10 Tips for Healthy Restaurant Dining
May 22nd, 2015
Once they’ve started on The Myers Way® and seen some symptom resolution, my patients routinely ask me how they can keep their progress going and still enjoy an occasional meal at a restaurant. It can be done—you can absolutely maintain The Myers Way® protocol and go out to eat every now and then. It just takes a little strategy and preparedness!
During the first 30 days, I recommend that you cook your own meals at home. You have control in your own kitchen over what does and doesn’t go into your food. At restaurants you run the risk of “getting glutened” if your meal comes into contact with something it shouldn’t. That can make it harder to pin down your symptoms, and I’d hate to see you doubt the efficacy of the dietary changes you’ve made because your food was cross-contaminated at a restaurant.
But The Myers Way® isn’t a short-term solution, it’s a way of life. To make it sustainable, you will need to learn some strategies for restaurant dining that will allow you to have a stress-free meal (without getting sick!). Here are my tips for healthy restaurant dining.
10 Tips for Healthy Restaurant Dining
- Read the menu beforehand. It pays to do some work in advance, especially if it’s a new restaurant and you’re going out to eat with friends who are not following a similar diet. I don’t like to call attention to myself, so I’ll look up the menu online ahead of time. If I can’t find something, I’ll call the restaurant, let them know what I can and can’t eat, and work with them to put together a meal. That way, I already know my options, and I don’t have to stress.
- Ask for a gluten-free menu. As more and more people adopt a gluten-free diet, special requests are becoming increasingly common. Many restaurants offer gluten-free menus. Don’t be embarrassed to ask the waiter about ingredients or food preparation—remember, you are a customer, and they’re there to serve you. Be straightforward—the staff need to know if you are avoiding a particular ingredient.
- Be polite. A please and thank you will go a long way. People are much more willing to accommodate you if you are patient, appreciative, and polite.
- Make your own salad dressing. Salads are a great option at restaurants, because it’s usually fairly easy to add or leave off ingredients. Salad dressing can be problematic, especially if it isn’t made in-house. It could contain ingredients you may be avoiding (like vinegar, sugar, or gluten). I make my own salad dressing out of olive oil and lemon juice, or a mashed up avocado. Most restaurants have lemon slices for water and tea and will happily give you some on the side.
- Ask for a vegetable side dish. Substitute steamed broccoli or other season vegetables for the potato- or grain-based side dish.
- Avoid all sauces. Sauces are where butter, flour, sugar, and soy sauce (which contains gluten) are often hidden, so you’re better off avoiding them all together. Some of my favorite options are plain broiled fish, chicken, or steak with olive oil instead of butter. Check out this list of 10 Unexpected Places Gluten Lurks, and the “Troublesome Twenty” ingredients that contain gluten.
- Ask how meats are marinated. Marinades often contain soy sauce, tomato-based ingredients, and spices like paprika and cayenne. Make sure the meat you’re ordering hasn’t been treated with a marinade prior to cooking.
- For sautéed foods, ask for olive oil in place of butter. Remind them that you are eating gluten-free, since some restaurants add flour to sautéed foods for texture.
- Avoid deep-fried food. Foods that are prepared in a deep-fryer can be cross-contaminated if they share the equipment with French fries or battered chicken. Occasionally, you might want to enjoy some sweet potato fries or fried brussels sprouts—just make sure that the restaurant doesn’t prepare gluten-containing ingredients in the same oil.
- Be creative! Most restaurants are happy to accommodate a simple request for a plain, grilled piece of fish or chicken or a small steak with steamed, grilled, or sautéed veggies on the side.
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