One of the more challenging aspects eating on the Paleo diet is eating out. When I cook my own food it’s simple to avoid the foods that cause my stomach harm. But when you go out to eat it can be challenging to find foods that don’t contain something you shouldn’t eat. Luckily, living in Oregon isn’t quite as challenging as in other parts of the country.
Northwest Food Awareness
The people of the West Coast and the Pacific Northwest in particular are especially interested in the foods they eat. Nowhere else that I’ve lived have I ever encountered so many people that knew so much about the foods they eat.
I suppose a lot of this is driven by the fact that local produce in this part of the country is a way of life. The farms of the Willamette Valley have been producing gobs of fruits and vegetables for more that 120 years.
Even in restaurants that serve traditional menus such as bakeries, you still see options that are gluten free. And they have a particular awareness about allergies such as peanuts, coconut, or anything else for that matter. One of my favorite places to eat in Bend happens to be a restaurant and bakery that uses flour based recipes. Even so, they have a wide selection of foods that I can eat.
This includes wheat free pastries, salads, and soups. This is not something that you would typically find in other parts of the country where food awareness isn’t as important.
Importance of Asking Questions
Whenever I travel to other parts of the country I have to specifically ask if dishes contain ingredients I shouldn’t be eating. Even some of the larger chains have still not included on their menu whether or not any of the items are gluten-free.
It’s also difficult to know where they would be sourcing their ingredients from. In the Northwest we are blessed with a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, and organically fed meats. In other parts of the country this is most definitely not the case.
When you go to a restaurant be sure to ask the server if they know what ingredients are contained in any dish you might want. This might seem like a hassle, but it can be very important. In addition to knowing what you are about to eat, you encourage restaurants to recognize and better understand the needs of their customers.
Of course there will be many instances where the server will literally have no idea what all the ingredients are. And sometimes it might be best just to avoid certain foods altogether. Most kitchens are not equipped with the facilities to separate gluten free from non. Depending on your level of sensitivity this may not be that much of an issue.
Have a Backup Plan
If you’re extremely sensitive to certain food ingredients it’s always a good idea to have a backup plan. Either bring some food along or just wait until after dinner to eat. Just remember that saving yourself from a few minutes of social discomfort is no match to the physical pain you might have to endure from eating something you shouldn’t.