegar. And yes, be sure to specifically ask for olive oil, or you will certainly be given a bottle of canola oil and vinegar.
- Sauces and Gravies: First of all, avoid anything with gravy; it’s made with tons of flour. Use caution with sauces and ask questions — sugar is typically an ingredient in there somewhere. Your server may not know this, so have them ask the chef this one.
- Breading: Always ask if something is breaded or you will be sad when that delicious piece of fish you ordered shows up coated in breadcrumbs.
- Seasoning Salt: Always request this to not be used. It contains MSG and sugar.
Bonus tip: check out the reviews online ahead of time to see if a restaurant is Paleo friendly — whether that means having Paleo options on the menu, or at least the willingness (and ability) to make accommodations.
Need some ideas to start? Here’s a great on-the-go list we found from Paleo Cupboard. And hey, CrossFit Matthews and Crossfit Charlotte regulars: Do you have some Paleo-friendly favorites here in Matthews or Charlotte? Share your go-to list in the comments.