Some GREAT tips from Paleo Blogger, Christina Curp.
Here's a little bit about her:
Cristina Curp, The Castaway Kitchen
Cristina, a Miami native with Cuban roots now lives all over the world, following her husband's military career. As a chef and mother on the move, she's accustomed to packing up their lives (and her knives) to start over every few years. This ongoing adventure birthed her blog, The Castaway Kitchen: paleo for foodies. The blog is a collection of inventive, whole food recipes that have helped Cristina reverse autoimmune disease, lose weight and take control of her health and wellbeing. She's passionate about cooking, sharing her experiences and enjoying life to the last drop. You can usually find her in the kitchen or on a beach somewhere.
I had an awesome interview with Cristina and we talked about how she manages to stick to her diet being Paleo and gluten free despite traveling most of the time. She shared a lot of great ideas and recommendations that I’m sure many of you will appreciate.
With Cristina’s extensive food industry knowledge, she understands how challenging it can be for people on a clean and healthy diet to navigate the menu and look at their food options.
Afraid to Ask? I'm sorry but you have to get over it. You really do.
1. There’s no shame in asking. Don’t hesitate to make requests to restaurant staff. People in the food and hospitality industry are very customer service oriented. There’s nothing wrong with asking about the availability of food and cooking ingredients as well as the preparation method you prefer.
Do the Work FOR them
2. Read the menu carefully to see what kind of ingredients they use so you know what products they would certainly have available in the kitchen. Work with what is on the menu. This will make it easier for you to customize your own dish and also make the job of the server and kitchen personnel easier. (This is an especially great tip for making your own side dishes when dining out!)
This is so much better than asking the staff
“I’m food intolerant. What can I have?”
Cristina mentioned in many cases, the staff may really not know all that much about food, let alone your particular diet restrictions, so they will just have no idea what you can eat from the menu.
MUCH better to take note of the various main ingredients you see them using in the menu and tell THEM what you want from that.
3. Even though servers are usually accommodating of requests, there would still be times when they would be hesitant to immediately say yes. In these cases, it is never advisable to say that you are making the request because you are on a diet. The best approach? You can say that you have an allergy or food restriction and this usually ensures that they will listen to you.
4. In most popular food chains, casual dining places (e.g. Chili’s, TGIF) their ingredients already come to the restaurant pre-mixed, marinated or flavored so picking your ingredients can be quite a challenge. Your best bet? The salads. You can order your greens plain and just request for some olive oil, lemon, salt and pepper, and maybe some grilled meat.
5. Request for a plain salad without any dressing (sauces/salad dressing usually have hidden thickening agents like starch). As for any meat, grilled plain with no seasoning is good or you can request for a dash of salt and pepper (sometimes they will brush the meat with some caramelized color/flavor so be specific about requesting it to be plain).
In these places, don’t be afraid to ask for something plain, they can usually do a simple preparation of meals.
The restaurants Cristina has worked in in the past were mostly farm to table or organic food places that is why she recommends going to these types of restaurants when you go out because it is most likely that they will have what you are looking for. These places are normally used to their diners having custom meal requests.
You can also contact a restaurant prior to dining out and ask about their menu and your options so they can prepare it for you beforehand. This is usually the case with higher end restaurants.
THIS is a great idea you guys. If you call in advance, you don’t have to worry about being “THAT” person because they’ll already be expecting you and your special requests. I think if nothing else, it will really help YOU personally to have less anxiety upon your arrival about asking for what you need.
Don’t let your food choices spoil the fun of being in a social situation
We all know the feeling - eating out with family or friends, being in a social situation then you see how limited your food options are - we all know how very frustrating that can be.
But Cristina and I both agree that in these situations, the focus should not so much be on the food. Sure, it is part of the experience of going out but it is more important to focus on the company of the people you are with, the actual social experience. I personally feel this is a lot easier to do if you already have the following swimming around delightedly in your brain:
You are at social gathering/restaurant/party, talking and laughing and NOT eating the 1,000 calorie combo of cake and cookies on the buffet table or on the menu. AND THEN. And then. Go home and make yourself a slammin’ P3 smoothie that’s as big as your head for 150 calories. Like the Pumpkin Pie dessert smoothie. Wake up the next morning with NO gain and go on about your
merry crazy hectic life with 4 jobs and 3 kids that’s a teensy bit less stressful because you don’t have deal with your weight today.
Cristina mentioned not feeling sorry for yourself. You are following a clean diet and staying healthy. As for me, I believe that not having to worry about my size and dieting all the time far outweighs the occasionally less enjoyable food when I do dine out. 🙂
A little note about this - I have TOTALLY felt sorry for myself on occasion. Especially at the beginning when I first went gluten free and I was like, man, I can NEVER have real pizza again (I don’t care what they say, gluten free pizza from restaurants suck). I was like, how unfair is this??? But you know what? As I’ve continued my life and have so many benefits from living the way I do, and have found so many things I like to eat that don’t hurt my weight or my intestines or my mood or whatever else negative things that can happen when you eat them, I stopped feeling sorry for myself. I realized, hey, I found something that really makes a difference. There are plenty of other things to eat in life. And I’m CHOOSING this. I’m choosing a healthy life maintaining my weight.
So all that is to say, it’s normal sometimes at first if some of the dietary changes you are making right now are new and potentially permanent ones to have little pity parties here and there. BUT really think through these times and in time, that may go away entirely. I’m proud to say I haven’t held a pity party for at least 3 years now. I don’t remember the last time I felt like “this is unfair, why can’t I eat this.” So it does get easier and more just how you live where you no longer even think about it.
Always be prepared
For someone who is always traveling and staying in hotels, Cristina had some great suggestions on how to stick to your diet.
Just like me, Cristina is fond of airbnb-ing almost all the time now. It’s soooo awesome when you’re staying someplace that has kitchen where you can prepare your meals.
If you have NOT stayed in an airbnb yet, you are seriously missing out. Airbnb.com folks.
It’s much easier to not have major weight issues when you are eating once a day, vs. 2-3x a day. Staying in an airbnb type place with a kitchen, you can have control over your breakfast and lunch (cook in advance and bring the lunch if you are going to be out all day) and then you’ll be eating out for just 1 meal instead of 3.
It’s also great when you’re somewhere that has a lot of healthy food options (Cristina’s personal favorite is San Francisco) but what if you’re staying in a city or state where there aren’t any?
In this case, Cristina suggests sticking to the basics and just packing shelf stable stuff so you can avoid being hangry. These days, there are a lot of great healthy travel food options.
Please see our new module:
for links to a number of good choices!
Make sure to prepare by doing your research ahead of time. Use Yelp and Facebook. Chat with the locals and fellow travelers online for their tips and suggestions.