Let's be honest: You can't eat out on Whole30


vacafrita

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I'm on Day 14 of my Whole30, which my wife started and got me to join in solidarity.  Generally, the experience has been nice, and I feel better than I have in a while.  My only real frustration?  Eating out.  

 

It's just not possible to have an enjoyable experience eating out when you're on your Whole30.  You're basically stuck with two options:

 

Option #1: Become "That Guy" by questioning every ingredient on every dish on the menu, then redesigning a dish to exclude non-compliant ingredients, thereby annoying your waiter, the chef, and the table next to you; or

 

Option #2: Eat a plain salad and a couple of side dishes and call that a meal.

 

I hate That Guy and have philosophical objections to changing any aspect of a restaurant dish except for serious allergies.  Which means that unless I'm at a steakhouse or a buffet, I'm stuck doing #2 and telling myself that asparagus and a bowl of salsa really is a meal.  (The irony of a "diet" that encourages eating at steakhouses and buffets isn't lost on me.)

 

What really gets me, though, is the fact that the Whole30 website pretends as if eating out on the diet is EASY.  Yippee, healthy living with no compromises!  Who are these people?  Where are they eating?  I live in San Francisco, a city with at at least three restaurants on every block, and I've literally found just one place near my office that I can buy lunch stress-free.  (It's a buffet.)  

 

All I'm saying is that everyone promoting this diet should be a little more honest.  You can't eat out, unless you define "eating out" as "putting food in you so you don't starve to death."  You can't pick a restaurant without a ridiculous amount of research.  You can't go out and enjoy a stress-free meal, without driving half the waitstaff crazy.  Your Whole30 will involve a lot of cooking and eating at home.  

 

(Sorry everyone.  I just spent half an hour looking unsuccessfully for a place to eat dinner and am cranky as hell.)

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GFChris

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Posted 18 July 2014 - 06:31 PM

I've been gluten-free since 2006, and did my Whole30 last summer, successfully eating out a few times.  I frequently go out to eat.

 

Here's what I do:

1. First, browse the restaurant's menu online for 2-3 possible entrees that look compliant as is, or appear that they can be modified to be made compliant. If they have a gluten-free menu or items labeled gluten-free, start there.  Restaurants that cook to order are also good bets.

 

2. Call the restaurant ahead of time, explain that you're on an elimination diet, and ask questions about how your entree choices are prepared. Biggies you want to avoid are soybean oil and butter for cooking, any sugar, soy, dairy, gluten, MSG, or alcohol in marinades or seasonings.  Ideally, see if they can dry grill your proteins with only salt and pepper. Anything that has a sauce is suspect for non-compliant ingredients. I generally stay away from soups: too tricky to ensure compliance. Bring your own dressing for salad.

 

Here is the Whole30 dining out guide, which provides additional tips: http://whole9life.co...ng-out-whole30/

 
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I would say yes and no. I personally choose not to eat out when I'm doing a Whole30 because it is too stressful for me and I take a Whole30 as an opportunity to dial back in to making my own food at home. However I think being "that guy" depends much on how you approach your questions. Generally speaking most servers are happy to answer your questions and accommodate you if you are polite about it. I tend to break the ice by apologizing and saying I'm going to be a little difficult because I have some dietary restrictions and then proceed with questions. Once I've done my due diligence I eat my food without concern and I tip well. The reality is that part of Whole30 is being super conscience of your food choices regardless of the setting and that does take time. I think we should value that more than we do...and I wholeheartedly include myself in that statement.

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I started Sept 1st. I've had no problems.... But live in a seafood area (beach town). I get steamed shrimp quite often (forego the cocktail sauce) and every restaurant has had a salad I can get without cheese, and I say no dressing, just a little olive oil on the side. I also ordered two fish dishes where the waitress came back and said "yes" I could have the fish "dry broiled". I know the chef at one place which has been a help. We eat out 2-3 times a week. It is our nicest month of the year, I couldn't ask hubby to miss out on one of his favorite things to do. I always ask that we choose restaurant ahead of time (I gave him a list) and I research the menu and call if I have questions. Also did plain sashimi once.....

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Thanks everyone.  I think maybe we have different ideas of what it means to "eat out."  For me, eating out is more than just having someone cook my dinner for me.  It's the experience of going to a restaurant and having a professional create something delicious for me to eat.  (That's why I don't like substituting ingredients -- I'm not going to tell a chef what ingredients to cook any more than I'd tell a painter what colors to use.)  The rules of Whole30 are just too restrictive for that.  When you reach the point that you're analyzing restaurant menus and telling the chef to skip the soy and butter and MSG and to cook meats with just salt and pepper, you're not "eating out" anymore--you're just paying someone to cook you something that you'd cook yourself at home.  

 

@DelJan -- That sounds awesome!  A beach town--or anywhere that people serve up good food that's not messed-around with--definitely seems ideal for this.

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I think you're right - unless you happen upon a paleo chef, you're not going to be enjoying a 5 course dining "experience". But, it's only 30 days. After those 30 days you can choose to enjoy those amazing meals guilt free while eating compliant the rest of the time, if that's what you want.

Think of the money you can save this month to go to a super expensive place next month and enjoy every bite of a chef created menu. :-)

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I agree, it is nearly impossible to really eat out without picking apart every ingredient in everything, and I also don't want to be *that person* at the restaurant. But, even though it's a pain, I think for me, it's actually good that I can't go out to eat easily. It forced me to actually cook my own food, and plan ahead to make sure I'd have food on days when I don't really want to cook, and I think all the effort I expend shopping and cooking and cleaning the kitchen makes me appreciate food more, both the food I make for myself, and the food I have when I'm dining out, whether I'm having something W30 compliant or not.  So yes, it's annoying not to be able to go to a restaurant and just order whatever sounds good, but I think that's also a big part of the program for many of us.

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Hi vacafrita - I'm new to whole30 too, and as I read your reply above about a wanting a good dining experience my first thought was - STEAKHOUSE!  A nice cut (ask for no butter on the steak...I never did like that they do that to filets), a baked potato, and steamed veggies. 

 

Have we talked about Outback Steakhouse on this forum?  I didn't research yet, but my guess is it could be a winner.

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Ultimately, W30 is a lifestyle change, not a purge or cleanse.  When you treat dining out as an adventure, something that needs to proceed precisely like the preconception, your gains may vary and your patterns changed and wisdom gained may not carry forward.  If you treat dining out as someone who cooks what you want better than you do, that'll go far.

 

If you're going to places that have actual professionals rather than recent CIA Greystone grads, in a city like SF, they should have built a menu that touches on almost every taste and need.  A true hospitality professional wants nothing more than to send you home happy.  In a city like SF (echo in here?), there are plenty of diners that take control of their dining experience and satisfaction. Career executive chefs hear it day in and day out.

 

Since reading It Starts With Food and the other books it led into, I take control of the people I pay to feed me the one day a week we go out.  I make it clear that this isn't acceptable, but not as a flag waving ass aka That Guy, I just make changes to what is on offer and expect them to oblige.  I don't treat food as a performance art.  Well, except Paula Deen's Krispy Kreme bacon cheeseburger...

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I think if you're going to eat food prepared by someone at the level of Alice Waters or Thomas Keller, you definitely don't want to be challenging their artistry.  If you're eating at a chain of any sort, then IMO you can think of that as being analogous to hotel room paintings.  Crap for the masses.  Challenge away!

 

Just remember the reasons you chose for doing a Whole30 (and solidarity with your spouse is a very lovely reason), and choose your eating locations accordingly.  Some people eat out a whole whole lot, and others of us never do while Whole30ing.

 

I am not much of a restaurant person, so I haven't read much about Whole30 and restaurants.  I will say, though, that Whole30 has really made me critical of most of the restaurants available to me.  I have discovered that I don't feel Whole30 limits me so much as I have come to discover that local restaurants are serving poor quality food dressed up with preservatives and sugar.  I don't want to give them my money anymore.

 

But if I were headed to Chez Panisse or the French Laundry, I'd do it outside of Whole30 and consider it golden.

 

Sorry your restaurant/Whole30 experiences are not lining up for you these days.  Here's hoping you find something you enjoy to eat, and a well prepared chef-created meal for sometime soon too.  Day 31 if not before.

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Where in SF do you work?  I'm SF based (though I'm traveling for work) and if you work in the financial district there are quite a few places that will work with you on lunch.  Foundation Cafe (its tricky here but the people know everything about the food and can guide you in the right direction), Darn Good Food (lots of sugar free/whole30 compliant options here!) Chipotle (Carnitas, guac, lettuce, salsa), and Boxed Foods company (make sure to get no dressing and to ask about the marinade).  

 

Good luck!

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How about a reality check?  

 

I (and many others here) have an auto immune disease. For me, and those folks, this is likely a Whole 365.  I'm on the auto immune protocol and probably will be for at least a year before my gut is healed enough to begin reintros. If I slip up and eat dairy, I will go straight to the emergency room, and beyond. The AIP is like Whole 30 but you can add eggs, nuts, seeds (including coffee and cacao), nightshades, and nightshade and seed spices to the list of things you can't eat. 

 

You have 16 more days to go and you can eat whatever you want for the rest of your life. 

 

I am a lifelong foodie, cook who has cooked professionally, and food television producer. I have, in fact, dined at Chez Panisse while on the Whole 30. Successfully. 

 

I still eat out, but I call the restaurant ahead of time to discuss my options so that I don't have to be "that guy". 

Its unfortunate that you hate "that guy" because maybe "that guy" is also trying to heal his gut without supporting Big Pharma, but still wants to enjoy meaningful social experiences with his friends. Or experience just the feel and energy of having someone else cook for him when he typically cooks three meals a day, every single day. And also, as you say, right now "that guy" is you. Maybe a side order of compassion would help. 

 

Yes, Whole 30 does require some cooking and eating at home. I'm pretty sure that's the point. And also pretty sure that no one's trying to hide that. 

 

If its too hard for you to give up the gastronomic experiences perhaps Whole 30 is not for you. 

 

I see this entire experience as an opportunity to practice grace. 

 

Something you may want to consider. 

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Another point worth noting is that you only have to be "that guy" once, or twice.. if you have a regular weekly haunt, they will get to know you, and you can just ask for your special meal and then sit back and enjoy the culinary experience. When I have eaten out, it has been as people have said. I have done my research before I even hit the restaurant, and the chefs want nothing more than to send me home happy

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This has been a helpful thread.  I ate out the other night for the first time on my Whole30 and it wasn't fun.  I wouldn't have gone at all, but it was my dad's 75th birthday so I laid my selfishness aside for that!  We went to Carrabba's, and I ordered a gluten free Johnny Rocco salad with no cheese and olive oil instead of the dressing.  Good, right?  Right, except they only left off the ricotta cheese and sprinkled my salad liberally with parmesan.  I sent it back and the cooks had the waiter ask me if they had to do the whole salad again, or if they could just put the meat and veggies they'd already prepared on a new bed of lettuce.  I made them do the whole salad again.  By the time I finally got my Whole30 approved meal, everyone else was ready to look at the dessert menu.  But at least I had something to eat while everyone was eating dessert!  (dessert is my favorite part...sigh...)

 

I have looked online at a number of restaurant menus, and agree that ordering a Whole30 compliant meal is just too difficult and stressful.  I prefer to skip restaurants right now.

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Do you have a restaurant you go to often, so maybe you feel more comfortable asking questions?  I totally get the whole being, "that guy", when ordering.  I waited tables through college, so I became very aware of the fact that I was, "that girl" when ordering too!  The thing is, it never really bothered me with customers because I really got it when people were trying to eat healthy.  And now, it is so much more common and commendable to see people trying to be aware of what they're eating. 

 

That being said... I just went out to eat with my family this weekend.  Our fave Mexican restaurant, and I can't even look at the chips & salsa (my kryptonite).  I had a plain salad with grilled chicken on it and it was actually great with no dressing because I used their fresh salsa.  But I have to say, the best part of the meal was leaving and feeling strong because I didn't cheat at all.  It's a great feeling if nothing else.  But I did look forward to some macadamia nuts the whole ride home ;) 

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I guess that I've been "that guy" (or gal, as the case may be) for so long that I no longer even think about it. I'm always super polite and I ask a lot of questions. If I don't feel like they can help me, I don't eat there - or I order a very cheap side salad and pick at it. This past weekend I went to a Mexican restaurant with my sister and brother in law. Turns out that they pre-marinate ALL of their proteins and that the marinade has soy sauce in it. So I ordered a salad with oil and vinegar on the side. They didn't have oil and vinegar. So, I just drank a few glasses of water, tipped the waitress like I'd had a meal (it's not her fault that I took up space at a table and didn't eat) and chatted. The next night I went with my parents to a Chinese restaurant. They made me a dish of steamed cabbage, broccoli, and zucchini with steamed chicken breast and shrimp. I brought a bottle of coconut aminos with me, filled my plate with the steamed meal, liberally decorated it with aminos. It did lack in fat, but I was satiated and actually really happy with my meal.

 

That said, I generally prefer to eat my own food and am TRYING to come up with social, non-food activities and it can be a bit of a challenge.

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I do not eat out during a W30.

 

I have multiple food allergies/sensitivities and have had to be "that guy" for many years now.  When something I can't eat gets into my food in a restaurant, I feel it.  And I can tell you it happens maybe half of the time I eat out.  Restaurants put a lot of junk in our food without even thinking about it.  Could I find a place that would make me a lovely compliant meal without much fuss? Maybe. But I don't want to risk it.

 

Heck, 6 months ago my own mom made me a homemade chicken soup.  What could be better than that?  She forgot to mention that she did not have enough broth so she supplemented with canned chicken broth (it had wheat and MSG).  Thanks for the migraine, Mom.

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I ate out once during my whole30, asked loads of questions and ordered a plain steak (not as easy as it sounds in a 5 star restaurant, apparently). They didn't do baked potatoes so I had a plain side salad and was still hungry when I'd finished. To be honest, I did not enjoy the experience and would have far enjoyed the food I could have cooked at home.

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I just have to say...eating out on a whole30 is a cakewalk compared to eating out doing AIP. Not only can I not eat all the things I can't eat on a normal whole30, but I also can't eat any nuts, seeds, or berry spices (no black pepper, sesame, no nutmeg, no cumin, or coriander, no almonds, pecans or walnuts, etc.) I can't eat nightshades (all peppers, including spices derived from peppers like cayenne and paprika, potatoes, tomatoes, and eggplants) I can't eat eggs, or vegetable oils either. Try going to a restaurant and telling them you can't eat black pepper! I never even tried to eat out on AIP, I've just been cooking everything I eat at home for the past 6 months or so.

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Any estimates on how many people are doing a Whole30 at a time?  Reading this thread makes me think that opening a Paleo restaurant and offering several menu items that say "Whole30 compliant"  could be a great idea?  I don't even know if there's Paleo restaurants in my area - I'm going to have to check that out!

 

on a side note...3peanuts - LOVE the shoes!!!  Go Seahawks :D

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I am on Day... 23?  Lol.  Of my 2nd Whole 30.  I haven't had any reason to go out to eat yet, but today I'd like to.  We are going to be out and about, away from home, running errands in the big city for most of the day. 

 

So I looked around and around at Five Guys info online.  And I think what we usually do -- the bunless burger -- is completely compliant.  Doesn't look like they do anything funky to their beef, to me...?  I am perfectly happy with a burger, lettuce, tomato, pickle, all chopped up like a salad in the nice little tin tray they put it in.

 

Just thought I'd throw that out there for anyone interested.  And so anyone can correct me if they find info otherwise.  ;)

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So I looked around and around at Five Guys info online.  

 

This looks like a great option! The burger is just beef, although it would be worth asking if they put anything on the grill. Mushrooms and Relish are sweetened, but tomatoes, lettuce, pickle, green pepper, onions all look good to go. even hot sauce and jalapeños look good. no condiments, but you can't win them all  :)

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I also live in SF, also hate being "that person" and enjoy the experience of dining out. No, it isn't as fun on Whole 30 but I have found that the restaurants in this city are more than used to special dietary requests. Plus we are lucky to have access to quality organic/pastured meats. I have had great meals at Roam Burgers, Tacolicious, Prather Ranch American Eatery, The Plant and Padrecito. Have also ordered great delivery meals from Munchery. I totally get what you're saying and agree it's not as fun - but in SF it's definitely not impossible.

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If you leave a big tip.... You won't be "that guy"

I used to be a server in 3 different restaurant s. I am now an assistant mgr of a pizza shop. I have had many customers that have special diet restrictions. And all places are happy to make accommodation for special tastes and needs. Even in a pizza carry out shop we can make special items that are crustless.

It is all in how you approach the conversation with whomever is serving you and how you show your appreciation. Tip well enough as a regular and servers might be climbing over each other to take care of you especially.

You can eat out and not be that annoying guy.

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