Eating out can be a problem for people who are watching their weight or following a specific diets. I’ve been in both positions. I know how difficult it is, and how important it is to enjoy socially with friends and family and at the same time relish wonderful food while following your diet. Unlike some people’s belief, not all diets are fad diets—many are life-saving diets. For example, following a heart healthy, diabetic friendly, nut-free or gluten-free diet for a person with cardiovascular disease, diabetes, nut allergy, celiac disease or gluten intolerance: is a life-saving diet. Though for some people and athletes following a gluten-free diet is for better health and better performance, for others it’s a lifeline.
Eating out could be as challenging or as simple as we make it. For example, recently I ate out for lunch and dinner. For lunch, we decided to eat at the supermarket where we were shopping. They offered many options at the buffet. Lunch at Wegmans Food Markets in Burlington, Massachusetts, was a culinary experience. Not only is the huge supermarket beautiful, with every imaginable and unimaginable produce, organic and nonorganic, but also the cafeteria offers international culinary delights.
Below are my two recent experiences and five tips for eating out.
My 5 best guilt-free selections when eating out:
Go for the healthy items on the buffet
At a buffet you might find a variety of food. At Wegmans, I found food options from Asian to Indian, and Italian to American, and vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free friendly. That made me happy since I follow a gluten-free and vegan diet, and I love tasty food!
“It’s complicated,” people have told me. The truth is that eating healthy gluten-free is second nature. Been doing it for decades—it was harder then. It’s hardly complicated for me when I go to places such as Wegmans, Whole Foods Market, and restaurants that offer healthy and gluten-free options. But always ask kitchen employees and chef about your dietary concerns.
Go for the green vegetables
You can’t go wrong with salads and vegetables unless they are over cooked. If you have the option for vegan, organic, gluten-free medley of vegetables, go for it. I also like to know if sugar was added or too much sodium. Yes, you never know how loose hand chefs can get with salt.
Make your dish the color of the rainbow
At the buffet, I chose two types of kale: an Asian kale side and raw kale salad. I had Brussels sprouts, salad with cranberries, carrots, and cabbage. The Indian rice was delicious, and I loved the tofu—the latter two I took small portions. We ordered a side of avocado nori roll and a piece of pineapple, which I think helps me with digestion and doubles up as a dessert.
Share a dessert
When I finished eating the delicious meal and salads with pine nuts, my husband wanted to have an espresso and a raw chocolate tart, which he shared with me. Yippy! Though I thought for only a fraction of a second, “there goes my diet.” But the reality is that healthy treats in moderation once in a while are a smart option–deprivation could be worse, and perhaps lead to binge eating and guilt.
Besides, if you pick the best option, which for my belief is gluten-free, dairy-free and refine sugar-free, it’s nearly guilt-free ;-) One of our choice at home is Hail Merry, chocolate mint tart.
Ask the chef to modify or substitute ingredients
We also had to eat dinner out, and unfortunately we didn’t make the best choice, but we picked the best option on the menu and modified that dish. For dinner, we went to an Italian restaurant, Brio. It was a little more challenging there. We didn’t have the option of picking and choosing as when you are at a buffet. They did have a good gluten-free menu, though with only one vegetarian option. We both decided to go with that one. We asked our server to prepare the meal with no dairy, no cheese, gluten-free, and extra vegetables. Those were options the customer is in control. If the chef is not willing to make changes, then that’s not the restaurant for you.
Unbelievable as it might sound, the healthy buffet at Wegmans Food Market in Burlington was the better choice. Though, I’m aware that not all buffet options are always as varied and tasty, you do have the option to select what looks fresher and as much as you want.
I eat before I go to places, or I take our meals (lunch or dinner and always snacks) when traveling locally or faraway—even to parties—, and we know we might not find healthy options. That never fails, and it’s a good practice regardless of where you’re going, especially if you are traveling by car or plane. You save time, disappointments and money. We’ve done that so many times on road trips we’ve gone on to Vermont, New Hampshire, New York, or flights across the US, Atlantic or Pacific. I have taken my food on the airplane and some extra food and snacks for my stay. But beware: you cannot take produce (fruits and vegetables) when traveling to many countries.
Many years ago on a trip to Hong Kong, we drove for the day to China. I took my rice cakes, nuts and seeds, and other healthy snacks. Our friends and colleagues made jokes about my food. But it didn’t faze me. Our Chinese chauffeur was learning English. We were told he was fluent. Things got lost in translation. Later on that afternoon when we didn’t find an appropriate place to eat, so my friends asked me for those rice cakes, nuts, and seaweeds they earlier laughed at.
“No! No way!” I said.
Just kidding. Of course, I shared with my friends. Lesson learned: It always pays to be prepared when you are traveling, regardless of following a specific diet or not. But when following a dietary regimen, always be prepared by taking food you can eat, and if you find a place where to eat, make sure you always make the right choice and ask the chef about how it was prepared. Regretting food choice decisions an hour later or days later is not fun.
Related topics: Travel, Prevalence of Celiac Disease & Margarita’s Gluten-Free List
Note: The information presented on this website is not intended to prescribe or give in any way or form medical or professional advice, recommend or diagnose. It is for educational purposes, to bring awareness or to share our experience; recipes and information found on various topics. We are home chefs and researchers, not doctors, scientist, or experts in a particular field; you should seek your personal health-care provider’s advice if you have a health concern.
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