One of the hardest parts of eating a gluten-free, sugar-free, whole foods diet is that eating out can be a nightmare - but it doesn't have to be!
While we prefer cooking and eating at home because it's cheaper, easier, and we're in control (and, let's be honest, I prefer being where I can wear pajamas), it's still sometimes really nice to take a date night out for a change of scenery. Or maybe you're going out to eat to celebrate a friend's birthday, or for a work event. Here are our tips to help you navigate a restaurant and still keep your diet (mostly) intact without being the weirdo.
E & B
YOU choose the restaurant // If you're going out for a date night with your spouse (who, presumably, eats the same or similarly to you), this is easy. It's a little harder if it's an event someone else has scheduled. But B learned while traveling for work that if he researched restaurants and made suggestions to his colleagues, rather than relying on them to take charge, he was more likely to end up somewhere he could find something to eat. If you can influence the restaurant, do so. Now is not the time to worry about being bossy. While most restaurants have a varied menu, we've found that Asian, Mexican, and pizza joints are the worst for having a variety of dishes we can eat.
plan ahead // Especially if you're unfamiliar with the restaurant, always check the menu ahead of time. Identify at least two dishes you can, and would want to, eat. Pay attention to the side items. Most entrees come with some kind of starch: potato, rice, or pasta. Make sure there are other vegetables you can order instead. Most places are pretty good about letting you sub a side item or add a small salad.
eat a snack beforehand // Eat a small, healthy snack before you go. It's a lot easier to make good choices and to avoid the free bread and butter or chips and salsa if you already have something on your stomach. Letting yourself get too hungry is always a recipe for disaster, not just at restaurants.
prepare for peer pressure // Depending on your friends/family/colleagues, you might hear things like, "You're skipping dessert? You always get the chocolate cake here!" or "But they're known for their pasta, you have to order it!" Your friends and family might be really supportive, I don't know. But invariably, someone feels like they can (and should) comment on your eating habits. Being prepared for the inevitable pushback will make you less likely to cave to peer pressure.
pick ONE // To avoid guilt and a potential stomachache, pick a cheat focus: alcohol (beer or liquor - wine is fine), carbs, or dessert. If a restaurant/bar is known for its specialty cocktails or craft beer, drink up. If their pasta is to-die-for or you just really want mac and cheese, order that. Or if you, like me, have a massive sweet tooth, get dessert. Just don't do all three. In February, B and I went to HUSK in Charleston. Their skillet cornbread with bacon and salted butter is an absolute must...so I got a salad for my entree and we skipped dessert. But...
don't beat yourself up // Occasionally you are going to want (or be persuaded into) ordering a beer. And mac and cheese. And dessert. And it's totally okay. Odds are, if you're going out to eat it's a special occasion. So you might be willing (or tempted) to cheat a little bit. THAT IS TOTALLY FINE. In fact, it's kind of the point - celebrating and eating bad-for-you foods every once in a while is okay. It's the everyday consumption that gets you into trouble. So if it's your best friend's birthday or a client is taking you out to celebrate a big deal, go with the flow.