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The Paleo Roadtrip

I just returned from a 4 day trip to the middle of Ohio for my son’s baseball tournament. To paint the picture for you, we were staying at a Quality Inn Motel along Highway 75 due to its central location to all the ball fields we would be playing on. The idea was to keep the team together so the boys could hang out and have as much fun as possible. The “bonus” was the sheer number of food options all within walking distance! There was a Denny’s, a Cracker Barrel, a Waffle House, a Texas Road House, Max and Erma’s, an Outback Steak House, and a dizzying array of pizza, burger, and sandwich joints. It was an absolute smorgasbord of food options ranging from mediocre to terrifying. What is a Paleo eater to do?

When sub optimal choices are the only choice once in a while then it is not something I worry about too much. Actually if I’m really not that hungry and I think I can wait until my food choices will improve I will often just skip a meal. Now that I refrain from grains and limit sugar and starch, the blood sugar driven headaches,crankiness and shakiness are no longer a problem for me. And no, skipping a meal from time to time will NOT send your body into a deprivation spiral like some diet guru’s claim, especially if you are eating appropriately.  However, if I really am hungry or if, as in this case, I will be stuck in this “Standard American Diet Mecca” for a few days then I switch from “optimal diet” mode to “contain the damage” mode. Obviously grass-fed, pastured, humanely raised, and organic are not available options so when eating out at places like these here is the process I go through.

The steps for this is to prioritize dietary choices:

  • What are your absolutes? My absolute no-no’s are grains, legumes and dairy or anything deep-fried.
  • What are your “avoid if at all possibles”? For me this in anything cooked or dressed in seed oils, anything with soy, anything processed, and GMOs.
  • Build your meal around the Paleo basics: Animal protein, and veggies for the majority of your calories; fruit, nuts and seeds as occasional snacks.
  • Scour the menu for a few items that best fit the Paleo basics and look easy to customize. Don’t be afraid to special order! I usually choose some sort of protein that comes with a veggie and starch then just ask to hold the starch and double the veggies. An entrée salad is an option too, especially if they can provide olive oil and vinegar or lemon on the side as the dressing. Most commercial salad dressings are made with seed oils rather than olive oil or are dairy based and full of additives.  I always eliminate cheese and croutons from my salads. If olive oil and vinegar are not options always ask for the dressing on the side and use sparingly.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask how a dish is prepared. I ask for my eggs to be cooked in butter not oil. Some chains offer a gluten-free menu and I will ask for that then choose options without dairy or legumes or options where any dairy or legumes can be removed.
  • Anticipate and come prepared. I knew being in the car for several hours and being at the ball field for several hours would make food choices in the “terrifying” category. I packed grab-n-go options for these instances. I took along some of my Paleo Kits, Paleo Krunch bars, Lara Bars, fruit, macadamia nuts, and these veggie/fruit chips I found at little local grocer cooked in palm oil not seed oil. I also packed plenty of water.
  • Don’t stress too much. Remember the 80/20 rule. Make your choices from a place of love for your body and just make the best choices you can from the options available.

There are some other nuances that the strictest Paleo observers shoot for as well. These nuances include favoring ruminants over poultry or pork and leaner cuts, favoring certain fish over others due to farming practices, favoring certain veggies over others based which are the least contaminated with pesticides, certain fruits as well for the same reason as well as sugar content. These specifics would make this post exceptionally long, so I will write another post highlighting these however under the circumstances I was in (and I know many are while traveling this summer) the above guidelines go a long way in limiting the nutritional damage.

As an example, below was my diet for the 4 days:

  • Friday: Breakfast: at home. Lunch at Cracker Barrel: Chef Salad with no cheese or croutons and olive oil and vinegar on the side. Dinner at Max and Erma’s: Chicken Pecan salad with no blue cheese and balsamic vinaigrette. (The team ordered pizza delivered to the pool so I just ordered my salad, went to pick it and ate with the team.)
  • Saturday: Breakfast at Denny’s: Omelet with sauteed peppers, onions, and mushrooms with a side of turkey sausage. (I asked for it to be cooked in butter but who knows) hold the toast and hash browns and add fruit cup. Lunch: Max and Erma’s again(my kids like that place): Grilled Tuscan Chicken, hold the sauce and potatoes, keep the asparagus and add green beans. We ate a very late breakfast and lunch so we only had 2 real meals. The kids wanted ice cream after our night game so I got a small lemon sorbet. (small treat for me)
  • Sunday: Breakfast at the Waffle House: Scrambled eggs with a side of bacon and sliced tomatoes. Lunch: Max and Erma’s AGAIN!: Cajun grilled Tilapia, no crema sauce, hold potatoes. Keep green beans add asparagus. Dinner at The Landing Pad: Burger with no bun topped with guacamole and jalapenos and a side salad with vinaigrette on the side. I forgot to ask for no cheese or croutons so I had to pick them off. (My BAD! Rookie mistake)
  • Monday: Breakfast at Cracker Barrell: 3 eggs scrambled with turkey sausage and sliced tomatoes. Lunch was in the car. I chose a Paleo Kit and a Paleo Krunch bar to tide me over until we got home. For dinner we finally made it home and ate at an Italian place I trust: Filet Marsala with Zucchini marinara and a side salad with oil and vinegar.
  • My snacks throughout the week were macadamia nuts, sunflower seeds(big at ball fields) carrot chips and a Lara Bar.

The main things you’ll notice in the above menu is no grains, no dairy or legumes anywhere. I limited seed oils when I had the option. Snacks were also grain, legume and dairy free. I am now home and happy to be able to eat cleaner but while I was away, my tummy felt fine, my energy level was good and I felt no immediate adverse effects. It is occasions like this that cause most people to go their “diet”. My best advice is to remember you are not on a diet, this is just how you eat. Rather than change the way you eat to fit the situation, adapt the situation to fit the way you eat!


Until Next Time,

~ Laura, MGP

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