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
- Fattoush Salad Sumac and fries
- 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!