Thursday, September 29, 2011

Eating out while on the road

About a year after starting my new way of eating, I started eating out again.  That sounds really restrictive, but in reality, I honestly hadn't felt much like eating out until then.  The food we were cooking at home was delicious - deliciously simple.

Then, in August, we spent some time in hotels and with family on trips to Toronto and Ottawa, as well as a few days camping in a provincial park.  I had to make some choices about what to eat and learned a couple of things in the process.

The first thing I learned is that when staying with relatives, it can be hard to turn down homemade breakfast pancakes, especially when said relatives take pride in their "healthy" approach to food, and load up generously on whole grains as recommended by Canada's Food Guide.  I made a couple of executive decisions based more on tact than I would have normally preferred, and which admittedly compromised my diet a little.  But since we were only there for two days, no great harm was done.  For breakfast, I ate just one pancake with some fresh raspberries rather than a stack slathered in butter and maple syrup.  At a barbecue where hamburgers were served with corn on the cob, brown rice salad and green salad, followed by apple pie and ice cream (5 carb portions when you include the bun), I limited myself to the burger without the bun, a large portion of green salad with a small helping of rice salad on the side.  I was able to gracefully pass on the desert because this was plenty. 

We also ate at a couple of restaurants which were resounding successes.  At a Vietnamese restaurant, I ordered a delicious barbecued chicken dish, which, according to the menu, came with salad, bean sprouts and rice noodles.  The owner was more than happy to substitute more salad for the rice noodles.  Similarly, at a Thai takeout, I ordered a magnificent stir-fry.  When I asked if they would hold the rice that came with the dish, the server asked if I would like bean sprouts instead.  The way she asked me, I realized I wasn't the first customer who had made this request.

The third unmitigated success was at a sushi restaurant, where I ordered sashimi. It came served on a thick bed of julienned daikon radish.  The salad and miso soup that came with the meal were great low carb choices, and the absence of rice on the fish, while making the meal a little more expensive than it would have been had it been sushi, certainly enhanced my sense of culinary enjoyment. Sushi rice, after all, doesn't do much more than fill you up.

I expected our camping trip to present some problems, but in fact, it wasn't hard at all.  We brought fresh tomatoes and peppers which we cooked into a basic pasta sauce and served on a bed of quinoa (I don't eat much quinoa, which counts as a carb, albeit a healthy one.  But I do enjoy it on occasion).  A package of frozen ground beef stayed sufficiently cold in the cooler to be turned into tacos (without the tortilla) one day, and burgers the next.  We brought plenty of farm eggs with us, and used them to make delicious menamen on the campfire.  Bacon and eggs were wonderful for breakfasts, as was a bowl of leftover quinoa served with crudely chopped nuts with a little almond milk.

I learned that eating out and camping are perfectly possible while eating low carb.  Sometimes you have to decide whether refusing a particular dish will offend, and other times carefully choosing your restaurant strategically and asking for substitutions make it possible to make menu choices that don't stand out excessively from those of your carbohydrate-loving dinner companions.


  1. Sashimi is such a perfect low-carb restaurant meal. I'm so glad you are finding that the outside world can be accommodating and delicious even with a "restricted" (lol!) diet.

    When my fiancee and I first started eating grain-free and low-carb, we got the usual flood of negative comments about our "dangerous and unhealthy" diet by the hardcore grain-eaters. But over time, as our appearance, energy, and mental alacrity improved by leaps and bounds (which surprised the heck out of me, albeit pleasantly), people stopped commenting. Instead they started asking what we were doing to cause such a transformation, and how they could do it too. We've even had people we're dining with slyly push the bun off their burger when we tell them we never touch the stuff. Turns out this way of eating is contagious -- how wonderful is that? I can think of nothing better than a general return to health for an entire population!

  2. (Let me clarify that by 'mental alacrity' I don't mean I became a genius -- I came out of a life-long mental fog that was the result of undiagnosed food allergies. Though I would not be averse to a superhero-level IQ boost...)

  3. Those opinions about this "dangerous & unhealthy" diet unnerved me at first. But the more I thought about it, and the more I searched, all I could find was evidence that the essential nutrients are in the non-carb sources. The carbs on our plate are there for filler and economy. For the life of me I couldn't figure out what was so essential about grain. I totally get it that whole and ancient grains provide more nutritional value than white flour, but since the vast majority of people don't eat them, and never will, it seems rather silly to believe that they are essential. By extension, if you cut them out, it's crazy to think that the remaining foods can possibly be dangerous. But such is the extent of the carb-heavy grain-indoctrination in our society.