Hey guys! I’m backkkkk. Sorry for the unexpected hiatus! After traveling for a couple weeks, I came back and was immediately thrown into reality with insanity at work and tons of family and friend obligations. After a few weeks off I found it really hard to get back into the swing of things and started getting super intimidated with where to even start. But I’m just forcing myself to jump back in because I really love writing about this stuff and sharing with everyone.
After eating at restaurants a lot on my trip I thought it might be a good idea to do a post about how I decide what to eat when I’m out. While there is really no way to be sure that you’re fully avoiding added or refined sugars when eating at restaurants, you can certainly limit the amount of sugar.
When I eat at home, even at family members’ homes, they typically take into account my no sugar guidelines because they know how much it’s benefited my health. However, when I eat at restaurants, I have no reliable way of sourcing what’s in my food, and I usually don’t feel like burdening the server with attempting to figure it out. I’ve discovered a few simple tips to help me at least consume less sugar, if not completely avoid it. I love eating at new local restaurants and sharing a meal out with family and friends and I don’t want my dietary restrictions to ruin that joy.
Tip #1: Avoid sauces and dressings. You can pretty much just assume that most delicious sauces probably have some sugar lurking within them. If you feel comfortable, you can ask the server, but I usually don’t. It’s possible they wouldn’t even know. I just avoid the sauce to play it safe. Does it sometimes make my meal a little less exciting, yes. Is it worth it to me? Also, yes. If it’s a good restaurant, the food will still be good without the sauce.
Tip #2: Basics are best. When in doubt, just order a basic protein and/or vegetable. If you go sans sauce, they typically won’t have sugar added to them. However, keep in mind that any special seasoning they use could have sugar in it as well. Blackened seasoning for instance does sometimes contain a little sugar. Choose eggs over waffles, salmon over fried chicken, etc. Sometimes you might not have a ton of healthy options. In that case, choose the lesser of two evils. For example, in a cafe when traveling recently, I had the choice of a muffin or a piece of whole grain bread with cream cheese, smoked salmon, and cucumbers. The muffin would fill me up temporarily, but it’s filled with sugar, and while the bread might have a little sugar, that choice offers proteins and nutrients as well, making it hands down the better option.
You’ll also want to be mindful of the fact that just because something is organic, gluten free, or “healthy” doesn’t necessarily mean it’s low in sugar. You’ll have to use your basic knowledge of what kinds of foods do and don’t usually have added sugar to make your decision, but generally, the more basic, the less likely there are hidden ingredients.
Tip #3: Eat at restaurants that care about ingredients- If a restaurant is going out of their way to advertise that they try to source locally-grown or organic products, they will probably be more apt to paying attention to what they put in their food in general. I feel like it’s probably pretty common for those types of restaurants to get questions about ingredients since ingredients are a focal point of the restaurant. It’s somewhat expected, and I also feel like the servers will be better informed and more willing to talk to me about it if I ask.
Tip #4: Plan ahead- If you like to eat at restaurants for convenience, find a restaurant or a specific meal option that you know is safe to have on standby when you need something easy. I know of a specific restaurant locally that doesn’t use refined sugars in their food. If I eat there, I don’t even need to ask and can order pretty much anything on the menu.
Many chain restaurants, even fast food places, offer their nutrition facts and ingredients online. If you know you sometimes go to Chipotle (great option for low sugar btw) for lunch when you’re busy, research it. Then you’ll know what to order when you go in the future. Figure out a low-sugar option ahead of time so you don’t have to make a split second decision or spend time analyzing the whole menu when you’re there. Planning ahead is key when avoiding sugar at home or in restaurants.
Tip #5: Try one bite- If you’re with a friend or family member who orders something that looks amazing and they offer you a bite, take it! One bite never hurt anybody! I love sharing food with others. Dan actually makes fun of me because I will offer him to try my food before he’s even tried his own meal. Food is an experience for me, and sharing is a great way to get to try something you wouldn’t necessarily order without having to deal with the negative consequences, like a blood sugar crash. You also won’t be tempted to keep eating it because if you’re like Dan and I, the other person won’t let you. hah!
Dan and I like to go out for breakfast. He loves waffles and there is an amazing local farm to table coffee shop near our house that serves waffles on the weekends. They have amazing rotating waffle flavors like orange champagne, black forest cherry, and tiramisu. They’re to die for. So cool and so tasty. We go at least a couple times a month. I know that waffles are of course not going to be sugar free, so he gets a waffle, and I get their equally delicious frittata. But you better believe that on occasion I’m tasting a bite of his waffle. Not every time, but if there’s a flavor I want to try, I go for one bite. I get to experience the waffle without feeling like crap the rest of the day. Best of both worlds.
Eating at a restaurant is a privilege and one that many of us enjoy. If you’re eating at a restaurant, you have choices. You can choose to eat a whole waffle knowing that it will come with a brief feeling of satisfaction and feeling shitty the rest of the day, or you can miss out on the few minutes of pleasure the waffle will bring and feel great the rest of the day. Your choice. Sometimes it’s okay to pick the former, but I generally choose the latter.
What are your favorite places to dine out? I’d love to do future posts about low sugar options at specific restaurants.