UPDATE: Doing a Whole30 this September?
And now, on to the Whole30 Restaurant Survival Guide!
So you’re doing pretty well so far on your Whole30: cooking at home, eating delicious food, and feeling pretty great. *Virtual high five* Hopefully you’re now feeling tiger blood coursing through your veins. Or don’t worry, you will be very soon! More energy, less stress, less cravings, better sleep…ISN’T. IT. AWESOME!?
You may be feeling a little ambitious now. You’ve tried out some new ingredients, recipes, and are (most likely) feeling, in general,
a little pretty proud of yourself. But maybe…a little antisocial? Missing restaurants and not having to cook every. damn. meal?
NEWSFLASH, people. It is possible (and can even be enjoyable) to eat out at restaurants while you’re on the whole30! And it does NOT involve any plain steamed chicken and broccoli. (Though you could do that, if you like boring food.)
I know what you’re thinking.
WHAT?! What is this magic?! Seriously though. You can do it! Prime example: How about this breakfast burger with an egg, bacon and tomato on top…that I got in an AIRPORT in Lisbon, Portugal? Totally Whole30-friendly. And totally delicious.
Boom. Drop the mic and leave.
tip #1: Go with a game plan and do some googling before you go.
Know that you’re going to have to be that guy/girl at the restaurant asking the waiter multiple questions about what your food is being cooked in, if any sugar was added, and (if necessary) telling them you can’t eat gluten/dairy/etc. They may or may not look at you like a crazy person. As someone who has severe gluten and dairy intolerances, I have to do this every single time I go out to eat. You’re preaching to the choir, folks: I get you.
tip #2: Make it easier on yourself. You don’t need to tell the whole world WHY you’re eating “this way”.
DON’T try to explain to all your friends, family, relatives, co-workers, random people you happen to be at dinner with, etc. why you’re doing a Whole30 and eating “this way” unless you want to dig yourself into a BIG, gaping, nutritional debate hole. Everyone has their own STRONG opinions about food, and you don’t want to get in to that when you’re just trying to enjoy a meal. You don’t want people to think you’re judging them for what you’re not eating. Simply tell them you just eat this way. Most of the time, they won’t even notice anything different: just chat the waiter as discretely as possible about what you’re ordering instead of yelling them across the room.
And if they give you a bread/chips basket, send it to the other end of the table…or back with the waiter. Why torture yourself and stare at it until your food arrives?
tip #3: Focus on what you CAN eat, not what you CAN’T.
Here comes the tough love part. Stop RIGHT NOW feeling sorry for yourself that you can’t eat the bread or pasta at an italian restaurant, the corn tortilla chips and beans at a mexican restaurant, the slice of pie at your favorite pizza joint, etc. There’s a reason you started on this Whole30 journey in the first place: to feel BETTER. We all know what beans do to you. Trust me, you (and whoever you share a room with) will be MUCH happier later when you’re not dutch ovening yourself thanks to those musical fruits. Yeah, I just went there. You were all thinking it, I’m just saying it. Think how much better you’ll feel after NOT indulging in bread, pizza, pasta, rice, beans, etc… and dessert? Food baby (and REALLY painful symptoms for some) avoided. #winning.
Instead, learn how to navigate menus for things you CAN eat. The Whole30 folks have a great Dining Guide on how to navigate restaurants, how to order, and the best way to figure out Whole30 menu items. Practical Paleo, It Starts With Food and the new Whole30 Cookbook all have great restaurant advice too. After many years of being both gluten and lactose intolerant and being that girl at restaurants, I’ve got some hard-earned experience with this. So you don’t have to navigate the scary world of paleo/whole30 eating at restaurants all on your lonesome. You’re welcome!
Just like when you’re cooking at home, prioritize this formula when eating out: Veggies + protein + healthy fats. When in doubt, go with a grilled meat and veggies, or a salad with oil and vinegar. Pop an egg or half an avocado on anything and you’ve got a tasty, flavor-packed meal. Simple, right?
Here are some of my go-to’s at restaurants:
Grilled meat or fish with a side of veggies or salad. Burgers with no bun (go for a lettuce wrap or on a bed of greens) – ask for extra veggie toppings. My favorite salad: cobb! Ask for no cheese, and dress it with oil and vinegar.
Eggs with grilled meat, roasted vegetables and/or fruit. Be sure to ask about milk in omelets!
Places like Sweetgreen, Chopt, Cava grille, Roti, Panera, and Chipotle are great – where you can choose your own ingredients. But REMEMBER to stick to meat, tons of veggies, and fats like avocado and oil and vinegar dressings (check the ingredients!). You can usually google ingredient lists online before you go, just to double check.
Chipotle is my favorite, go-to Whole30 restaurant meal. Grab a bowl with no rice (or a salad) with carnitas, pico/salsa, and guacamole. The other meats and fajita veggies are cooked in rice bran oil, which is a no-no for Whole30. (but otherwise, not a bad choice!)
Go for fajitas! Nix the corn, beans and rice. Pile up the grilled meats, veggies, salsa and guac!
Grilled meats or seafood + veggies or salad. At Maggianos I always get the chicken saltimbocca (chicken with prosciutto) and make sure to tell them I have a gluten/dairy allergy so they don’t bread it or put cheese on top. You could also get a red sauce on top, or a lemon based sauce.
Pretty simple to keep it Whole30-friendly here. Just go for some meat and veggies. (seeing a trend here?) This works at brazilian steakhouses too!
Try out this genius idea from Strongfitpaleo. Instead of letting everyone else go out to eat sushi without her, she brought her own cauliflower rice and got sashimi. I would bring my own coconut aminos too. You might get some weird looks, but hey – you get to eat out and not worry about it!
Go for curries. Check with the server to make sure there’s no sugar in the sauce, which is normally made with coconut milk. Ask for no rice (or pawn it off on a friend).
Not ready to brave the restaurant scene? Try out these tips!
- Organize a dinner party at your house. Cook food you know you’ll be able to eat, and if guests want to bring something, tell them to bring a fruit salad for dessert. Skip the wine. Guaranteed if you’re making some tasty food, they won’t even notice anything different. And you’ll still be sticking to the Whole30. Wins all around! Try some of these fancy a** meals to impress your guests…
- If you’re along for the Whole30 ride with others in your area…host a Whole30 potluck with some friends! Some great potluck food ideas:
- OR, Make socializing not all about the food. Go out to concerts, comedy shows, etc…anything but a wine bar or happy hour. If you’re not comfortable navigating restaurants or bars yet, you don’t want to put yourself through the misery of watching everyone else partake in something you usually enjoy and feel deprived. Have a snack before you go, and you’re good!
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Want more advice for conquering the Whole30, 21-day sugar detox, or other healthy eating challenge? Sign up for my newsletter for more tips & tricks like this! Or check out Practical Paleo, It Starts With Food and the new Whole30 Cookbook for more great Whole30/paleo restaurant advice!
Click the picture below to download the updated version of the Whole30 Restaurant Survival Guide!
*this guide is my creation, and is not affiliated with the Whole30 program.*