Eating out had always been one of my favorite past times. My friends and I had our usual restaurant rotations, but we would always venture out a few times a year to try new places. The ease and excitement with which I’d choose a restaurant was definitely something I took for granted. With my restricted diet, I thought those wonderful days were a thing of the past. Thanks to innovative restaurants and with help from the Internet, those days weren’t gone forever, they just required a bit more research.
One thing I became extremely aware of was how often my family and friends wanted to gather, and guess what the party revolved around? Food! There were summer barbecues, birthdays, graduations, weddings, holidays, relatives in town etc. It never seemed to end. At least that’s the way I looked at it. The eating out debacle was whether I should decline or attend. If I attended, I’d feel obligated to eat something (so I wouldn’t offend the host), but I’d be sure to suffer the physical consequences. If I chose not to eat, then natural curiosity lent me to be the party’s topic of conversation. If I declined to attend, I’d not only miss out, I’d run the risk of offending the host. This dilemma would cause me extreme anxiety from the time the invitation was extended until the gathering took place. After years of suffering through the eating out debacle, here is what I found worked best.
HOW TO NAVIGATE
If it’s a restaurant dinner party, I always look at the menu online ahead of time to see if there is anything I can have or tweak. For example, if a salad is offered, what items can be replaced or removed. I’ve even called restaurant chefs ahead of time to get the “deets” on how they prepare certain items. If it’s something I can work with, I’ll accept the invitation and bring some of my own accompaniments. If I can’t work with it, I’ll respectfully decline and tell the host I’d really like to be there, but it’s not best for me at this time.
I have become notorious for bringing my own accompaniments/snacks to restaurants. My family and close friends know all about my food restrictions so it’s never an issue. I always bring my own salad dressing with me, as you can see in the above featured image. I’ll even bring additional veggies, plantain chips, coconut chips, homemade beef jerky etc. Most restaurants usually offer me the bare bones of the meal so, I just need a few more add-ons to fill me up.
When close friends or family want to go out to eat where there is nothing I can safely eat, I will typically just eat beforehand and bring my own water bottle or get a mineral water with lime. They accept my quirkiness so there is no awkwardness for me.
Here I am with my usual water bottle while my family prepares to eat their delicious breakfast.
Spend time trying to locate as many Paleo friendly restaurants (or one with a safe dish item) as possible to keep in your arsenal. That way when the family wants to go out you could bring up restaurant options where you can enjoy.
If it’s a dinner party at a residence, the same holds true as a restaurant, you would just ask the host what is being served. If they are willing to accommodate you then you could just bring a few accompaniments. I typically offer to bring an AIP friendly (autoimmune protocol) dish so, I know there will be something I can eat. My go-to dishes are salads or veg medleys. If it’s a BBQ, I just bring my own grass fed meat and any type of AIP approved vegetable chips.
DON’T LOSE HOPE
Even though the majority of people don’t eat as you do, our society is becoming more and more aware of healthy options. Restaurants are now beginning to accommodate various individual food needs, at least on the west coast. Look up “organic restaurants” in your area and see what comes up. Even if nothing or few options come up, don’t lose hope. If you have local farmers markets you can visit, there are organic food companies, featured restaurants and resources found. The regular crowds/vendors you’ll find at farmers markets can be helpful and knowledgeable on the restaurants with the healthiest options so don’t be afraid to ask.