Updated: Oct 24, 2018
This crops up all the time, especially when new to this lifestyle and it’s not surprising when the average Australian eats out once a week.
A new report on the nation's eating habits shows that Australians make 51.5 million visits to fast food restaurants every month.
The Enhanced Media Metrics Australia report found young Australians were the most likely to eat out and eat fast food, with 60 per cent of those aged 14-29 eating fast food at least once a month compared with the national average of 45 per cent.
The EMMA report is based on surveys conducted in 2015 with 54,000 people aged 14 years and over.
So, let’s say it’s Aunt Mabel’s birthday/anniversary/prize-giving and we’ve been invited out and they’re going to a (insert comment) restaurant to celebrate.
If we go there, there will be nothing to eat.
Or we’ve been invited to a friend’s house and they’re cooking and/or getting in take away.
So, we don’t want to compromise all our hard work and how we’ve been eating, so what do we do?
There’s a few options;
1. Don’t go. You will find naturally that as you progress with this way of eating and living that you start to change your friend circle or, (hopefully) some of your existing friends adopt what you’re doing too, so it does get easier. Friends are also aware of how you live and if they’re true friends they’ll try and accommodate you. But on occasions it might just be best to decline the invite. Being social is good for the soul but not if you’re stressing about food choices and they’ve all decided to go on a carb fest in a pizza restaurant.
2. Just go for a drink. Eat first and join everyone after they’ve eaten. Make an excuse and still rock up for conversation, drinks and photos. Easy.
3. Just do the best you can in the circumstances at the restaurant of choice. Whilst the restaurant you’re going to will not be your first choice, and the lamb may not be grass fed, work around the menu and just do the best you can. If you don’t have intolerances, it’s just one night out.
4. Try and influence the decision regarding the venue so it accommodates everyone. Try and steer towards Middle Eastern, Greek or steak restaurants which normally have great Paleo choices. Or be bold and introduce them to one of your favourite places! They might even like it!
If you do go somewhere and the menu is not particularly accommodating, don’t be shy about asking questions. You’ve worked hard to get the cash to buy this meal and you want to make sure you’re going to enjoy it.
It’s always a good idea to research the menu of a place before you go. Look online and see what the best choices will be for you. Phone ahead if you like too. Tell them you’re coming and ask if the chips can be substituted for extra salad for example. This saves stress on the day in question.
Ask if the fish is battered or breaded, ask if the salad is dressed and ask to omit it.
Ask if the burger has sauce and ask them to leave it out.
If you’ve got intolerances you’ll be all over this anyway, especially dairy, nuts and gluten. If you are intolerant to something, tell the restaurant you have allergies and they will do a much better job of avoiding those foods on your plate.
Ask what oil they’ve cooked the food in.
Most restaurants still cook in generic toxic ‘vegetable oil’, especially Indian, Chinese and Thai places. If you ask nicely, an Indian restaurant might just cook your meal with ghee. But most have a lot of the sauces pre-made and won’t be able to accommodate you.
So what shall I eat? This next list is not exhaustive but hopefully it will guide you on the right path.
American / Pubs:
Steaks are usually fine but watch the sauces, which might contain sugar.
Mustard is generally ok. Ask for it to be served with vegetables or salad. Remember to ask for the salad undressed.
Have the burger but ask for it without the bun. Ask to swap the chips for extra salad. Again remember to hold the sauces.
Ribs will sometimes be ok but forget the sticky sugar filled BBQ sauce. Go for blackened Cajun ribs, which just have a spice rub.
Avoid things like calamari that will be crumbed and cooked in vegetable oil.
Pan fried fish is fine if they’re not cooking in vegetable oil. Again swap the chips for veggies or extra salad.
Go for salmon if it’s on the menu and have it with a salad.
Avoid the breaded and often highly processed chicken schnitzel.
Sadly most Indian restaurants pre-prepare most of their sauces and most cook in an indeterminate vegetable oil. Some will cook with ghee or may only cook with ghee if you ask. Ask.
If not, the best choices are things cooked in the tandoor, the dry clay oven. So go for things like tandoori chicken or lamb. Be mindful that the meat has often been marinaded in yoghurt too if you’re sensitive to dairy. The yoghurt sauce is dairy and will often contain sugar so avoid that.
Have the lime pickle and raita, onion and cucumber and ask for a salad to accompany it.
The seekh kebabs are minced spiced lamb cooked in the tandoor and should be fine.
Things like Afghan chicken which is spiced chicken breast with lemon juice and garlic, again cooked dry in the tandoor, should be fine.
Most of the vegetable side dishes will be fine IF they’re not cooked in vegetable oil.
Look for things like a Goan Fish curry, which will usually be cooked in coconut milk with herbs and spices.
Avoid the rice, anything battered, all of the breads (yup – no naan).
Talk to the waiter and see what they can do for you.
Worst case scenario? Ask for an omelette.
Sadly a lot of things will also be cooked in vegetable oil. Avoid anything deep fried.
Safest bets are the curries, usually cooked in coconut milk or the soups like Tom Kha, which is spicy and sour.
Be careful with the sugar here. Thai food has lots of added sugar. No noodles or rice.
Ask for no MSG (monosodium glutamate). It’s a flavour enhancer we do not need.
No noodles or rice, avoid anything in a batter or deep-fried.
Best things again will be the soups, just avoid the sweet corn.
Again most things will be cooked in vegetable oil. If you’re going to not worry about the oil for one meal, then have stir-fried meat with vegetables.
Similar to Chinese, avoid the spring rolls, anything in batter or deep-fried. Most things will be cooked in vegetable oil.
No noodles or rice.
Again, if you’re going to forget the cooking oil just one time, then go for a meat or fish stir-fry with vegetables.
Most of the salads and pickles are fine. A lot of dishes will still be cooked in vegetable oil.
Grilled meats like pork belly will be fine especially if grilled at the table.
The fermented stuff is great, try proper kim-chi. Just avoid the legumes as Koreans eat a lot of legumes and miss out on the soy.
Again, avoid the rice or noodles.
Japanese food contains a lot of soy and sugar.
However, the sashimi with octopus, squid, salmon, tuna or scallop wouldn’t be too bad.
Grilled meats like Wagyu beef Tobanyaki with vegetables would be great.
Again, just avoid the rice and anything deep-fried.
Some places will make nori sushi without rice. Ask.
Italian places are generally carb-fests. Pizza, pasta, creamy sauces and potatoes abound.
But if you’re clever you can still eat clean(ish).
Most Italian restaurants will have steaks on the menu, which you can have with vegetables or a salad drenched in olive oil.
A lot will also have a few fish starters, which are often fine. Look to avoid sweet sauces and balsamic vinegar, which is high in sugar.
If you’re not dairy intolerant and you do a bit of butter or cream, most places will have a fish dish, pan fried in butter.
One of the better options for us folk.
Greek food has an abundance of fish, meat and vegetable dishes, mostly cooked in olive oil with a huge array of fresh salads, just be wary of the Feta if you have dairy issues/concerns.
Roast lamb with Mediterranean vegetables, chicken souvlaki, lemon chicken, Moussaka, Zouzoukakia (Greek meatballs), Stifado (beef and onion stew) are all great choices.
There’s usually seafood dishes like mussels too.
Just avoid the chips and potatoes.
These are everywhere now. I’m not talking about the one on every street corner. I’m talking about the gourmet burger joints that are springing up everywhere.
Often these places have a no freezer policy which is great.
A lot of them use grass fed beef and free range chicken and often have a carb free bun option, or you can go ‘naked’ and have no bun.
Be careful of the sauces and be mindful that the sweet potato fries are cooked in vegetable oil.
Similar to our Italian friends, there is often lots on the menu here that is suitable. Again, steaks and vegetables are always there (just hold the pommes frites).
There will be duck, steak tartare, fresh summer salads, pan fried chicken breasts, roast lamb and various other dishes.
Just avoid the bread and desserts!
Difficult one but not impossible.
Pass on the tortillas, quesadillas, tostadas and tacos; unless they can serve the fillings without the wraps.
Watch the cheese and sour cream if you’re dairy intolerant or don’t do dairy.
Fajitas are the way to go. Chicken or beef and get them with a salad.
Bin the rice.
They will often have octopus starters and things like roasted cauliflower with chilli and spinach, as well as a fish dish with salsa and possible a steak dish.
I’m quite lucky now. I am definitely fat adapted and can go for hours and hours without eating. Quite often I get to the evening and realize I haven’t eaten since the night before. That means I can usually wait a few hours to eat and thus avoid ending up in food courts.
However, for some, they will end up in a shopping centre with nothing but food court fodder. We all know these are generally bad choices but if we’re stuck, what are the best options?
Subway – Most of the food here is highly processed but if I was really stuck? I’d get a salad in a bowl with maybe the meatballs or the tuna or mixed cold meats. Avoid the dressings.
Grill’d – grab a ‘naked’ bunless burger or their low carb bun. Avoid the sauces. Sadly there is relish in the patty but at least it’s grass fed beef. No chips/sweet potato fries as they’re cooked in veggie oil
Nando’s – Grilled chicken tenderloins with a garden salad. Granted the chicken is not free range or organic but this is an emergency right?
Arirang Korean – Bibimbap – vegetables, kim chi, beef or chicken and a fried egg. Just ask them to swap the rice for more veggies.
Bucking Bull – Roast beef, pork or chicken with vegetables! Hold the roast potatoes and watch out as the gravy has flour in it.
Kebabs - Just get a lamb or chicken shish with salad and bin the pitta. Get the chilli sauce but check on the sugar first.
Red Rooster – Roast chicken, vegetable, chicken salads (no dressing).Obviously not top grade ingredients but in times of need.
McDonald’s – Please don’t. Likewise with all the other fast burger places and pizza is well off the radar.
So that’s about it. I personally wouldn’t eat in these places in shopping centres.
The best thing to do is to truly get yourself fat adapted by cutting all sugar from your diet and increasing your good fat intake and you will be freed of hunger tying you down.
But we hope this helps a bit when you have to go out somewhere and still want to make the best choices in any given situation.
Trying to influence where you go would be the best option of all, so you can eat freely and the others get to eat great food.
Try and steer them towards lovely little independent cafes with Paleo/LCHF options of which there are many nowadays.