Eating Out With Paleo – Is it Possible?

One of the things I am constantly asked as a Paleo lifestyler is what are the options for eating out with Paleo, is it even possible? There is no yes or no answer to this and it depends very much on how Paleo you are, or want to be, which I discuss below. However, in this article what we will do is attempt to explore some possibilities and then try to point you in the direction of some choices which will be available to you, no matter how Paleo you are, or want to be.

Fast Food – It’s Difficult

Eating out with paleo is possible but it is really difficult if you simply limit yourself to fast food places. I am told that McDonald’s chicken for instance contains over 15 ingredients and additives, including vegetable oils, dextrose and enriched flour…… so where have the days gone when chicken was simply chicken and nothing else! I guess it must be clear to you following that description that KFC is most definitely well outside the allowed boundaries of Paleo! To be fair there are some fast food restaurants where you can either ask for ‘naked’ ingredients or if you are desperate then simply buy what’s there and remove the bun or wrap or pastry. Be cautious of processed meats as most processing techniques involve large amounts of salt in their preparation. Sometimes outlets will happily remove your bun and replace it with lettuce wrap, if you are a regular try this, they all like to keep their customers and this is a relatively simple request for them to comply with.

On The Move Snacks

As discussed in a previous post on this website the problem with most retailed ready-made snacks is that they are usually based on bread, or pastry and of course most take away options usually involve rice or noodles of some type. Added to this of course many of the foods you will find at these outlets are cooked with vegetable oils that you will be unaware of. As a first principle if you have to rely on snacks on the move then plan and prepare using known ingredients from your own larder and take them with you. If this is not possible and you are looking for ’emergency’ nutrition then look for, or even better, know where your nearest good salad bar is. Be careful though because not everything you will find in a salad bar fits the Paleo lifestyle though might be considered healthy ingredients in other regimes, legumes, beans and pulses are a good example. In particular avoid prepackaged salads, you should have one made to order and be particular about dressings as most of them will contain vegetable oils though not all.

Eating at Restaraunts

While restaurants pose some challenges for eating out with Paleo they are by no means off ‘the menu’. However, if you are serious about being true blue Paleo you will have to plan and be selective. If you want to be able to go back to that restaurant you also need to be gracious polite and respectful when seeking flexibility in some of their menu items. There are some things that you definitely should not do and these include

  • Take your own food.
  • Asking for something that does not appear on the menu in any form whatsoever
  • Ask for substitutes that take preparation for instance asking for zoodles (zucchini noodles) instead of pasta

Some things you can do in restaurants when seeking to eat out with Paleo are;

  • Take a small jar or bottle of salad dressing and explain why you are using it.
  • Ask for a lettuce bun substitute for bread.
  • Ask for certain items such as salad dressings to be left out.
  • Request that pan fried foods be done with butter rather than vegetable oil (You may be asked to pay a little more)

How Paleo Are You

In other posts I have written for this site I have talked about being kind to yourself in following the Paleo lifestyle. Ultimately it is your choice but if Paleo takes over your life and you obsess over it you are highly likely to fail. My philosophy is that it is part of my balanced lifestyle. I never ever see it or refer to it or think of it as a diet because in my view most diets fail because their starting premise is denial. My approach to Paleo is that it is a guide for healthy choices and along with maintaining regular exercise and being mindful of my health generally it fits as one component of my overall lifestyle. This means that I occasionally stray. But I do this in a very deliberate way. For instance, I might well have a drink at the weekend; I am fond of a good French Brandy while watching a movie with the family at the weekend. I love cheese but is not a Paleo foodstuff. So I use it as a treat for when I have achieved some goal or target and I therefore might only eat it once or twice a month. But I do so enjoy it because it is a rarity in my day to day menu selections and so I enjoy it all the more for that. You will decide yourself how you want to approach this but once again if you want Paleo to be part of your lifestyle introduce it in such a way that it does not become an unconscious punishment.

Plan and Select

There is no real secret to this as you can see most of it is about doing your research being aware of the possibilities and the constraints and where you want to use restaurants remember that a respectful and gracious attitude will win you friends and reward you with flexibility. It is even possible that if you are a regular that they will accommodate your requirements on a regular basis, this has happened for me simply because I have taken the time to explain to my friends who own or manage these places what it is that I am try to achieve.

I hope that this was helpful and that you have some ideas about how you can still follow the lifestyle when eating out with Paleo.

You can also find the Paleo Beginners Food List here

Please feel free to ask any questions or throw comments my way I look forward to hearing from you



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  1. Love this site – the style of writing makes me feel that you are sitting across from me having a conversation.
    I would ask you what your options would be to my love of bread – I can’t imagine a day without toast or a lovely batard.
    My real downfall are biscuits – I can sometimes exchange these for yogurt and berries but not all the time.
    I will definitely be trying the cider instead of wine but I don’t understand why it would be better for me so lots of questions for you, Hamish

    • Hi Therese so believe it or not both bread and biscuits/cookies are possible I will share recipes for both Paleo bread and cookies in the coming weeks so look out for them. The difference in general between cider and beer is the conversion of sugars in the fermentation process. Cider tends to have considerably less and it is essentially gluten free hence its preferred status. As I say in a number of my posts I use Paleo as a guiding principle and don’t worry too much if I stray off the path as long as I come back on at some point. hope that helps

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