eating out... original food diet style

We love to eat out at restaurants. Food prepared by someone else... no dishes to do....ahh! I love it.

This diet made it really, really hard to enjoy a meal outside the house....for a while, anyway.
It took us a bit, but we found ways to eat real food at a restaurant, and even do it frugally. :D

Here's what I've learned about eating "original food" style when we go out:

1. Salad is good.

Salad is filling, fresh, and when served without meat or dairy, it's often very cheap compared to most entrees.

If you do go the salad route, be sure to avoid any cheese or dairy-based dressings. Sometimes we eat dressing on our salad, sometimes we don't. If we do, it's a clear {not creamy or chunky} vinaigrette, and if they don't have one, I get really crazy and make my own:

All it takes is a little honey and red wine vinegar and/or oil:

I try not to obsess too much about dressing at restaurants- I try to pick the healthiest option, and then I get it on the side of my salad and dip as I go.

2. Nix the extras.

Any time you're eating out, you'll want to try to avoid the meat, dairy, eggs, bread, croutons, cheese, pasta, and creamy dressings. Here's where there's a big distinction between just being a lacto/ovo/pesco vegetarian vs. vegan vs. an original foodie.

On this diet, we specifically avoid pastas, breads, and calorically dense flours. Most vegetarians and vegans will eat those foods, but we try not to eat bread or flour-based products because they are so easily digested and stored as excess. 

So when we go out, we don't eat the free chips, or the loaves of bread that are so tempting, however, we may or may have not been seen eating from our tiny salsa bowls with a fork....Ahem. :)

3.  Go for the sides servings of vegetables.

I'm amazed at how filling vegetable sides are! When you ask for veggies, try to request olive oil in place of the butter they usually smother them in. Plain potatoes are our favorite choice at deli's and Wendy's. I even went all out and ate two plain sweet potatoes at a steakhouse on Mother's Day! 

{note: some restaurants roll their potatoes in grease. I specifically did not ask if they did that to my potatoes that day. I'd been looking forward to their sweet potatoes for weeks, and didn't want to give them up! haha!}

We went to an Italian restaurant on a date a few weeks ago, and were disappointed to hear their minestrone was made with beef broth. Of all things! ;) So, our waitress got creative with our restrictions and had the chef prepare a side of veggies with olive oil: 

It was amazing! And, the veggies and salad together were less than 1/2 of the price of an entree there. Our dinner total came to $12! {note: this is when you should tip very, very, well. Enjoying a cheap meal means you should give a bigger tip, not smaller... :) }

Which leads me to:

4. Ask your server for help.

One time we were in a small town, hours away from home, and starving for lunch. We were thrilled to eat at the local Chili's, until we read the menu. They didn't have a single vegetarian entree or appetizer on it, and the sides were $2.50 each.

This was week two or so of the diet, so I was feeling pretty bummed about my choices {none}, until we asked the server to help us. She went to the manager, and found out that we could get any salad of theirs without the chicken and cheese for around $6. And, she could also offer us a bean and rice setup for $1.

If I hadn't been in the middle of the booth, I probably would have jumped out and hugged that woman's neck. Food somehow becomes ridiculously important when you're hungry! :P

Like the server at Carino's had done, she gave us options that weren't on the menu simply because we'd asked.

Lesson: don't be afraid to be a special needs diner. Ask as politely as possible, and they will probably be glad to help you. :D

And that's what leads me to the tip that's taken me the longest to learn:

5. Don't worry too much about it.

It's just food.

It's not the end of the world if they forget to take off the cheese, right? ;) This has been so hard for me- I've always hated cheese with a passion, and don't laugh, but I hate sending things back, so getting the wrong food {especially with cheese or mayo!} used to really bother me.

{I waited tables for years me, I know that most of the time, it's not a good thing to send back food! Servers, can I get an amen?! :P}

I've tried to loosen up about it a little more these days- if I think my dressing might have sugar in it, I just deal with it, eat some of it, and go on. Or if my very favorite food at a restaurant {sushi!} has a tiny bit of crab in a roll, it's okay to eat it.

I've learned that sometimes it's better to just enjoy the food you love {and are paying for} rather than to make yourself eat something you hate in place of it. :)

We go out to eat for pleasure first, so we always try to pick the good foods, and if it's just not feasible, we  try to eat the best choice and then go back home to our regular diet.

And it works for us. :D

So, I'm interested to hear your thoughts: how do you eat real food at restaurants? Do you have any tips for managing a whole foods diet while dining out? I'm still new at this, so I'm all ears!! 


  1. This is so helpful, thanks for sharing. Recently found your blog and I am really enjoying it!

  2. good ideas! We are changing the way we eat in our house and while we arent doing a total origional food plan it will be drastic. I am pretty sure we wont be eating out for the first few weeks!

  3. Mary@FindingHealthyHopeJanuary 29, 2013 at 9:47 AM

    i could've wrote this! this is exactly what i do when we go out to eat. :)
    i try not to obsess about it, but sometimes it's hard! :)
    glad we're in it together!
    have a wonderful long weekend!

  4. Dear Mandy, I am a fellow sister in Christ and I am just writing to give you a word of caution. I myself have had health issues and have drastically changed my diet in the last year. However, after months and months of research, I chose to follow the primal/paleo lifestyle. My results have been incredible! Not only for your sake, but for the sake of your children, please consider doing a little more research (perhaps I can recommend starting at because deficiencies for children of vitamins, minerals, enzymes and nutrients that are found in the meat & eggs & dairy God has provided for us can trigger auto-immune diseases. Specifically, sources of Vitamin A are found in liver (organ meats), eggs and dairy products. These are the most bioavailable sources. Unfortunately, plant-based carotenoids provide poor sources of Vitamin A. Therefore vegetarian diets cause deficiencies in Vitamin A. Vitamin A deficiencies in children are the leading cause of childhood blindness, cause severe and minor infections, and also cause thyroid disorders, including hypothyroidism, autoimmune thyroid disorder, and possibly thyroid cancer. I am certainly not trying to scare you ( I debated about even writing to you!), but I suffer from hypothyroidism, and an autoimmune condition called Hashimoto’s disease, and neither of these is fun. Hashimoto’s also causes gluten intolerance. My body is recovering thanks to the changes we have made according to the paleo food model, however, we didn’t eat that poorly before – we’ve been eating organic for many years. Please, again, don’t just take my word for any of this. And I am now also getting ready to enroll in the Nutritional Therapy Practitioner program due to all that I have learned and experienced thru my health challenges. Blessings to you and your family!

  5. I love salad and I especially love them when someone else makes them for me--UNTIL I learned how much bacteria is growing in salad bars and how few restaurants wash their salad greens. Wet salad greens don't hold up well and dressing doesn't stick to it so the solution is just don't wash them. That kind of messed me up about salad at restaurants. I just stay home. By the way, Chick Fil A does wash there salad fixins.

  6. I totally mix and match through the restaurant. I am vegan- so I still eat some tortillas and such but I also have celiac, so I can't just eat bread and pasta willy nilly either. I don't eat added oils at home, but I already feel so picky eating out, I tend to just accept the oils in restaurants a bit. We went to Vegas last weekend and stopped at a Mexican restaurant on the way- the server thought I was nuts ordering chilequiles minus meats and cheese. They came out and asked "you just want it plain???" I answered- "Yes, with guacamole"

  7. I have to interject. There is only 1 thing needed through meat/dairy/eggs that we cannot get through veg and that is simply because the soil is depleted. It is a bacteria called b12. It is easily compensated through a supplement or enhanced nut/soy/rice milks and cereal. The rest of the minerals/vitamins we get are easily received through whole plant foods. If you research Dr Furhman, Dr Macdougall, Dr Colin Campbell, and Dr Neal Barnard, much research has been done to prove that animal proteins are linked to several diseases- like cancer and the like. As a fellow sister in Christ I urge you to read Eat to Live, The China Study, Forks Over Knives, and visit for more info on your health. Animal proteins can and do kill people everyday- you have heard of the "healthy guy" who went for a run and died of a heart attack? That is because plant based proteins kill the ethothelial lining of your arteries and deteriorate your heart. I, too have hoshimotos disease and I know the pain it is. However, I do not want to see you do more damage to your body, sister, by putting things in it that are shown to destroy it. God created the original food diet in the beginning and only started allowing people to eat meat due to their strong desire for it. It was not til after the flood did God allow it for HIS people. Please reconsider the Paleo diet. This is a heavy evolutionary belief system, that we know to not be true, that tells us to eat this way. Just saying this in love

  8. I find this comment very interesting because although I am also trying to eat this way, with chicken and fish occasionally, I am not making my children eat this way for these exact reasons (among others along this line) Some people have said well just give them vitamins, but I have read countless articles on the doubts that vitamins/supplements really work, and the best way to get what you need is to eat it. That said, I have felt better and lost a lot of weight, but I think the majority of it is due to not eating processed foods as opposed to not eating meat or animal products. My kids are also not eating most processed foods, but they are still eating meat, milk products and eggs. So they get the benefit of not eating all the processed crap and sugar, but are maintaining what they need health wise.
    Just a thought- people often argue that Adam and Eve didn't eat meat so why should we, which was true, but once sin entered the world and our diet changed, perhaps how nutrients best enter out body did as well. Just like labor became painful and disease entered world.
    In the end, I think that people need to make the best decision for their family, but be aware of all the arguments. The best thing about this diet for me personally, aside from weight loss, is that I no longer have blood sugar crashes, and for that I am very thankful.

  9. I love your blog and I love this post!!! Your hair is gorgeous. You're such a beautiful person :) I look forward to getting to know you!! I'm your newest follower.


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