Handling Social Gatherings Whilst Remaining Paleo

by Suz on September 27, 2011 · 6 comments

in Eating Out, Food, Social

Throughout my “official” Whole-30 period, I found it really easy to keep on the Paleo-straight & narrow, without a single cheat.  I think I’m especially fortunate living in Sydney, where many restaurants pride themselves on fairly whole, local (and often organic) food.  I eat out fairly often, and continued to do so during the 30-day challenge.  I’ve always avoided certain types of restaurant, so that wasn’t a problem.  In the restaurants I did eat in, without exception there have always been a few meals on the menu that are Paleo (for example fish and vegetables) and even more meals that I can “tweak” to make them Paleo (swapping the fries for a salad for example, and asking for no sauce/ dressing).

Last weekend however, I encountered my first Paleo difficulty.  I was invited out for a friend’s Birthday as a Moroccan restaurant in the Sydney.  However, as we were such a large group, we had to have the set menu.   I’d been quite busy, so just had a cursory glance at the menu a few weeks ago.  I saw “beef” and “chicken” and assumed I’d be able to make it work, and left it there.  Had I looked properly, I would have called the restaurant ahead as often, with notice, they can be very accommodating.  Fortunately I played it safe and had a late lunch on the day, a tactic I often employ before social events.  I’ve found there is nothing worse and more challenging than being ravenously hungry, surrounded by less than optimal food options.

We started with bread and dips.  One of the dips seemed to be egg plant, but with nothing to “dip” in it, I gave that a miss.

We were then presented with a Tabouli Salad, which after asking about the ingredients I dived into.  It contained parsley, mint, onion, olive oil, lemon & something called Bulgar.  After the first two mouthfuls I found out Bulgar is basically wheat, so didn’t have any more of that.  Why put wheat into a lovely salad?

With the salad came Halloumi Cheese (I’m avoiding dairy, as I’ve felt so good since I eliminated it for my Whole30), Fried Cauliflower with Eggplant jam (sugar!), pinenuts and yoghurt (more dairy).  I was starting to get a bit embarrassed by this stage that I hadn’t eaten more than two mouthfuls, so I was very relieved when the next dish was BBQ Garlic & Harissa Octopus & Skordalia.  Octopus – perfect.  One of the things I love about eating out is having things like Octopus that I would never have at home.  Octopus is supposed to have a good amount of Omega 3, calcium, potassium, phosphorus and selenium, so a good option.  I’ve since found out that sometimes Skordalia is made stale bread in the puree; or potatoes, walnuts or almonds in olive oil; but I guess you can’t win them all.  The other dish in this course was the Moroccan equivalent to Spring Rolls; spicy lamb & pinenut boreks, with yoghurt sauce.  Didn’t have any of that either.

I was sat with lots of people I’d not met before, who were very interested in my “unusual” diet and why I was quizzing the waiting staff about what was in every dish.  I love talking about Paleo, and it definitely helps to be upfront about what you’re doing.  I always find it interesting to hear how others perceive Paleo – the main response I get time after time is how impossible they would find it to give up bread.

The main dishes would have to be more Paleo, surely!  Fortunately they were, we had: -

  • Lemon Pepper Chicken Shish Kebab with Tomato Caraway Sauce, Served with Chickpea & Nut Pilaf Lamb Kafta Shish Kebab with Pomegranate Glaze, Served with Chickpea & Nut Pilaf
  • Beef Cheek Tagine with Sweet Potato & Caramelised Onions, Served with Carrot Steamed Couscous

Served with

  • Fattoush Salad Sumac and fries
Amazing food, but not the most Paleo friendly

The Chicken and Beef Tagine were great, and better still my fellow dinners were so full up on the bread, pastry and beer that there was plenty left for me.  Luckily I realised the Fattoush salad contained pita bread pieces (why?) before I took any.

Dessert was a beautifully presented sugar laden meringue with ice cream and lots of miniature sweets and cakes.  I used to have such a sweet tooth, but I noticed my attitude towards food like this has completely changed. I wasn’t even remotely tempted by these items.  When I look at food like this, instead of the enjoyment and taste I used to see, I now see the unwanted insulin spike it will give me, the less than par feeling I’d get an hour later and the Gluten, Phytates & Lectins in the grains creating all sorts of problems I just don’t want.

I left the meal $57 lighter, but feeling great – which certainly wouldn’t have been the case had I indulged as I would have pre-Paleo.

Going to a social event with non-Paleo friends soon?  Here are my top three tips to make the occasion as Paleo friendly as possible: -

1.       Find out what food will be offered in advance – call the restaurant several days in advance to explain your requirements and see if they can help you out

2.       Be open with the people you’re with about what you’re doing & why

3.       Don’t go to the event hungry, this will make it much harder for you to find your way through the maze of SAD food to the best Paleo choices

How do you manage social situations with SAD food?  Are your friends supportive?  Do you find particular social events better than others?  Let me know in the comments!

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Karen Grigg August 1, 2012 at 7:11 am

This is my being on 99% Paleo. 1% is the restaurant’s choice of cooking oil, which is the big unknown anywhere you eat out. Hubby and I eat out at an average of twice a month and mainly for lunch. We used to eat out twice a week before I became Multiple Chemical Sensitive from over exposure to many harmful chemicals and harmful heavy metals at work. Now after 3 years of extreme pain and multiple illnesses I am finally on my feet and doing very well. I had to cut out gluten and dairy and all red meats and chicken. The gluten took a awhile (6 months) and the dairy the same at the same time. The meats after that, they caused my stomach to bloat up with more big pain and produce the fowlest jet propulsion farts you would not want to smell, ever. This caused us, alone with having to avoid people with sig. smoke or perfume on them, not to go out to anywhere other than walks along the beach for the clean air. I was very isolated from everyone for a couple of years until I got well and half pain free. I have been on Paleo since finding Primal Blueprint by Mark Sisson and his 21 Day book. Both I bought through Amazon which down loaded straight onto my Kindle. The only book I can hold to read due to very weak arm muscles. By the second week after reading the book. I added organic grass fed meats to my organic vege, stopped eating Brown rice and changed the quanity of fruit and what fruit I ate. All this was very easy because I grew very bored of Brown rice and understood what Mark said about the grass fed meats, so I took a leap of faith totally into his way of thinking. NOW I AM SHOUTING FROM THE TOP OF BIG HILL THAT I WAS ABLE TO WALK UP WITHOUT STOPPING FOR BREATH. I am so healthy and happy and more able to socialise at Festivals and other outside events around other people. Still I have to keep it at a timed limit but this is absolutely wonderful and looking forward to a almost normal (still paleo 99%) life again. I am still unable to spend a days work at a job due to too long an exposure (that day) to people’s toxic body products. So still surching the net for work from home real money type of job. My income is nil. I have to totally rely on hubby’s pay. This I hate. Work Cover does not cover workers getting ill from work chemicals. That fight is another story. But for now I preach the Paleo life to all that ask me where I have been, and how did I loose my excess weight at my age of 52. All good xoxoxo Kaz

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Suzanne Langberg August 1, 2012 at 10:33 am

Hi there
great website, my son is 21 and is on a Paleo diet due to a health issue, we did tons of research on Paleo which was amazing.
Eating out is difficult – when you look at no dairy, gluten free etc, the worst offenders in eating out
Airports, some cities when on Holidays just wanting a quick bite to eat etc, wow if I had the money I would love to open a chain of eating outlets Paleo – hopefully will see something in the future
regards
Suzanne

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Bee August 7, 2012 at 8:23 pm

I agree with lots of the strategies mentioned and I also recommend them to people. It’s important to be realistic about WHERE you choose to dine. Some places are just not equipped to accommodate some dietary restrictions. I always eat before I go out for dinner. I am a Coeliac and the tip I would give if you have a meal arrive with something on it that you cannot eat, mark the plate to be sure they completely change the meal and don’t just remove the offending morsel. So cut the vegetables in half or cover with a dressing or anything so you will recognise if the same plate is returned to you. The other thing I do is always carry snacks. Especially if you are travelling. Can’t beat a “nature packaged” banana or some nuts.
Other than that, be prepared to ask questions. As you go along you will be able to identify a lot just from reading the menu and understanding how food is prepared.
It’s all worth it to feel well.
Bee

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Indigo November 1, 2012 at 5:33 pm

I’ve just been thinking of how to overcome the same problem. Making your own plate to take to friends is a perfect idea. My main issue is trying to keep my self esteem whilst others look down on the way I eat or think that I have an eating disorder. The worst is going to a function and looking at the table of food and it’s all processed (full of wheat, preservatives and dodgy meat). People don’t understand why you don’t want to eat. I usually leave early or say I’m going out for dinner soon. Even when I go to see family for dinner I feel a great sense of pressure. I get comments like ” aunt May is 80 years old and she microwaves in plastic and eats whatever and she is healthy”. My latest thought is that I’m going to carry some highly complex journal articles with me and if anyone starts doubting me I’m going to suggest in a very friendly way “have a read of these – the research is pretty compelling”.

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Steve H June 4, 2013 at 9:21 pm

I basically follow exactly your suggestions already. It works pretty well.

Most of the time, I opt for steak and a side of vegetables. Good thing I love steaks. The biggest challenge is generally to find a fatty steak, not too lean. However, that’s just because I eat low carb as well as 98% paleo.

The biggest concern for me is avoiding gluten and dairy. I allow myself butter and heavy cream, but that’s all on the dairy. So I always check that my dishes are gluten and dairy free.

Mostly, my strategy is not to eat out much. I don’t have much call to do so, which makes things easier. My whole family is mostly paleo.

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Melissa August 20, 2014 at 12:53 am

I think it’s good to take a plate if you can and try and make it look really interesting, so other people want it. If you can afford it, and you’re going to be hungry, take 2 different things so it looks like you are eating a wider variety of things :)

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