No matter whether you are starting a sugar detox on your own, or you are joining a program like the RESTART program, 21 Day Sugar Detox, or the Whole30, one thing is clear: the best way to stay clear of hidden sugars and processed ingredients is to cook at home. However, the reality is that we all have busy lives or we still want to socialize at restaurants with our friends from time to time, and cooking EVERY one of our meals during the sugar detox may not fit within our lifestyle.
And hey, that’s totally fine! One of the main rules of changing to a healthier diet or lifestyle is: Be kind to yourself. Don’t stress out about not sticking to the diet perfectly, but DO try to make the best decision possible with the options that you are presented with. If you are looking to learn how to do just that while dining out, follow these tips so you can still enjoy restaurant food while sticking to the sugar detox!
1. Pick the restaurant yourself and do your research.
If you have plans to meet with your friends, offer to pick a restaurant yourself. My friends know I have food restrictions so they just leave that up to me, and it usually turns out to be delicious!
Yelp will be your best friend. I always filter my search with words like “gluten free,” “farm to table,” “organic,” or “paleo.” These restaurants will be more accommodating to your needs in case you need to make changes to the menu items. You can even call ahead to make sure they offer a flexible menu and talk about your restrictions.
2. Ask about ingredients.
This might seem uncomfortable and intimidating at first, but the more you do it, the easier it gets! Ask if there are any hidden ingredients like breadcrumbs, cheese, soy sauce, or flour. If the server isn’t sure, she or he will just go back and ask the chef. And even better if the chef comes to talk to you directly, because they are usually willing to make a dish especially for you.
Another way to ask is if they have gluten free options on the menu, or even a gluten free menu. Half the work is already done for you if they do, and these menus are usually better about listing the ingredients in each menu item.
3. Salads are you best friend.
Almost any kind of restaurant will serve some type of salad, and this will be your go-to option. Make sure to let them know to leave out cheese, croutons, or any other ingredients that’s not on your sugar detox plan. Ask for protein choices that are grilled, and not breaded or fried.
If you are at a buffet, a restaurant with a salad bar, or see a build-your-own option, make sure to take advantage of that! You’ll have freedom with the ingredients you choose which will help you to make the best possible choices.
4. Sneak in your own condiments.
Some of the most offensive ingredients are in sauces and dressings. Avoid artificial sweeteners, gluten, and vegetable oils by bringing your own. I have brought tamari sauce to Japanese restaurant, and olive oil or dressing if I know I’ll be having a salad. I like using travel-sized bottles to keep these in so I can carry them easily in my purse.
5. Hold the rice, hold the bun.
Don’t be afraid to let your server know that you don’t want certain items that come with your dish. It’s so much easier to avoid the temptation of eating them when they are not there, and the restaurant doesn’t waste food that way either.
If I’m at a Thai or Indian restaurant, I’ll ask them to tone down on the spiciness of a stir-fry dish or their curry, and say I don’t want rice. Making the dish a bit milder makes it easier to eat on its own. At a sushi joint, I’ll just order a shashimi or a salad that doesn’t come with rice.
Same goes with bread and buns. Just say no to bread baskets. If you are choosing a meal, burgers and sandwiches are a great option and it’s really easy get them bun-less (all the flavors are in the meat and fillings anyway!).
6. Ask for substitutions.
I used to be afraid to do this, but most restaurants are really accommodating about it and I have gotten quiet comfortable with it. I think food allergies are getting more and more recognized so it’s becoming easier to ask for substitutions while dining out.
Getting a burger? Ask for a salad as a side instead of fries. They’ll be sugar detox compliant with the dressing you brought from home! You can also ask for grilled or roasted veggies instead!
Don’t want to bring your own dressing? Ask if they can provide olive oil and vinegar instead. Fresh lemon is also a great choice to season your meat, salads, and more. If they have guacamole on the menu, I’ll order that on the side to use as my dressing and it’s delicious!
Do they use vegetable oils to cook their food? Most likely. Ask if they can use olive oil or butter instead. Most restaurants will have those two cooking fats.
Make sure to get creative! If you ask them to hold the rice on a dish, ask if you have extra veggies instead. There are so many options that can be easily accommodated once you start getting comfortable with asking.
7. Be super duper nice and friendly.
Seriously, be polite and grateful with your server and it’ll go a loooong way! Smile and be friendly because the restaurant will be way more likely to be accommodating with your requests. Also, be confident with what you are asking. As long as YOU look and sound comfortable, the people you are dining with and the server won’t make a big deal out of it either. Leave a good tip if you received exceptional service.
8. Don’t stress out too much.
Make sure to enjoy your meal and have a good time! If you weren’t able to stick to the sugar detox plan 100% with your meal, that’s okay. Stressing out about it will only impact your body negatively and you’ll have a much better result both physically and mentally if you can just practice gratitude for the food in front of you and enjoy it thoroughly.
Move on with your day, and keep practicing every time you dine out. Just like anything, you’ll get better and better the more experience you have!