I’ll let you in on a little secret – Just because you’re doing Whole30 or because you’re gluten free or dairy free – Doesn’t mean you can’t go out to eat.
When I first started eating gluten free, I was terrified to go out to eat. The menu always overwhelmed me, and I was so scared that if I ate something wrong my skin would break out even worse.
You see, when I went gluten free and started getting food allergy tested, it was because my skin was a swollen mess. Read about it here. It wasn’t just food that I ate out – I was terrified of food in general (and the stress didn’t help my skin either).
I quickly learned that I don’t have to be scared of food or going out to eat. Even if you don’t have allergies and simply have dietary preferences, there are lots of tips to make eating at restaurants a a stress-free experience.
- Read the menu ahead of time. If you know where you’re going, read the menu and understand what you need to address with your server. Being prepared is important because it helps you to not feel flustered. Sometimes when I would get overwhelmed at a restaurant, it would create a lot of stress and I’d end up nauseous and not even hungry, or I’d end up going for something that I knew I couldn’t have and then feeling guilty for eating it. The experience of eating should be pleasurable, ALWAYS, so make it easy on yourself.
- Get to know the restaurants in your area. This way you always have a list of restaurants you know are easy for you to eat at. I know probably 10-20 restaurants in the area that I can go to and enjoy a meal, stress-free.
- I ask a lot of questions. I ask to substitute, I ask to switch things out. Sometimes I explain that I have lots of food allergies, but I’ve never had an experience where I was required to explain myself. Any restaurant I’ve been to has been accommodating and sometimes the chef will even offer to make something that’s not on the menu.
- Don’t be embarrassed. Ultimately you have to remember that your diet is something that only affects you, and you’re the only person who needs to take it seriously. At the end of the day, your server might have had to deal with your complicated order, but then they get to go on with their life. Meanwhile, if you don’t communicate your needs, you have to deal with the repercussions. I worked as a server for a long time, and never found myself stressed out or inconvenienced by a customer’s “complicated order.”
- Memorize (or use a note on your phone) places that you can eat at in a pinch. It is better to eat some grilled nuggets at Chick-fil-A than to starve yourself because you’re don’t have the time or money to go out to eat somewhere “fancy”. A few places that you can eat on the go are Starbucks, Chick-fil-A, Zoe’s Kitchen, and Chipotle (or Chipotle-style).
- Sides!!! Utilize the option to “build your own meal” with side dishes. You may not be able to find an entree that suits your preferences/ sensitivities, but doing a bunch of sides can make up a whole meal (BBQ places or breakfast spots are generally good for this – but many restaurants have lots of side dishes – look ahead at the menu to know for sure)!
- Mexican food is almost always easy to eat at! Mexican places are one of the safest places for people with Celiac but if you do have a life-threatening allergy like celiac, make sure you call ahead and ask if it is safe for you to eat there – this applies to any/ every restaurant. Beans and rice, corn tortillas, guacamole, chicken soup – all great options – and usually they can do any dish with corn instead of wheat flour and they don’t have to add cheese.
- Utilize the healthy restaurants in your area! Look for the gluten free spots and the hip vegan places. Don’t be afraid to try them – you may find your new favorite place to eat
Do you have any tips for going out to eat with dietary restrictions? I’d love to hear in the comments below!