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Eating Out on Paleo Diet

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Eating out on Paleo can feel like a minefield: everything is cooked in mystery oil, soy sauce is everywhere, and finding a healthy option in between all the deep-fried junk is surprisingly hard!

And while there’s nothing wrong with taking a planned detour for something non-Paleo that you really want, some people are extremely sensitive to certain foods and compromising just isn’t an option.

If you’re trying to stay at least somewhat Paleo, it always helps to look up the menu online or call the restaurant before you go. That way you can choose a meal or ask questions without time pressure or worry about making your fellow diners uncomfortable.

And to help you out with making the best choices, here’s a guide to some common types of restaurants and tips for navigating them:

Sandwich Shops and Burger Chains

(excluding the most awful fast-food places)

Most cities have at least one local grass-fed burger joint – if you can find this, you’re absolutely in luck! If they’ve committed to grass-fed meat, they probably also use fresh ingredients and don’t throw in a lot of junk. You’ll probably be able to get a lettuce bun and some vegetable sides. Otherwise, here’s how to handle it:

What to Look For:

Watch out For:

If You Have a Choice:

Bakeries and Cafes

(Au Bon Pain, Panera, etc.)

The land of bread and pastries does actually have some Paleo-friendly choices; you just have to hunt for them.

What to Look For:

Watch out For:

If You Have a Choice:

The Dregs of Fast Food

(McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, Taco Bell…)

Fast food is hard. Really hard. If you want an actual meal, you will inevitably have to compromise. For example, you can get a salad at Subway, but even the “chicken” has 24 ingredients, including soy and MSG. On the bright side, most fast-food places at least have a list of what does and doesn’t contain common allergens (soy, wheat, peanuts…); just search for “[name of restaurant + allergens]” so you can go in forewarned.

What to Look For:

Watch out For:

If You Have a Choice:

Family-Style Restaurants or Steakhouses

(e.g. Applebee’s)

Here you’re in luck: it’s actually very easy to get a Paleo-friendly meal. And the classier the restaurant, the better your options are.

What to Look For:

Watch out For:

If You Have a Choice:

Pizza Places

Pizza is hard. You’ll almost never find an actual pizza that comes within 100 miles of Paleo, but you can sometimes find reasonably acceptable options on the non-pizza menu.

What to Look For:

Watch out For:

If You Have a Choice:

Coffee Shops

(e.g. Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, Tim hortons)

The easiest thing is to just get a black coffee or tea and wait to eat until later, but sometimes you also need something to eat.

What to Look For:

If You Have a Choice:

Asian Restaurants

There is more to Asian food than gloopy orange chicken – if you know what to look for, you can actually find quite a few good options.

What to Look For:

Watch out For:

If You Have a Choice:

Mediterranean/Middle Eastern Restaurants

In between the breadsticks and pita, it is actually possible to get a Paleo-friendly meal here!

What to Look For:

Watch out For:

If You Have a Choice:

Mexican Restaurants

What to Look For:

Watch out For:

If You Have a Choice:

Other

What to Look For:

Watch out For:

If You Have a Choice:

More and more restaurants are able to accommodate specific diet requests. It’s always important to communicate with your server and ask questions though. What are some places you’ve found with Paleo-friendly menus? Share with us Facebook or Twitter!