Sunday, May 15, 2011

Eating Paleo Away From Home

Yesterday, the following comment was left by Isabelle on my post Diet and Rheumatoid Arthritis in regards to eating away from home.

Comment: I am interested in how to eat paleo away from home. That is a big challenge for me as I understand that sugar and flour are often put in marinades and sauces so we don't even know they are there. I therefore eat at home pretty much always now.

As I started to reply, I realized I had a lot of information to share and decided to turn it into a post.

Reply: Isabelle, I agree that making your own food is the best option. Like you, we don’t eat out often because even when I feel a food is safe, I often don’t “feel” quite as good as when I make the food myself. However, it is nice to enjoy food with others outside of the home or occasionally on the weekend when making a meal just doesn’t fit into the plan.

Most of the time I bring my own food if I am going to be away from home for more than a few hours. My husband bought me a nice thermos for Christmas a few years ago and it is my best friend. It keeps food hot for up to seven hours. I often pack beef based soups, leftovers, or even sausage and eggs in the thermos. I bring it everywhere: homeschooling days twice a week, car trips, and even to work events when lunch will be served since the lunch is generally full of gluten and preservatives. Pulling out my own food was a little awkward at first, but feeling good is too important to me now. Other foods I often pack when outside the house are salads with homemade dressing, Applegate turkey wrapped around veggies and avocado, and deviled eggs.

I always keep beef jerky (check for ingredients as many brands of beef jerky add tons of preservatives and gluten), almonds, coconut flakes, and Larabars in my purse for times that I am unprepared or feel the need to indulge in something I don’t need. Plus, they are all foods my teens enjoy also.

When I go to a friend’s home to eat, I always offer to bring something that I know is safe for me to eat. I have been pleasantly surprised at how many friends and family are more than willing to cater to my eating habits. (I am willing to do the same for them. I have made many meat based meals and then vegetarian/vegan options.)

There are times when I am unsure of what will be served and it is awkward and even rude to bring my own food. In these situations I always make sure I eat a full meal before I leave the house so I am not starving when I arrive and cave in to the delicious looking food. Generally in these situations salad is served which I will happily eat, even without dressing. I have found that as long as I am eating something, it prevents the uncomfortable questions about why I am not eating the food provided.

When I do eat at a restaurant, I will often check out the menu online before we go. If we have input to where we are going, I always choose restaurants that have a gluten free menu. I may not always be able to eat grain free at a restaurant, but the goal is to at least stay gluten free. This is a compromise I made to myself to keep sane. I tried going the route of not eating at a restaurant with family and friends, but I felt this was not a healthy choice. I generally order items like the bowl rather than burrito at Chipotle (double meat, no beans or rice, salsa, veggies, lettuce and guac) steak & veggies, bunless hamburgers with guac & a side of veggies, sausage and eggs with veggies on the side rather than toast and potatoes, or a salad with meat. I don’t hesitate to ask how the meat is prepared and also request olive oil and a lemon for my salad. We do have one restaurant about twenty minutes away that prepares a delicious gluten free pizza and it is my ultimate indulgent food.

Restaurants are becoming more aware of gluten free options and even if the waiter doesn’t know what you are talking about, the cook generally does. (And if he/she doesn’t, I don’t recommend returning to that restaurant.) I once went to an Italian restaurant for a graduation dinner. There was not a gluten free menu but I asked what they had on the menu that was gluten free. The cook came right out and curiously inquired as to why I follow a gluten free diet. We had a nice conversation and then he told me he keeps a supply of gluten free pasta on hand and also had other suggestions. Recently when we were in Wichita we ended up in a restaurant with only one item on the entire menu that was gluten free. The only way I found this out was by asking. It turned out to also be a paleo meal!

For me, eating away from home generally means planning ahead. The night before I make a little extra food for dinner so I have something to eat for lunch or breakfast the next day if I know I will be away from home. Eating well means sharing my views with family and friends on foods that seem to work well with my individual body and it means doing a little research on restaurants before going. I have even emailed restaurants in advance about my dietary restrictions. This may sound like a lot of work, but really it isn’t. To me, waking up and limping the entire day takes more work than doing a little planning ahead. I know when I eat foods not prepared by me that I am always at risk of eating something that will affect me later. But, over time I have decided that I am willing to take that risk on occasion because I love sharing food with others and realized that by never allowing myself this little spice of life, I was actually adding a new stress to my life. I have realized that I can set a few guidelines for myself such as eating gluten free 100% of the time and then occassionally letting the other concerns fall to the side.

When I was gluten free rather than grain free, I felt I had a harder time eating at restaurants. For some reason once I went grain free, it became so much easier. For one thing, I don’t crave grains or sugar like I did when I was gluten free only. In these situations I was always looking for the exact menu item, only gluten free. Now, I am perfectly content without the grain options and find it fun to see what I can create for myself off a menu.

By the way Isabelle, will we ever see a blog from you? I always love your suggestions and would love to learn more about your lifestyle. I feel you have a lot to share.  As always, thanks for commenting.