Thursday, May 24, 2012

eating out... original food diet style

We love to eat out at restaurants. Food prepared by someone else... no dishes to do....ahh! I love it.

This diet made it really, really hard to enjoy a meal outside the house....for a while, anyway.
It took us a bit, but we found ways to eat real food at a restaurant, and even do it frugally. :D

Here's what I've learned about eating "original food" style when we go out:

1. Salad is good.

Salad is filling, fresh, and when served without meat or dairy, it's often very cheap compared to most entrees.

If you do go the salad route, be sure to avoid any cheese or dairy-based dressings. Sometimes we eat dressing on our salad, sometimes we don't. If we do, it's a clear {not creamy or chunky} vinaigrette, and if they don't have one, I get really crazy and make my own:

All it takes is a little honey and red wine vinegar and/or oil:

I try not to obsess too much about dressing at restaurants- I try to pick the healthiest option, and then I get it on the side of my salad and dip as I go.

2. Nix the extras.

Any time you're eating out, you'll want to try to avoid the meat, dairy, eggs, bread, croutons, cheese, pasta, and creamy dressings. Here's where there's a big distinction between just being a lacto/ovo/pesco vegetarian vs. vegan vs. an original foodie.

On this diet, we specifically avoid pastas, breads, and calorically dense flours. Most vegetarians and vegans will eat those foods, but we try not to eat bread or flour-based products because they are so easily digested and stored as excess. 

So when we go out, we don't eat the free chips, or the loaves of bread that are so tempting, however, we may or may have not been seen eating from our tiny salsa bowls with a fork....Ahem. :)

3.  Go for the sides servings of vegetables.

I'm amazed at how filling vegetable sides are! When you ask for veggies, try to request olive oil in place of the butter they usually smother them in. Plain potatoes are our favorite choice at deli's and Wendy's. I even went all out and ate two plain sweet potatoes at a steakhouse on Mother's Day! 

{note: some restaurants roll their potatoes in grease. I specifically did not ask if they did that to my potatoes that day. I'd been looking forward to their sweet potatoes for weeks, and didn't want to give them up! haha!}

We went to an Italian restaurant on a date a few weeks ago, and were disappointed to hear their minestrone was made with beef broth. Of all things! ;) So, our waitress got creative with our restrictions and had the chef prepare a side of veggies with olive oil: 

It was amazing! And, the veggies and salad together were less than 1/2 of the price of an entree there. Our dinner total came to $12! {note: this is when you should tip very, very, well. Enjoying a cheap meal means you should give a bigger tip, not smaller... :) }

Which leads me to:

4. Ask your server for help.

One time we were in a small town, hours away from home, and starving for lunch. We were thrilled to eat at the local Chili's, until we read the menu. They didn't have a single vegetarian entree or appetizer on it, and the sides were $2.50 each.

This was week two or so of the diet, so I was feeling pretty bummed about my choices {none}, until we asked the server to help us. She went to the manager, and found out that we could get any salad of theirs without the chicken and cheese for around $6. And, she could also offer us a bean and rice setup for $1.

If I hadn't been in the middle of the booth, I probably would have jumped out and hugged that woman's neck. Food somehow becomes ridiculously important when you're hungry! :P

Like the server at Carino's had done, she gave us options that weren't on the menu simply because we'd asked.

Lesson: don't be afraid to be a special needs diner. Ask as politely as possible, and they will probably be glad to help you. :D

And that's what leads me to the tip that's taken me the longest to learn:

5. Don't worry too much about it.

It's just food.

It's not the end of the world if they forget to take off the cheese, right? ;) This has been so hard for me- I've always hated cheese with a passion, and don't laugh, but I hate sending things back, so getting the wrong food {especially with cheese or mayo!} used to really bother me.

{I waited tables for years me, I know that most of the time, it's not a good thing to send back food! Servers, can I get an amen?! :P}

I've tried to loosen up about it a little more these days- if I think my dressing might have sugar in it, I just deal with it, eat some of it, and go on. Or if my very favorite food at a restaurant {sushi!} has a tiny bit of crab in a roll, it's okay to eat it.

I've learned that sometimes it's better to just enjoy the food you love {and are paying for} rather than to make yourself eat something you hate in place of it. :)

We go out to eat for pleasure first, so we always try to pick the good foods, and if it's just not feasible, we  try to eat the best choice and then go back home to our regular diet.

And it works for us. :D

So, I'm interested to hear your thoughts: how do you eat real food at restaurants? Do you have any tips for managing a whole foods diet while dining out? I'm still new at this, so I'm all ears!! 

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