Eating out is a bit of a "trick" . . . until you become familiar with the legal foods and hidden illegals. We didn’t eat out as much in the beginning as we do now since it was hard to really “know” how to order. The great thing about building the immune system stronger with the SCD, is that now when we accidentally get anything illegal, we don't get as sick and the symptoms don't last as long.
We’ve learned it’s better to play it safe than to be sorry. So we ask our wait person (in these words) to bring us “grilled/baked/roasted unmarinated chicken or beef, turkey, fish, steamed or grilled vegetables with olive oil/butter, salt and pepper only . . . and salads with olive oil and red wine vinegar or lemon juice and no croutons.” That’s about as safe as you can get. Avoid gravies, sauces, and dressings. You can make them at home with safe ingredients but it’s best to assume they will contain illegals away from home. Ask if the chopped beef is 100% beef . . . it’s sometimes fortified with soy or fillers. Make sure your scrambled eggs are the “real thing” without additives and not Egg Beaters (they are fake eggs). Ask for boiled or fried eggs to be safer. If you're joining friends for dinner at a place not of your choosing, take a bag of unsalted raw nuts & raisins, just in case there’s nothing on the menu you can have. For parties, eat before you go or take a “legal” dish to share with others. You will impress your friends with safe, healthy foods and likely find those who need to know what you know about foods.
You can usually find safe foods at cafeterias, and can see what you’re getting. Choose the plain, simply prepared dishes with no gravies, sauces, toppings, coatings (breaded), etc. My standard is sliced roast beef or sliced baked chicken (not fried . . . no gravy or dressing). Avoid processed ham and the chopped beef (it’s likely sitting in bullion gravy which they call “natural gravy”). Choose plain, steamed legal veggies (broccoli, spinach, green beans, carrots, etc.) and tossed salad with lemon juice or vinegar and oil, or take your own salad dressing. Order green salads with no croutons. Avoid all jelled and pre-dressed salads as they will have sugar and other illegals.
When eating at better restaurants with others, arrive early and question the waiter or cook, or call ahead and ask questions; or order last so the others in the group won’t be held up while you ask questions. If at a loss, try telling the waiter, "For health reasons, I must avoid all flour, sugar, starch and gluten; that means nothing breaded, or in sauces or marinated. What can you offer me?" Ask the server, “Please check with the chef to make sure everything is safe because I’d really prefer not getting sick while I’m here.” They definitely don’t want you getting sick from their food J. If you’re getting grilled foods, make sure they are NOT grilled over charcoal briquettes, as these contain gluten that rises and contaminants the food. Avoid stir-fry dishes in restaurants as these usually contain illegal soy sauce, or they are sautéed on the same grill in which a soy dish was previously cooked.
Ask for steamed or grilled vegetables with real butter, salt and pepper; baked, broiled, or grilled meats with only salt and pepper; smothered/roasted chicken breast (NOT Teriyaki or marinated); grilled chicken (make sure it’s not marinated), salad with NO croutons, bread, or crackers (don’t pick croutons off as there will still be crumbs - take your own SAFE crackers or bread made from almond flour). Many SCDrs never trust any kind of commercial dressing or one made by a chef. They ask for oil and vinegar and make their own. The safest dressings are the ones you bring from home.
Fast food restaurants are almost always “off limits” unless you know they have unmarinated baked/broiled chicken or a very large salad bar. Hamburger meat is often made with wheat crumb filler. How do you know if you're getting 100% meat? ASK the wait person to double check. In more expensive restaurants, order a hamburger without the bun; but don’t disassemble a burger, as the bread will have contaminated the other ingredients. Don't go to cheaper restaurants where they serve fake food, and even if you choose a "good" restaurant, ASK questions. Tell the wait staff that you have severe reactions to food and you must be 100% sure there is no grain, sugar, starch, or gluten. Do not eat chicken breasts unless you are in a very serious restaurant, as most of them will buy bags of cutlets that have been injected with starch and sugar so they'll keep longer and taste better to people raised on TV dinners. Always ask if steak or roast is pre-seasoned, as you would be surprised at the fairly expensive restaurants that season the meat with illegal ingredients like garlic powder. Do not order omelets or scrambled eggs, as most restaurants use mixes with all kinds of “illegals”. Order fried or boiled eggs (so you know they are real eggs).
From any of the nicer restaurants with a highly varied family menu, order plain broiled or grilled meat (cooked over gas or real wood, no briquettes), baked chicken or fish, plain veggies, plain salad (no croutons) with plain wine or apple cider vinegar and olive oil on the side, or lemon wedges for your dressing. Many places will bring you a side of grilled onions, if you ask. Just make sure they are grilled in butter, salt and pepper only, with no soy sauce added. Side order sliced avocado and raw onions and tomatoes to add to your salad or breakfast eggs. Oil and red wine or apple cider vinegar is often available for a dressing. Sunflower seeds, raisins and lemon juice are always safer than even the vinegar dressings. It’s usually safer to order the entrée and the side dishes separately to avoid contamination, just in case one isn’t what you thought. Always a winner . . . steak . . . grilled or broiled and seasoned with only real butter, salt and pepper; steamed veggies with real butter and chives; and tossed salad with lemon juice (or your own dressing).
Occasionally Mexican restaurants are safe. Make sure the chicken is not marinated. The lettuce and tomatoes are just that. Make sure the salsas don’t contain thickeners and/or sugar . . . ask. Most salsas are just tomatoes, onions, and peppers. The guacamole is another item to ask about . . . make sure it doesn’t contain MSG or packaged seasonings which will contain wheat or sugars. Often the green sauce is safe. The red sauce usually has flour as a thickener, however. A big tossed salad with sliced tomatoes, avocados, onions, unmarinated chicken and salsa is great (if it’s just tomatoes, peppers, onions, cilantro, salt). Fry some cheese before you leave home to have with it, or take plain pork skins along.
In Chinese restaurants, anything brown has soy sauce which contains wheat! If anything has a white sauce, it’s prepared with cornstarch or flour . . . also illegal. Many dishes are thickened with flour or packaged seasonings that contain wheat.
For out of town trips, I cook ahead and stop at grocery stores along the way. For banquets or hotel functions, talk to the caterer in advance and request the same foods you request in restaurants or a fruit plate. When I travel for conferences, I take an insulated Therma-Bag on rollers (found at Academy) and replace the ice daily from the hotel ice machine. There are also small portable electric refrigerators available at Sam’s and other retail outlets that will plug into your car cigarette lighter. Traveling these days reminds me of how we used to always travel with food when our children were small.
Unfortunately, we must accept the fact that whenever we eat out, we always take a risk of getting “illegals” either in the recipe or by cross-contamination. Hopefully, by eating as safe as possible at all times, some accidental cross-contamination occasionally won't be too bad for us. The worst thing we can do is to become so fearful that we stop going and enjoying life. Learning to ask questions and to tell them what you want when dining out is the secret to success. Remember that the waitpersons are there to accommodate YOU . . . and do be gracious and generous with your tip when they go out of their way to accommodate you.