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Paleo Diet at Restaurants

When mid-week cooking fatigue sets in or an opportunity to dine out with friends comes along, staying strict with the Paleolithic diet may feel difficult and daunting.  While your friends may roll their eyes when you talk to the waiter, if sticking to your paleo routine is important to you, asking the right questions and making the right substitutions can be simple.  Many restaurants offer options that are either paleo-friendly to begin with, or are easily altered to suit your diet.  Across the board, most servers and establishments will work with you to provide the best meal for your dietary needs.

In general, when dining out, find a protein source, steamed or sautéed vegetables, and ask for healthy fats.  Get lettuce wraps instead of burgers on buns, salads with olive oil and lemon to dress it, and make sure to specify your needs to your server.  Substitute potatoes for sweet potatoes or steamed seasonal vegetables.  A simple request for no added fats, butter, or an easy substitution will almost always be honored.  No matter where you go, you are ultimately in control of what you put into your body.  If having a few non-paleo dishes here and there is not a problem for you, go ahead and indulge.  Otherwise, make the necessary choices and food exchanges to facilitate a healthy, paleo meal.

Some of the best restaurants for those following a paleo diet are Asian restaurants, especially Mongolian barbeques.  At Mongolian barbeques, the consumer chooses the veggies, meats, oils, and sauces.  You have control over what you choose to eat.  While you may not get pastured meats or organic produce, you will be able to build a meal best for your nutritional needs.  Of course, you need to avoid rice and noodles, so at Asian restaurants, opt for extra vegetables instead of grains and pastas.  Many sushi bars offer rolls without rice or will be willing to make them for you.  Some even substitute cucumber for rice in cool rolls.

At a Mexican restaurant, where chips, beans, cheese, and tortillas are all over the menu, finding a paleo meal may feel overwhelming.  Choose a protein and top it with plenty of vegetables, guacamole, and salsa.  You may even try to pick a burrito or taco with the most ingredients that seem appealing to you and order that.  You can try ordering it without the tortilla or you can just take the ingredients out when it arrives.  Again, most servers want you to get what you need and want, so don’t be afraid to simply ask for what you would like, even if it is not on the menu.

Having dinner at an Italian restaurant for your grandma’s 90th birthday?  Look for a dish of steak, chicken, or fish.  A shrimp scampi or Zuppa di Pesce served on spinach rather than pasta makes a perfect dish for your paleo lifestyle.  Nell Stephenson, an Ironman triathlete, suggests asking your server what vegetables the chef might steam or sauté for you.  You never know what delicious creations a chef will put together if you simply ask, so speak up and ask questions.

No matter where you go out to eat, there is most likely an option that fits into your diet.  Eat lean meats.  Be specific with your server.  If you follow these suggestions, you will have a Paleolithic night out on the town, enjoying your company instead of worrying about hidden ingredients or feeling guilty about a massive cheat.

What started out as a self-discovering journey into a healthier lifestyle, has turned into a mission to share my findings with as many people as possible. Knowledge is power!

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