Thursday, February 23, 2012

Eating Out on a Strict Diet

Someone asked me today how I deal with eating out, with my strict diet. (I'm gluten-free, vegetarian, and also trying to avoid dairy.)

I don't have gluten or dairy (or meat) at home- I've found plenty of acceptable - even tasty- ways to substitute for both gluten and dairy at home. Almond milk in my smoothies, veganrella cheese on the occasion I want a little cheese, coconut milk ice cream on the occasions I just want a dab of ice cream... And gluten-free bagels, pizza crusts, and sandwich bread. Of course all fruits, nuts, seeds, and vegetables are dairy- and gluten-free (unless you coat them with cheese and bread crumbs- but you can even get GF bread crumbs and dairy-free cheese if you're so inclined).

It's not as hard as it once was to eat tasty food at home that is gluten-free and dairy-free. However, it's not as easy to eat gluten-free and dairy-free at a typical restaurant. I find myself going through the menu using the process of elimination: meat, wheat, wheat, meat, dairy dairy meat meat wheat ... Then getting a salad, or something off the "side orders" section, where all the vegetables are. I never eat gluten, but I have strayed on the dairy when eating out. And I pay for it. It's frustrating having such limited choices at restaurants.

However, I'm not willing to give up eating out altogether. I've found a few restaurants I really like and I frequent them because they have tasty gluten-free dairy-free options. Here's a bit about where I like to eat:

Frequently, I go to Moe's, a Mexican build-your-own-meal kinda place. This is a national chain.

You go down the assembly line and build your burrito, or taco, or quesadilla, or, in my case, since I am gluten-free as well as trying to be dairy-free, I get the rice bowl. The ingredients at Moe's are quality: organic tofu, grass-fed beef, fresh-made guacamole. So I get a tofu bowl with beans, guacamole and grilled onions, no cheese or sour cream, and it's quite tasty. I even indulge and have a few corn chips (corn is gluten-free). The salsa bar *rocks*! My favorite salsa is El Guapo. Yum!

When I was in South Carolina over Christmas, I at at Moe's 3 days in a row. I was tickled pink when they opened a Moe's just a mile and a half from our house in Somerset, New Jersey in January (it's in the Cedar Grove shopping center). It was like an answered prayer. Finally, somewhere nearby that has tasty non-gluten choices,  and is relatively cheap, fast and healthy. Plus they've always got good music playing.

I should point out that Moe's, like most restaurants, is not *perfectly* gluten free; the same utensils are used to scoop the beans and rice onto a burrito or quesadilla. So if you are Celiac or severely gluten intolerant, be mindful of that. The only chain restaurant I've visited that is extremely careful about cross-contamination is Uno's Pizzeria. Separate toppings, utensils, are cooking area for gluten-free, and the manager brings out the GF entrees him/herself.

Another chain that has a tasty gluten-free menu is PF Chang's (Chinese).

The other types of restaurants I really enjoy are Indian (plenty of gluten-free dishes, but many have cheese and cream) and Japanese (hardly ever has wheat or dairy unless you get hibachi- that has butter. Also you gotta BYO soy sauce, because most soy sauce has wheat in it. I use Bragg's Amino Acids).

So why am I gluten-free and (trying to also be) dairy-free? Any of you who have read my book already know the answer: the one time my lupus tests went negative (meaning, no sign of lupus) was when I stayed on a gluten-free, dairy-free (and no artificial sweeteners) diet. I was also doing chi gung daily and exercising regularly, but when I went back to eating dairy and maintained all the other things, my tests went positive again. So... you would think that would be enough incentive to stop eating it entirely, forever.

But I'm human, and I get lazy, or tired, or tempted. I don't eat dairy all day long, or even every day, or even very much, but it doesn't seem to take much to wreak havoc with me. I decided to have a treat on Valentine's Day, and I had a big dish of premium chocolate chip ice cream at a restaurant. (Yes, it was tasty.) And I felt fine... until the next day (this is the old delayed food allergy thing). Then for 2 days, I could not completely open my left hand.

To anyone who thinks I'm being high maintenance or picky by having such a diet, I say this: if I were being picky, I would not eliminate tasty foods. As far as being high maintenance? Yes, I am. But I do my own maintenance. I bring my own food to parties. I don't ask for special favors at restaurants.

Yes, I'd love to eat whatever, whenever. Wouldn't we all? But what would I like more than being able to eat whatever, whenever? Feeling great, looking great, and having enough energy to do whatever, whenever.

Maybe that means eating out less. Maybe it means learning to cook. Maybe it means learning to like different foods. Maybe it means funny looks or weird remarks from people who don't understand. I am delighted to endure any and all of that if it means I can use my hands without trouble and avoid more prednisone, more kidney failure, another stroke, and more hospitals.

Diet is powerful. I've found some things that help me stay healthy. It's well worth the trade-off.

A couple more resources for those who are or who are thinking of trying being gluten and/or dairy free:
Restaurant lookup:

Gluten-free magazine:

Thinking of going gluten-free or dairy free?
Try it for a few weeks.
Track your symptoms, especially fatigue, irritability, brain fog, digestive and bathroom issues.
Then decide for yourself.

Not everyone has gluten or dairy intolerance, but for those of us who do, we can finally be in control of our well-being with one or 2 diet changes.

Here's to your health-

*** If you or someone you know would like to live healthier, happier, freer life, e mail me for a free one-hour consultation - I am a holistic health coach! Talk to someone who has been there and is living well now. You've got nothing to lose, and everything to gain! Start living your best life. ***

Carla Ulbrich, The Singing Patient and Health Coach - health coaching- visit this site to get a free e book on nutrition! funny medical songs