Eating Out During Whole30: Hack the Menu
Great news if you’re mid-Whole30 and invited out to dinner: you can say yes!
Eating out during Whole30 can feel a little restrictive when you’re getting the hang of it, it’s refreshing to realize that many restaurant menus are can be quite adjustable to this way of eating. If you know what to look for – and how to ask for what you need – you can tap into the real food lurking in every restaurant kitchen and craft a delicious dining out experience, no missing-out required.
Types of cuisine that will be easiest to navigate
Steakhouses, salad bars, farm-to-table restaurants, burger joints
Sure, bread might be off the menu, but everything in between those two slices is likely okay! Ask for the filling to be served on its own, on lettuce or in lettuce cups. Skip the cheese, hummus and dairy-based sauces and see if they offer avocado, guacamole or a fried egg instead.
Big salads are your friends
Perhaps the simplest thing you can have on the Whole30 plan, salads packed with interesting ingredients are not only filling, but truly satisfying. Look for a variety of greens (add in extras of different types if you’re feeling crafty); fresh herbs; fish, poultry or meat; compliant nuts and seeds and dressing crafted with healthy oils like coconut, ghee or walnut. You won’t be disappointed.
Remember that if an ingredient exists elsewhere on the menu (capers and sun-dried tomatoes!), you can likely have it added to your meal for extra flavor, texture and nutrients.
Ask what’s in the sauce
Be wary that many pre-made sauces include sugar, soy oil and corn derivatives. Ask and then skip it in favor of lemon and fresh herbs if the options available aren’t compliant.
Skip the grains
It’s true: you will probably want to just avoid the pasta and risotto section of most Italian menus. The good news: when it comes to rice-based dishes, you can often request that the kitchen sub in green veggies (cooked or raw) instead of the grain. When it comes to side dishes, you can usually ask for roasted veggies or salad to accompany your fish or chicken instead of the quinoa salad or brown rice listed on the menu.
Check out the appetizers and side dishes
Often, some of the most delicious things on the menu are hiding in the sides or in the appetizers. Cobble together a beautiful custom plate by combining a few of the cleanest looking options: roasted veggies, mini frittatas, sweet potato fries, chicken skewers, ceviche… your smorgasbord will be the envy of the table.
Simply prepared a la carte entrees are often great ideas, too. Look for grilled, broiled or baked fish, chicken, turkey or beef.
Specify ‘no butter’
Many things, including animal proteins, are finished with butter. If you don’t let them know, you may end up with a dairy-coated meal you can’t eat. It’s usually not a problem to request this modification.
Add an egg
Nearly every kitchen has eggs somewhere. Don’t hesitate to ask for an egg prepared your favorite way – poached? Boiled? Scrambled, no oil, no butter, no milk? – to accompany whatever you order. It can do wonders to round out a meal, especially if it feels like the pickings are a bit slim at the restaurant your boss chose.
Bring your own accoutrements
Sure, it sounds a little weird, but you’d be surprised by how many places really don’t care if you bring in your own little additions. If you’re confident the venue won’t have ghee or unsweetened dried fruit, bring a little with you to complement your meal in a Whole30-compliant way. If you want to be able to participate in the salsa and guacamole but know the restaurant only has corn tortillas, bring your own homemade sweet potato chips or plantains. (A word of warning, though: gauge the restaurant and be stealthy if you need to.)
- Amy Height