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Eat Out Like a Paleo Pro: 18 Tips To Make Your Life Easier (+ Downloadable Book)

Jeremy | July 22
18 tips for eating out like a pro - paleo diet

Imagine if you had a home chef who would cook every single meal for you, make it delicious, and also keep it 100% Paleo…

Would you ever fail to eat completely healthy and Paleo food in that situation?

But of course, most of us don’t have a personal chef (I certainly don’t), and because of that, we often end up eating out. A LOT.

Download Our Free Book On Saving Money On A Paleo Diet

Over 40% of Americans eat at a fast food restaurant at least once per week. And that’s just fast food – not even counting regular restaurants which are rarely healthier or more Paleo. And if you weren’t worried enough about American eating habits, over 10 billion donuts are consumed every year.

If you’re looking for some Paleo restaurant reviews, check out this list of restaurants we’ve reviewed.

Eating Out is Not Inevitable…

I haven’t mentioned this on the blog or on YouTube, but I actually haven’t eaten out in over 5 weeks.

That may not seem amazing to many of you, but I live in New York City right now, and eating out (or at least ordering in) is the norm here. I’m betting that my friends cook less than twice per week.

Still, Louise and I made a conscious decision to not eat out for a while just because we realized how problematic it was getting for us. Among other things, it’s almost impossible to avoid Omega-6 cooking oils.

But It’s Sometimes Necessary

Now…we’re not going to avoid eating out forever. Lately, we’ve been inviting friends to dinner at our place more, but we know we’ll eat out in the future.

Eating out is a big social occasion, and we don’t want to avoid hanging out with friends just because we’re stricter with our health.

So first of all, I’ve got a video for you…in which I cover 4 Awesome Ways to Make Eating Out Healthier and More Paleo

Here are 18 Tips for Eating Out Like a Paleo Pro

Here’s a newly created infographic to go with this post – please share and pin it! (To embed the infographic on your blog, just copy and paste the embed code below.)

18 Tips for Eating Out Like a Paleo Pro -

This list of tips is not about being ideal. Ideal is that you buy fresh, local meats and produce and cook them yourself.

But that’s not always going to happen, so you need to have ways to mitigate the damage when you go out to eat.

Before You Go Out

    1. Before eating out, look at the menu and decide on a Paleo option.Order (in your mind) Before You Go Out. I know this takes a little time and work, but practically 100% of restaurant menus are online now (if not on the restaurant website, then on Yelp or MenuPages). Spend a few minutes before you go out, and actually decide what you’re going to order. Then, when you get to the restaurant, don’t even look at the menu. Just order.
    2. Eat Before You Get to the Restaurant. Doing this is golden. Even if you still plan on eating at the restaurant (since it’s often socially awkward not to), you don’t want to be starving by the time that you get there. Being hungry makes it much less likely that you’ll stick to your plans. Eating something Paleo before you go does 2 things: a) it makes you less likely to order something unhealthy, and b) it allows you to order something like a burger without a bun and not worry about being hungry. Carry some Paleo snacks with you like these to ensure you’re never left hungry!
    3. Try to Convince Your Friends/Family to Go to Certain Types of Restaurants. In particular, BBQ, Mediterranean/Greek, Middle Eastern, and steak restaurants are excellent, offering a lot of Paleo choices, from kebabs to steaks to seafood. I don’t know specifically which restaurants you have around your area, but you almost definitely have one of these types of restaurants.
    4. Many National (U.S) Chains are Good. Applebees, Chili’s, Outback, and TGI Friday’s all have a fair number of options to choose from, including steaks, chicken dishes, fajitas, seafood, and more. You’ll need to be careful about whether some of these options are breaded and/or have sauces with added sugars, but you’ll be able to find good choices.
    5. Never Go to Certain Restaurants. You should hang out with friends, even if it’s not convenient for your diet, if for no other reason than that community and friends are healthy. However, you should occasionally turn down offers, mostly if it means you’ll end up going to a restaurant where it’s extremely hard for you to order healthy Paleo food. Here are a few examples: Pizza joints, sandwich shops, many small mexican restaurants, and many italian restaurants. You can often get fajitas at a mexican restaurant and salad or chicken at an italian one, but the options are more limited. Pizza joints and sandwich shops are usually the worst.

At the Restaurant

    1. Ask lots of Paleo questions about your foodDon’t Be Shy When Asking Questions. You’re the one paying for and eating the food at a restaurant. You have a right to know what’s in it, so don’t be shy about asking questions.
    2. Say You Are Allergic or Sensitive to Gluten. Gluten is one of the worst things you can eat at a restaurant, but there’s an easy way around it. So many people are actually allergic to gluten now, that restaurants are very keen to avoid making anyone sick and becoming liable for it. Just tell your waiter or waitress that you’re allergic to gluten, and they’ll almost always be extra-careful to make sure that your food doesn’t contain any.
    3. Ask if the Dish You’re Ordering is Breaded. (Especially for seafood). I’ve ordered food so many times only to have it come and be breaded. I’m always so disappointed and shocked, even though I shouldn’t be. Make sure you ask.
    4. If You’re Very Sensitive to Something, Tell Them You’re Allergic. Allergies and sensitivities aren’t exactly the same thing, but it’s close enough. Restaurants are much more careful with allergies, so use that to your advantage. For some higher end restaurants, they can be super accommodating. For example, we ate at Meadowood in Napa for Louise’s birthday, and they recreated their set menu just for us to take out gluten and dairy.
    5. Say that You’re on a Prescribed Diet. You don’t have to say who prescribed it or exactly what it entails. Just give your waiter or waitress the details that matter. For instance, no gluten, no processed sugar, and no seed oils. Most restaurants try to accommodate prescribed diets, but they’re not always as helpful if they just view it as your preference.
    6. Read Reviews of the Restaurant Before Going. Search within the reviews or on google for Paleo or gluten-free. You might be able to use information previous customers have gleamed. For example, you might find that a particular restaurant has good gluten-free options.
    7. Ask If They Can Cook in Olive Oil Instead. It’s hard to go almost anywhere that doesn’t cook in corn, vegetable, or canola oil. Try asking if you can get your food cooked in olive oil (or if you tolerate dairy, in butter). Often a restaurant can’t change their cooking oils, so you have to decide whether it’s something you want to compromise on.
    8. Beware Added Sugar. Sugar is often added at various stages of preparation and cooking, so wait-staff might not know. For instance, they often don’t think about what went into make the sauce to begin with. Still, it’s a question worth asking.
    9. If the Wait-Staff Doesn’t Know Everything, Get Them to Ask the Chef. Many of the tips above are questions to ask, but often, your waiter or waitress won’t really know the answer. The chef usually does.
    10. Substitute Veggies as Side. Vegetables may not even be listed as a possible side, but most restaurants serve some time of vegetable (although many consider corn to be a vegetable).
    11. Ask for No MSG. Particularly if you’re eating at an Asian restaurant, but even many other restaurants add MSG. I don’t always remember to ask, and MSG isn’t the worst thing you can eat, but I try to remember as often as possible.
    12. Don’t Let Wait-Staff Leave Tempting Items on the Table. For instance, if they try to leave bread on your table, just say “No Thank You, We Don’t Eat Bread.” Having the bread (or other non-Paleo food) on the table just makes it that much harder to resist.

Click To Download Your Paleo Diet Food List

Other Tips

  1. Don’t Stress Too Much. Obviously, if you’re very sensitive or allergic to something, it’s a bigger deal. If you’re not, then don’t worry about eating something non-Paleo every once in a while, especially if it’s a small amount and only occasionally. Stress is neither healthy nor Paleo.

Like I said, these are tips that have gotten me through a lot of eating out while still trying to stay Paleo. Nothing will keep you from occasionally having to compromise your diet, but that’s OK. It’s just a diet, and you can always eat better at the next meal.

What are your favorite restaurants to eat out at and stay Paleo? What are your favorite “cheat” restaurants if you have them? Let me know in the comments!

Images (in order): liber, Universal Pops, and kygp.

Danny Hoff - June 5

Good Paleo menus are hard to find in NYC. Best places Ive been to are Hu in Manhattan and Kinfolk in Brooklyn.

Laura - June 12

I have 2 restaurants that are my go to for eating out.
1) In N Out: hamburger (sometimes a double), grilled onions, protein style (lettuce wrapped), and absolutely no sauce of any kind!
2) Moon Dog’s Cafe: it’s a little cafe that has worked with me to create an acceptable dish. So much so that when I walk in to order I hear, “it’s the allergy woman, make her usual.

    Linda Beard - November 13

    I hope what they serve has nothing to do with the name!

Alice - July 24

“Tell then you’re allergic” is terrible advise! Unless you’re actually allergic you should not throw it around like its nothing. There have been tons of articles recently about how people on gluten free, paleo, and other diets throwing around “allergic” is actually really harmful to the people with real allergies. It desensitizes servers to the issue, because they no most people are just trying a gluten free diet and not actually allergic. Just telling them you prefer gluten free choices is better, you don’t have to lie, you don’t have to be pretentious, but don’t tell them you’re allergic if you aren’t.

    Jeremy Hendon - July 24


    I understand your point well enough that I’ve considered changing my stance on telling people I’m allergic. However, I think that desensitization (in this context and in many others) is more of a myth than a reality. Restaurants are highly concerned with causing illness, and I haven’t seen any evidence (anecdotally or in studies) that they’re actually becoming desensitized to gluten allergies. Honestly, though, if I thought that were factually the case, I’d completely agree with you.

      Erin - July 31

      I can say as a server with several food allergies that Alice is 100% correct. The term “allergic” is so overused now it’s ridiculous. Just like we tell our children, honesty is always the best policy. Just tell your server the truth & I promise they will be just as likely to remove it if not more. Plus you would have introduced someone to paleo. Win/win.

        Yancey - August 21

        I agree with all of you guys to an extent. But seriously Erin, how many times have you been to a Resturaunt that DIDNT have some carless teenager waiting your table that could care less about your diet. Until you “lay it on a little thick,” they could care less. They’re just looking for that weekly check so they can donate, ever so slightly to their student loan debt, which has them smoking weed on breaks. Seriously tho, lighten up! Its all good.

Yancey - August 21

………and if ALL ELSE FAILS, just pull out your eppie pin and threaten to stab your waiter if they don’t get it right…..personally I’d rather embellish on or stretch the truth rather than risk NOT GETTING their ATTENTION.

kim - September 7

Hi I recently started Paleo living about a week ago. I have had an occasional non paleo item primarily beans such as hummus last night but I had it with veggies and told them to give extra veggies instead of the pita bread and I only had a small amount of hummus. I also had a few beans and some red potato. Ok enough with my confession ha! I havent found it to be too difficult to stick with it but you do have to be very inquisitive. I found out somewhere that they often put butter on your steak at a steak restaurant. I asked at Longhorn and the waitress thought they put butter so i asked for no additional butter or oil on anything. Apparently they used olive oil but either way I got it dry. I also went to a local restaurant here in Akron ohio and I ordered the seafood platter with veggies and also said not to put any butter or oil. Not the best quality food there but what can ya do. I went to chipotle and I order a salad with no rice or beans and extra stir fry veggies and extra salsa. I didnt get the guacamole that time just to keep it lighter. Last night went to the rail and got the naked burger (this was the hummus place as well). I didnt ask about the oil though so I may have consumed some vegetable oil since I got the sauteed onions on it and also added a fried egg. Anyway thanks for the info! Anyone have any tips on weight loss and paleo and crossfit? Ive leaned out a bit but I started crossfit a few weeks ago and havent drank in a month. Just wondering if I need to tighten up the paleo eating and count calories?

Stacia - December 1

Interestingly enough sometimes asking for olive oil is not enough. I found out last week that the commissary at work, run by Wolfgang Puck, uses what they call Olive Oil but is actually a mix of Olive and Canola. I can’t remember exactly how I extracted that info from the manager but I was shocked as the chef had told me he was cooking with Olive Oil. Not sure if this is a standard Wolfgang Puck thing but worth asking if you end up at one of his restaurants.

    Louise Hendon - December 5

    Thanks Stacia – it’s fantastic you asked! It’s an excellent point – a lot of olive oil that restaurants use is a mix of olive oil and canola, so it’s great to check.

kelly - January 15

Great tips but eating meat out is not as simple. Meat needs to be grass fed and finished or the fat profile is off. This is the hardest part for me.

    Jeremy Hendon - January 19

    We definitely prefer grass-fed meat, although we’ll make exceptions when eating out. The fat profile is not nearly as different or important as many folks claim – you’d be much better off avoiding almost all nuts, all chicken, etc. (forever), if you’re actually worried about Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratios.

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