During the week, it is fairly easy for me to stay paleo. I pack mine, and my boyfriend’s lunches every day, and cook every night (or at least have plenty of paleo snack food, and leftovers in the house). The weekend however, is a different story. Inevitably the phone will start ringing because our friends want to go out. This would be fine if they always wanted to go to nice restaurants specializing in local and organic products (living in Chicago, there are actually quite a few options here), pot lucks or bbq’s, where we could bring our own paleo friendly food, or somewhere that doesn’t involve food at all. Unfortunately, this usually isn’t the case. More often than not, our friends want to go out for deep dish pizza, wings, beer, or a place that specializes in all things fried. This then raises the question; How do I stay paleo, while still maintaining my social life?” This is difficult for anyone who is trying to eat healthier, not just those of us who are paleo. Here are some solutions that work for me.
1. Don’t go. This sounds extreme, but is the easiest way to avoid temptation. If your friends really are your friends, they will understand that a night of pizza and beer is simply not conducive to the lifestyle you are trying to lead, and assuming you still spend a fair amount of time with them on other occasions, will understand. Another solution is, skip the meal, but still join friends after for the movie, or drinks.
2. Offer an alternative. This is a go to solution for us. Instead of heading out to the local sports bar for fight, or game night, we host it at home. Then, we have complete control over the menu, and our friends can still bring over some beer and a pizza if it makes them happy (though I have to admit it irks me when I spend 2 hours cooking and someone brings a pizza). When we do go out, we try to coax our friends into more paleo friendly dining options. Mexican, Italian, Steakhouses, or seafood places are plentiful, affordable, and can usually satisfy both paleo and non-paleo appetites. In addition, instead of going to a pub, or brewery for drinks, suggest a wine or tequila bar. These drinks are paleo, and who doesn’t like tequila?
3. Hope there are paleo options on the menu. The aforementioned steak, seafood, Mexican, and Italian places almost always have a grilled meat dish with a choice of sweet potato and/or veggie side. This can be more difficult at the pizza and wing joints. You may just have to skip dinner, or find the closest thing to a paleo option on the menu. Sadly, this often results in eating a lettuce salad with no dressing, or snagging the celery from your friend’s wing plate. Its occasions like this that give paleo a bad rep, because there really isn’t anything you can eat.
Some paleo friendly dining options in the Chicagoland area:
DMK Burger Bar: We recently discovered this place, and it’s fantastic. Their beef is grass fed, and their sweet potato fries are fried in beef fat. They also have a nice beer list for your non paleo friends. To keep totally compliant you will have to leave off the bun and cheese of course.
Farmhouse Tavern: Another place with a great beer list. This Chicago restaurant specializes in local ingredients, getting all of their meat from Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Michigan. There is a board on the wall that lets you know exactly which farm each item comes from. The house made jerky is fantastic, as are the local wines and beers.
Chipotle: Not all dining options have to be fancy. My boyfriend and I love this place when we just want a quick meal, and I don’t feel like cooking. Their meats are hormone and antibiotic free, and they use local ingredients when they are in season. Try a burrito bowl (this means no tortilla) with meat, veggies, salsa and guac. If you are primal, you can add some beans, cheese and crema to it, and it’s still satisfying.
Whole Foods: Not only does this place carry an abundance of organic groceries, but they have cafes and salad bars as well. You can pop in on your lunch break and grab a half chicken with veggies (same price as a two piece meal from popeye’s), hit the salad bar, or grab some soup. Many other eco-minded grocers have these options as well. Lemon Tree Grocer in Downers Grove even hosts dinner parties.