Eating Out

Eating out on this diet – as with most diets – is tricky.

A couple weeks ago we went to P.F. Chang’s. I had my doubts about how much I could eat there, since American Chinese food is known to be something less than healthy, but I thought I’d be able to find something. And they’re always so good about catering to people with food allergies there, so I thought that something could be figured out.

So we went, and I asked the waiter if he could tell me what selections didn’t have sugar. He went to ask the kitchen and was gone quite a long time. Finally the manager came out and squatted down by me to be disarming, I suppose, and explained with great regret that nothing – NOT ONE THING – in the entire restaurant didn’t have sugar.

He was very apologetic, and did give me the choice of dishes that had at the least amount of sugar, and everyone was very nice and helpful and didn’t make me feel like a problem at all. I have no complaints about the way they handled the situation. But the fact that every dish in a restaurant has sugar in it just kind of boggles the mind. Sugar really IS everywhere!

So does that mean eating out is completely off limits on this diet? I don’t think so. I think it is possible – it just requires a little more thought. Here are a couple hints for dining out successfully.

1. Research ahead of time. Before going out, review the menu online to see if there’s anything you might be able to eat.

 2. Stay away from certain restaurants. American Chinese restaurants will probably be completely out of question, as will Hibachi grills. They put sugar in all their marinades and sauces, and everything they make uses them. Barbecue joints will also be difficult, I’m afraid, because even things that don’t have sauce in those places are usually marinated in sugary mixtures. However, if they use dry-rubs without sauce or marinade, they might be okay – look on their website or call ahead of time and find out. Italian restaurants that are not “wood-fire grill” kinds will be very difficult as well.

3. Avoid sauces. In most restaurants, sugar will be in all their sauces. All of them. Look for simple dishes with simple ingredients that are easy to identify.

4. Look for restaurants that serve grilled items. Most Italian restaurants will be difficult because of all the pasta, but you’ll probably have luck at ones that have a “wood fired grill.” Steak and other meat-focused restaurants can also be good choices.

5. Indian and Thai restaurants – if authentic – might be great options! The spices they use are anti-inflammatory, and they traditionally don’t use much sugar. Call ahead and ask about their use of sugar and what kinds of oils they use – and if they offer brown rice as well as white.

6. Find out what oil the restaurant uses. If it’s palm, coconut, or olive oil, it’s a go! (Other oils – like grapeseed or walnut – are acceptable, but unlikely to be found at a restaurant.) If it’s any other, ask the server if any of the dishes you’re considering use oil in making them.

7. See if the restaurant has a diabetic menu. Since refined carbs and all sugars affect diabetics, a diabetic menu might be a good starting place. You’ll still have to consider the oil, though.

8. Pizzas aren’t necessarily out. The two things you need to consider are the crust, and the sauce. For the crust, some places have non-refined flour crust choices. I had a wood-fired pizza at Bertucci’s that used a multigrain dough (whole wheat, barley, and rye) that was really good. So look for places that might have alternate doughs like that! The other problem is the sauce. Most pizza sauces have sugar, but you can ask to make sure. If they do, opt for a pizza that uses crushed Roma tomatoes instead of sauce. The pizza I got at Betuccis had the whole-grain crust, crushed tomatoes, and fresh mozzarella and was delicious!

Acceptable dishes I’ve had at restaurants and really liked are:

  • The brick oven Margarita Pizza with whole-grain crust at Bertucci’s.
  • Chicken Speidini at Macaroni Grill. It was skewered chicken and roasted vegetables with lemon oil and lemon zest.
  • Cheeseburger without the bun at Cheeburger Cheeburger. I ordered lots of toppings – lettuce, onion, mushrooms, bacon, etc – and it was like a meal. At other burger places just make sure it’s ground beef with no fillers – sometimes that’s hard to find at restaurants. I know Cheeburger Cheeburger has good meat with no fillers, but I don’t know about other places. Find out ahead of time.
  • Grilled Chicken at Carabas. It’s on their “wood-burning grill” menu and is basted with olive oil and herbs.
  • Basically everything at Fogo de Chao! It’s a Brazillian steakhouse with all you can eat fire-cooked cuts of meat. Even the cheese bread was okay because it’s made with tapioca flour! I just had to avoid some things at the cold bar that had sauces on them.
Hopefully this all gives you a place to start when you think about eating out. You can do it, you just have to be thoughtful and plan ahead. If you find something acceptable that you really enjoyed at a restaurant, please share!