We are now on vacation, in a beautiful condo with a kitchen. As much as I love cooking, I do not want to spend my whole vacation inside making food. The outdoors calls to my soul and I want to soak in every minute of it. I will make breakfast and a few lunches, but not every meal. This means going out to eat or ordering take-out; something that is not always easy to do when you have a specific diet to follow. When I first started to change the way I eat, vacation gave me serious food anxiety. I stressed about having access to the right ingredients. I worried about eating at a restaurant that would cause an autoimmune reaction. I wanted to feel good and enjoy my vacation, which meant eating well and sticking to my safe foods.
Over the last six years, I have figured out some tricks that make finding the right restaurant much easier. I use to end up in restaurants ordering nothing but a stripped down, bland iceberg based salad that cost me $15.00, but not anymore! I can now walk into a restaurant feeling confident the food will be safe and also delicious! Enjoy these tips, and give me a comment if you have some tricks of your own! I’d love to learn from you.
Special Note: Be careful with phrases like “gluten free” and “farm fresh”. Any chain restaurant can have a gluten free menu. That does not mean they have quality ingredients or have a staff well trained in food allergies. Farm fresh is also tricky because it seems like it celebrates produce, but it can also mean fried chicken and biscuits.
Tips for the restaurant search
- Use words like organic, clean eating, or farm to table in your search engine. They are more specific to good quality ingredients that are fresh instead of prepackaged. Not all search results will be perfect, but it’s a good place to start.
- Search for a specific category. Mediterranean, Grill, or BBQ restaurants seem to fit me best, while Italian restaurants are always a problem for me.
- Find a restaurant with a chef, not a line cook. It means the restaurant is more equipped to make something that is not on the menu.
- Check out the website and look through the menu, but also call ahead! Between 3:00 and 4:00 PM is a great time to call a restaurant. They are between lunch and dinner shifts and have more time to focus. I will ask about a couple of menu choices and say “Does this work if I’m allergic to dairy, soy, and ALL grains?” If they are helpful I’m optimistic. If they are dismissive or seem confused, I say a polite “thank you” and choose somewhere else to eat.
- Read the Google reviews. If you have a good experience, honor the restaurant and other consumers in our clean eating tribe by leaving your own review.
- It’s a rare thing for me to order something without making alterations. Look at the whole menu and get creative. If the restaurant has bacon and avocado on a sandwich, those ingredients can also be thrown on a salad. Burgers and sandwiches can easily be ordered naked (without the bun). I order burgers and pulled pork in a lettuce wrap often or ask for it to be piled on the plate. Sides can be switched out easily. If your chicken comes with risotto, switch it out for grilled veggies or a side salad.
- Visit again or order extra to go! When I find a safe restaurant, I come back again and again. The chef already understands my order and I know it makes me feel good. Why not eat it twice in one week?
Remember that food is fuel, not feelings. It’s so easy to say, “This is vacation, I can eat whatever I want.” While I understand this concept, for me it isn’t worth it. The ramifications to my health are always coupled with regret when the bloated belly or diarrhea morning follows. I also pay a lot of money for quality food and regular autoimmune healing treatments. I do not want to derail my progress just because I’m on vacation and I see the donut hot light. Instead, I find fulfillment in a fun adventure, a good book, and a walk through the surf.
My clean eating tribe, I’m wishing you a beautiful vacation or restaurant experience free of food anxieties and reactions! Wishing you enjoyment in the real adventures! Wishing you a life full of foods that fuel and heal.