Getting back to eating lean and green has been my new thing lately. And while I’m not 100% Paleo, I strive towards this way of eating and really do believe in it’s grounding principles. The ever popular Paleo Diet is all about natural food cooked simply. Paleo, short for Paleolithic, also known as the “Caveman Diet,” consists of eating mostly fish, meats (pasture-raised and humanely killed), vegetables, roots, nuts and fruits. The diet excludes anything “refined” — including dairy, sugars, processed oils, legumes and grains. The premise is to eat like our ancestors did 10,000 years ago and before the dawn of the agricultural age. Since grains and beans are off-limits, Paleo is especially well-matched for carb-watchers. Getting rid of gluten and dairy provides positive results for scores of people, so it’s no wonder that many enjoy the results of eating the Paleo way. But, as with any diet or exercise regimen, be sure to talk to your doctor before making any drastic changes in your routine.
If you’re like me and are trying to eat a more healthful diet consisting of whole foods, but finding it difficult to navigate the world of restaurants, we’re offering up our best Paleo/whole foods options for dining out to take the guess work out of it and help us all stay on track with our resolutions to eat more healthily.
Dining Out Tips
When dining out, consider eating local first. These restaurants typically serve fresh, locally sourced ingredients and are more likely to have organic, grass-fed, pastured products and know their menus and ingredients inside out. Some of my favorite farm-to-table restaurants around town are Little Savannah, Hot and Hot, Highland’s, Bottega, Chez Fon Fon, Ocean, Johnny’s, Jim N’ Nicks, Brick and Tin, Urban Cookhouse, Carrigan’s Public House and 26.
In general, it is pretty easy to stay the Paleo course when dining out if you just follow some simple guidelines. Choose a salad (hold the cheese and croutons) and order extra meat or hard boiled eggs if it doesn’t already come with enough protein. Ask for olive oil and vinegar as dressing. You can order a burger – no bun – and a salad or try a meat, chicken, or fish entrée with extra veggies. Mexican food in general is pretty easy to adapt to Paleo since most dishes center on meats and veggies. The hard part is saying no to the chips and queso! Your best bet? Order the fajitas and have them hold the tortillas, rice and beans.
But in order to really take the guess work out of it, we went straight to the experts. Our friends at Iron Tribe were happy to share their go-to spots around town for Paleo eating done right. Linden, a trainer at the Mountain Brook location, shares her top picks with us today:
Linden’s Top Picks:
- Taco Mama: Burrito bowl with steak. Extra lettuce, pico de gallo, guacamole, jalapenos and occasionally rice if I’m needing a more filling carb option. (This is not necessarily Paleo with the rice, but a small amount won’t set you back too far if that’s the worst thing you eat all day.)
- Tracy’s: Meat & 2, either Greek baked chicken or grilled chicken. Their grilled chicken is also a great salad choice. It’s incredible. Perfect seasoning. For the two sides, I usually pick from green beans, collard greens and, sometimes, sweet potatoes. Again, if I’m not going 100% paleo I’ll spring for the stewed apples or fried okra. It’s a small amount so nothing that’ll knock you off track. (I skip the roll or corn bread.)
- Mafiaoza’s: The Puccetti Salad is AWESOME! I usually substitute balsamic dressing and ask for it on the side instead of the poppyseed dressing, but that’s just because I prefer the taste. It’s not necessarily a health decision. They serve it with fried goat cheese coins. Goat cheese is actually considered Paleo because of the pasteurization process and because of the source it is coming from. Most goats are free range and aren’t fed a ton of grains. However the outer fried part isn’t Paleo-friendly, so I normally break mine open and just eat the cheese out of the middle. Yum!
- Urban Cookhouse: Berry Good Salad without feta, add chicken or chicken salad. Or try The Down Home with the smoked turkey and ham, sub broccoli salad instead of the pasta. Skip the orange roll.
- Crestline Bagel: They have excellent chicken salad. Though mayonnaise is one of those gray areas, there isn’t a ton added into theirs so it’s pretty safe. I usually get a salad without cheese from there so I get my veggies in, too.
We’ve also uncovered some other great Paleo-friendly options around town:
- Flat Top Grill: This is a great option, as you create your own bowl of stir fry, so loading up on protein and veggies and avoiding rice and noodles is no problem. They have an easy-to-navigate menu which includes allergy and dietary restriction information. Pick your protein and veggies and eat it as is from the bowl or create your own lettuce wraps.
- Kobe: This Japanese steakhouse makes it easy to customize your order. Just hold the rice and be leery of the sauces. Ask for gluten-free soy sauce and non-marinated meats if staying true to Paleo is important to you, otherwise just load up on protein and veggies and enjoy the knife show!
- Panera Bread: I know, it’s crazy that a place with bread in there name actually has Paleo-friendly options, but the Power Menu is just that. The breakfast bowl with either eggs, steak, avocado and tomatoes or roasted turkey, egg whites and greens is a sure bet to get you up and going in the morning. And with options like the Mediterranean Chicken Salad, the Steak Lettuce Wraps with Pesto or the Chicken Hummus Bowl (note that hummus is not Paleo, so be aware if you don’t want to cheat), powering up at Panera is a no brainer.
- Jim ‘n Nicks: The pulled chicken with double turnip greens and sweet potatoes is a super tasty option, but sweet potato is one of those gray areas. Many Paleo peeps include this tuber in their diet, but not all agree that it is wholly Paleo.
- For pre-made Paleo meal options at home, Iron Tribe also offers meals by Inner Fire. These meals, along with their crazy good Grainless Granola, are Paleo and you DO NOT need to be a member to buy these items. The granola is almost always on hand (just walk into any location), and you can order the meals by calling any location, as well.
Fad diet or not, anything that encourages eating lots of veggies and staying away from processed foods is, in my mind, a good thing. And though dining out always seems to be the downfall of any healthy eating plan, with today’s round up, it doesn’t have to be.