(This is me on our honeymoon at Disney World. I’m eating the only sugar-free, gluten-free ice cream I’ve ever had in a restaurant. I made them show me the ingredient list twice before I ordered it. I ate it every day we were there.)
First, thank you to everyone who helped me celebrate SS&GF’s first birthday. Each comment was like opening a beautifully wrapped gift. I couldn’t have asked for anything better.
I asked what people wanted to see more of, and there was a request for tips on eating out. We don’t eat out often, but when the occasion arises there are specific things I do to get a healthier meal and take care of myself.
When I first went sugar-free and gluten-free, a good friend of mine took me to dinner and taught me how to order food. It was gut-wrenching. She insisted that I take the time to educate myself about ingredients and preparation so I could ask the right questions. It took time and energy, but almost seven years later it’s second nature.
If I’ve learned anything, it’s this: I can’t rely on anyone else to decide what I can and cannot eat. Many food service professionals aren’t well versed in food allergies, intolerances, or diseases. Thank goodness this is changing for the better, but in the end I am fully responsible for what I put in my mouth.
I know it’s possible to do your part and still get contaminated food. I’ve found, though, that if I’m vigilant the chances of that lessen greatly.
My Top Tips for Eating Out Healthier, SS&GF
1. Choose the restaurant carefully. I never walk blindly into a restaurant. Most restaurants have their menus on-line which makes doing research beforehand easy. If I’m traveling and don’t have a way to get info ahead of time, I ask to look at the menu before we’re seated. Sometimes we go to two or three places before I find something I want to eat.
2. Call ahead and ask questions. I always ask if they’re able to accommodate my dietary needs. Sometimes they say no. Simple enough. I go elsewhere. Other times I have to ask specific questions about how food is prepared. Meat marinades, salad dressing, and sauces are all common foods that might contain hidden sugar or gluten.
Calling ahead is especially helpful when the restaurant has been chosen by someone else. I know what to order before I arrive and can avoid the uncomfortable situation of having the waiter run back and forth figuring out what I can eat.
I’ve been in situations when dining with a group where there was absolutely nothing I could eat so I smiled, drank coffee, enjoyed the people I was with, and ate when I got home. No big deal.
3. Order your food exactly as you want it. Again, I’m very specific. I ask the server to omit anything I can’t eat. When my meal is brought to the table, if anything looks suspect I ask questions or send it back. I had to practice this, and at times it’s still uncomfortable.
4. Leave off anything overly starchy. This is my personal preference – I don’t feel good when I eat lots of starch. I’d rather have a double serving of good quality vegetables than a big baked potato. Again, I ask for what I want.
5. Don’t order too much food. Going out to eat doesn’t mean I overeat. Instead, I order food that sounds good and will be pleasing. If there are appetizers I must have, I’ll often order a salad to start with eat the appetizers as my meal.
6. Have a bowl of fresh fruit for dessert. I know how good chocolate cake with ice cream, crème brulee, and banana foster look. If I’m still hungry, I order fresh fruit instead. Some restaurants don’t have fresh fruit, though, so I get a cup of coffee.
This gets easier with practice. Before long, you’ll be able to go almost anywhere and find a meal that will be satisfying and nourishing.
How do you take care of yourself when you eat out?