When I started to eat Paleo, I was overwhelmed with where to eat, what to eat, and how to order. In fact, I don't think we ate out much in the beginning because I didn't want to stray from our diet. However, as time went on and mommy needed a break from cooking, we ventured out into the world of American chain restaurants and I learned A LOT about food. I remember asking so many questions that the waiter usually had to go ask the cook.
Now, I am easier on myself. I've said it before, I'll say it again…I am not 100% Paleo. I am more like 85% Paleo. The other 15% is covered with lots and lots of grace and the occasional pizza. Dining out seems hard in the Paleo world…but it doesn't have to be.
Here's my quick guide on what to eat and where to eat. So GET OUT, stop stressing, and make the best choice you can. Leave room for grace 🙂
One thing restaurants confuse very often is REAL butter and fake butter. Make sure when you are ordering or eating that you ask for REAL butter. Also, most vegetables are cooked in vegetable oils, which is a no-no eating Paleo. Look for steamed options or request for your food to be cooked in olive oil. Avoid any dishes that have gravy. Gravy is loaded with flour. And when ordering dressings, remember that most are loaded with high fructose corn syrup, so ask for OLIVE oil and vinegar. Please use the word olive. They have, and will bring you out a bottle of canola oil and vinegar.
Always ask for NO SEASONING SALT in restaurants, wherever you go. MSG is added to this, as is sugar.
Also, I've learned that steakhouses are the BEST choice. However, I know I get tired of eating at the same places so I wanted to include other restaurants that offer good alternatives.
1) TGI Fridays – Fridays is actually very Paleo-friendly! It is one of the few restaurants where you get to pick your two sides.
Best Salad: The Grilled Chicken Cobb salad is great and you can request no cheese and ask for olive oil and vinegar for dressing.
Best Beef: The “Premium Black Angus Steaks” are great and a good Paleo choice. Avoid the Jack Daniel dishes if you want to avoid dairy and any other questionable sauces. The burgers are also questionable in my option. Friday's doesn't disclose their gluten-free menu, so the burgers “may” have white flour in them. However, you feel like indulging and want a burger, get it…just ask for extra lettuce and eat it between two lettuce leaves.
Best Chicken: can't recommend one since they are all smothered in sauce and cheese
2) Outback – Another great Paleo-friendly restaurant! Most steakhouses, for that matter, are! With all orders, ask for vegetables as a side or a baked potato.
Best Salad: The Aussie Cobb Salad, California Chicken Salad, Steakhouse Salad are all great. Just make sure you request only grilled chicken and no croutons.
Best Beef: These steaks (Outback Special, Victoria's Filet, NY Strip, Ribeye, and Porterhouse) are a great choice and GF according to their menu so you don't have to worry about weird sauces! The sirloin is the leanest cut. Also, Outback, burgers are 100% beef! So, order that burger if you want, just avoid the bread! Aussie fries come with the burgers so just request a vegetable substitute or indulge in a baked potato.
Best Chicken: Grilled Chicken on the Barbie (ask for them to put their BBQ sauce on the side)
Best Seafood: Norwegian Salmon or Simply Grilled Mahi
3) Applebees – their menu is pretty diverse. Obviously avoid anything that has chips, bread, pasta or is fried.
Best Salad: Grilled Shrimp ‘N Spinach Salad (ask for olive oil and vinegar as a dressing)
Best Beef: The Ribeye and NY Strip are the only two steaks that aren't cooked in soybean oil.
Best Chicken: The Chipotle Lime Chicken is the only chicken dish that doesn't contain dairy. Ask for a salad substitute for the rice and beans that comes with it.
Best Seafood: Grilled Jalapeno-Lime Shrimp or Garlic Herb Salmon
4) Cracker Barrel: Breakfast is always a great option when eating out! Eggs, bacon, ham, sausage is all good Paleo-options.
Best Salad: Grilled Chicken N' Fresh Vegetable Salad (just hold the corn relish and order olive oil and vinegar for a dressing)
Best Beef: 10oz Rib Eye Steak or the Grilled 8oz Sirloin Steak. The Hamburger Steak is also a great option.
Best Chicken: Grilled Chicken Tenderloins (make sure you specify you want them grilled)
Best Seafood: Grilled Rainbow Trout or the Grilled Catfish
5) P.F. Chang's – I love P.F. Chang's and they have lots of great options!
Best Starter: Chang's Chicken Lettuce Wraps or Egg Drop Soup
Best Beef: none I can recommend
Best Chicken: Quite a few chicken dishes are listed on their gluten-free menu: Moo Goo Gai Pan, Ginger Chicken with Broccoli, Philip's Better Lemon Chicken, Chang's Spicy Chicken, and Dali Chicken. I should note that just because they are on the gluten-free menu, does not mean they are 100% Paleo. They are however a much better choice.
Best Seafood: Shrimp with Lobster Sauce, Chang's Lemon Scallops, Catonese Shrimp or Scallops, and Wild Alaskan Salmon Steamed with Ginger
6) Red Lobster
Best Salad: Cobb Salad or Bar Harbor Salad with your choice of meat and without croutons. Ask for olive oil and vinegar dressing.
Best Beef: Center-Cut NY Strip Steak -ask for your steak to be broiled without marinades or sauces
Best Chicken: most their chicken meals have sauces. You may request to have a broiled chicken without a sauce or marinade
Best Seafood: North Pacific King Crab Legs, Chilled Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail, Snow Crab Legs, and Live Maine Lobster – ask for all these dishes to be steamed and served with melted butter (make sure it's real butter)
Best Salad: Dinner House Salad – ask for no croutons and olive oil and vinegar dressing
Best Beef: Cajun Ribeye, Guiltless Carne Asada Steak, Flame Grilled Ribeye, or the Classic Sirloin – ask for no savory steak butter as this contains gluten. If you want a burger, the Bacon Burger or the Old time Burger (ask for no bun or onion strings) are good choices and listed as being gluten-free.
Best Chicken: none I can recommended
Best Seafood: Guiltless Grilled Salmon or the Salmon with Garlic & Herbs
8) Cheesecake Factory
Best Salad: Cobb Salad, Herb-Crusted Salmon, or any of their Weight Management Salads. Make sure you ask for no crispy noodles, beans, corn, or cheese on them. Also order olive oil and vinegar dressing.
Best Beef: Grilled Rib-Eye Steak and Filet Mignon are good steak choices. You will need to ask for them to hold the onion rings andorder a salad or other veggie side dish.
Best Chicken: Weight Management Grilled Chicken or Grilled Chicken Medallions. Ask for no white rice but extra veggies instead.
Best Seafood: Fresh Grilled Salmon or Fresh Grilled Mahi Mahi
9) Jimmy John's – this is one of my favorite places to eat out! Get the sandwich you want, avoiding cheese if you wish, and any other questionable sauces and have them make it “Unwich” style. They wrap the sandwich all up in a lettuce wrap and it's still oh-so delish!
10) Moes & Chipotle – this is another place I love eating at. Tell them you want a burrito bowl and just pile on the meat, veggies, guacamole, and salsa! Chipotle also advertises that their meat is hormone free!
…seriously…stop stressing. Life is short.