by Associate Clinician Felicia Pasquale
Eating healthy and staying healthy definitely involves making changes to our diet and lifestyle. However, to make it a lifelong change, these changes or tweaks need to be adapted into our everyday life so that we can go to meetings, social events, and vacations, and eat and not live in a plastic bubble.
Face it, at some point in time, the average person will go out to eat with friends, family, and business associates. It’s unavoidable – and we shouldn’t want to avoid it entirely. It’s fun and enjoyable to go out to eat with people! However, we do need to do it in a manner that does not compromise our health.
When going out to eat, try to choose a restaurant or cafe that has organic or farm-to-table ingredients. You will find more and more restaurants are offering healthy options, whether you are eating out for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Restaurants that have fresh, whole food ingredients like fruits, vegetables, eggs, and meats, and prepare them on the premises are best.
You can start by researching farm-to-table or organic restaurants in your area on the internet, or visit our Good Local Restaurants page. Then look up their menu on their website to see if they have food that you can actually eat. I do this all the time! I certainly wouldn’t want to get to a restaurant and realize it is all pasta, bread, shellfish, or pork. That would not work for me!
Farm-to-table restaurants typically will not have all organic ingredients. They may offer salads with organic greens, organic salmon, or organic eggs, for example. However, these types of restaurants will usually use fresh, seasonal vegetables and quality meats, cheeses, and dairy from local farms to prepare their food.
Contrary to popular belief, it is possible to eat healthy when going out to eat. You can pretty much always get a salad, meat, and cooked vegetables if going out for dinner. Ask for olive oil and vinegar for your salad to avoid soybean oil and MSG in the salad dressing. As far as meats are concerned, try to choose a cleaner variety, such as chicken or fish. Beef is a runner up, but if it’s not organic, it can be laden with antibiotics and steroids that can affect your hormones. Pork and shellfish should be avoided, because they are poor quality proteins and also a potential carrier of parasites. Bread should always be avoided, unless they have homemade, organic bread or a sprouted variety.
A main concern eating out is the type of oil they are using to grill meats and vegetables. Rarely will this be stated on the menu, so just ask. Servers are generally glad to ask the chef what type of oil they are using. Oils to avoid would be canola oil, soybean or vegetable oil, and peanut oil. Good restaurants will use coconut oil, duck fat for frying French fries, and olive oil or butter for cooking vegetables.
If you are going out for breakfast, order an omelet with vegetables and fruit on the side. Skip the cheese unless it’s raw. Many cafes will have organic, steel cut oatmeal for which you can choose your own toppings, like blueberries, walnuts, raisins, honey, or cinnamon. Yum! You can also order scrambled eggs, but watch out for the home fries grilled in canola oil. It will make you feel bad.
As for a drink, many places offer organic coffee, herbal teas, green tea, or even black tea, which is still is a good choice if you don’t go overboard and drink too much. Black tea can have more caffeine than coffee, believe it or not.
For lunch, you can usually get a decent salad with chicken or salmon and other good ingredients. Many places will offer homemade soups or quiches. Quiches do have a crust; frittatas don’t. Try to order frittatas whenever possible to avoid the wheat, or just don’t eat the crust off a quiche. If you absolutely have to eat a sandwich, ask for gluten-free bread. Gluten-free bread isn’t the be-all, end-all. However, you will avoid wheat by choosing it. If you order a burger, get it without the bun, or just use half the bun if you must.
When celebrating a special event, it can be nice to share a drink with everyone. If you are going to partake in alcohol, be sure to choose a lesser offensive form, such as sangria or potato vodka. Sangria is made from a variety of different fruits, and is often sweetened with honey, sugar syrup, or orange juice. Vodka can be made from fermented grains and GMO corn and soybeans, so care should be taken when choosing this option. Ask your server what type of vodka it is. You can look the brand up on your phone and check the ingredients. More and more people have food issues, so it’s not a big deal to ask; your server is probably used to it.
I know a lot of people don’t want to hear this, but beer is definitely not a good option. It’s almost always made from wheat, rye, or barley, along with hops and yeast. It’s a really bad choice for people suffering from an overgrowth of Candida. People with Candida typically have bloating and trouble with their bowels because they have fungus fermenting in their gut. Honestly, beer isn’t good for anyone. It really does mess with your gut health, which is everything! They do have gluten-free varieties, which can be somewhat better, but definitely not ideal. They are typically made from corn (which is most likely GMO), and sorghum.
Of course, eating at home with your own organic or quality ingredients that you prepared with healthy oils and proper cooking methods is always best. The more often you can eat at home, the more sure you can be about the quality of the foods and drinks you are ingesting. However, we know that life happens. With a little bit of planning and effort, eating healthy when going out to eat can be very doable without blowing your healthy lifestyle that you have worked so hard for!