One of the most frequently asked questions I get from readers is, “What do I eat at restaurants?” (or a dinner party, on vacation, etc.) It’s a good question, as we know the only place that guarantees quality control is your own home kitchen. Even I still get nervous to eat out, but definitely not as nervous as I was when we first started eating healthy. Experience has taught me that it pays to be picky every time.
Jake and I ventured out of town last weekend to photograph a wedding. We traveled to a small destination area on the water for two nights and I really wasn’t sure what we would encounter food-wise. It actually turned out quite well, so I thought I’d post a little play-by-play to help those of you need some encouragement on the matter.
We arrived just in time for our Bride and Groom’s welcome reception. Because everyone had traveled to attend the wedding, they had planned a beautiful buffet cocktail party for everyone. After we said our hellos, I held a table and Jake went to survey the options. I was giddy with excitement when he returned with a plate full of steak, chicken, sausage, shrimp, and mussels. A meat fest! The food was delicious, and we may or may not have gone back once or twice or thrice more. You know how some people get cut off at the bar for having one too many drinks? I was worried we might get cut off for having too much meat. But I say a well-fed photographer is your best photographer, so we were happy no one bothered to interrupt our meat-topia :)
Saturday (Wedding day!):
There was only one restaurant open for breakfast in the area – everything else was a 20-minute drive away, so we woke up early to be the first in line at the restaurant. There was a wedding at the resort Friday night as well, so we know it would get crowded fast. I was thrilled to see all the omelet and egg-scramble options on the menu. I ordered a bacon-cheddar scramble with a side of bacon and had them hold the toast. It arrived with a side of hash browns, which I ignored. That and a cup of coffee and I was good to go for the wedding.
Dinner was a gorgeous buffet, and we were able to eat prime rib, salmon, salad, and sautéed veggies. I didn’t get a photo of this with my iPhone as we at so fast so that we could get back to work before we missed anything. (I did get some professional photos of the buffet table, but they are being processed.) Weddings are always great to eat at because I find there is always some delicious protein and everything else can be skipped if it doesn’t fit the bill. We have had the unfortunate vendor meal before consisting of a sandwich with 2 slices of turkey, a side of chips, an apple, and a brownie – and when that’s happened, we’ve just eaten the protein available and then we’ll stop by a restaurant on the way home for a nice steak or salad.
After our work was done at the wedding, we went back to our room, changed clothes, and went to the restaurant/bar for one more snack. We had worked a long, busy day on our feet and were still a bit hungry. I was excited to see a crab bisque on the menu that was made with simply crab, heavy cream, veggies, and spices. I was warned it was quite rich and heavy, but I devoured it in minutes. It was delicious, and I am still searching for a recipe to mimic it. I ate it too fast before I could get a photo of it… oops.
Sunday morning we woke up and went to the restaurant at opening again. We had to catch a ferry home, but we definitely wanted a hot breakfast first. I ordered the same thing as the morning before, but had them hold the hash browns as well. She gave me my side of bacon free this time since I skipped the toast and the hash browns. Win for me!
My tips for eating out or on the road are:
- Scour the menu for the protein dishes. Most every style of restaurant offers some kind of protein and salad.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for exceptions.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for double meat & pay the extra cash. (Some salads can be so wimpy with their protein!)
- Be okay doing “weird” things to get the nutrients you need (go ahead and ask for a whole avocado, or that they use butter or lard to cook your food in rather than vegetable oils). They might say no, but they might say yes!
- If you can’t find anything, consider fasting until you reach your next possible healthy meal.
- Pack snacks to bring with you if you are charting unfamiliar territories (these Grass-Fed Jerky Chews make the perfect travel companion!)
Do you travel often? What are some of your best travel tips for others? Please share!
Oh – and this post just wouldn’t be complete without a shot of our happy couple now, would it? Congratulations Katie and Casey!!
Happy eating :) Joey
Thanks for this post! I’m new to “Paleo”, about a month in, and LOVING it. I think I get bored, kinda with same old, same old foods, so thanks for the ideas.
I get jerky from Bill the Butcher, but I like the link you gave, too.
I have to eat some chocolate each day…any suggestions?
I typically do 85% Lindt, but anything else you love?
Great post! I tried to be pretty good on my bachelorette trip, ordered a bacon burger without the bun (although I did have sweet potato fries) and I treated myself to ice cream at Disneyland : ) I didn’t gain any weight though, so I think I did ok! I also took some Paleo crunch along with me for snacks so that was good.
Quick Question, I was so frustrated at Whole Foods yesterday when I could only find 1 salad dressing that didn’t have soybean or canola oil! They are sneaky! Even the “Olive Oil and Vinegar” dressing had the fake oils in it. It is really just easiest for me to be able to keep some dressings at work. Are there any you suggest or am I just going to have to make my own! Thanks!
Hi Amy! Those oils are the worst – they make it into so many products at stores and restaurants. Making your own will be the easiest for quality control. My favorite is my Mom’s Salad Dressing, and Mark Sisson has some tasty-looking ones posted here as well.
Thanks! I will give some of those a try. I will just have to pick up some dressing bottles to bring along with me. Maybe I should start a line of actual all natural salad dressings : ) (of course all of the ones with soy and canola were labeled all natural too!)
Traveling and eating paleo is tough. I wrote a blog post a while back http://paleolithicnutrition.org/paleolithic-traveling-is-easier-than-you-think. I try to bring a bunch of nice treats along with me when I have a trip.
I just prepared a lot of food for our crossfit competition this weekend. Packing up some egg muffins which are really easy and can be eaten cold. Sweet potato pancakes made in coconut oil, they are fine cold too. Then cutting up veggies and a little bit of fruit. Cooked a turkey and packing some guac, all can be eaten cold so will have my cooler stashed with lots of yummy health food.
Great post! @Liz, good news is, it gets easier as the time goes by. I’ve been paleo now for 6-7 months, and gluten free for a couple of years. There will always be certain things that are more tempting than others when eating out, or grocery shopping for that matter. For me, I want my house to be my safe haven, NO temptations! When I go out to dinner, I stay away from fried foods (although I do love a good sweet potato fry), order veggies, a salad and extra meat. I love that you said to pay extra if you have to! People always think we are weird for paying extra for more veggies/salad/meat etc, yet they have multiple drinks that are far more expensive than the extra couple dollars I spent adding nutrient rich FOODS.
I had a post a month ago on road trips and not falling off the paleo wagon. You can check it out here: http://thecavewomanskitchen.com/road-trip-tips/
Thanks Jessie – I agree that sometimes the extra costs is worth it to keep full & satisfied with good foods. Thanks for being one of the weirdos with us :)