My paleo “fast food” guide.
I want to start this post with a disclaimer that I am no dietician or health expert. In fact, I would describe my diet as “paleo-ish and sometimes donuts.” I truly love the energy I have and how healthy I feel when I’m adhering to a paleo diet, but I also think that there is no substitution for a good old fashioned NY pizza. Due to this, I allow myself a couple of deliciously planned cheat meals each week. Yes, they make my stomach hurt; no, I do not regret them.
With that said, I do find myself on the go a lot between play dates and #entrepreneurlife. When I first dove into paleo about 5 years ago, this was hard for me. I had to make most of my meals at home, and I discovered that most packaged foods are riddled with soy, sugar, and preservatives. (Why does a bag of almonds need soy lecithin?!) Now, there are so many options as the food world has realized that paleo isn’t going anywhere. Like being vegan, it is more of a lifestyle than a diet. Also, I live in Denver, which is about as accommodating as you get for dietary preferences.
I want to warn you that this list isn’t perfect, and I didn’t go fact checking to see if there were preservatives or sugar, etc. in these options. I have merely pulled together a list of the options that I find reasonably acceptable under the circumstances that you don’t have time to cook yourself a steak. (I also find it reasonable to snag a fry or two from your toddler’s kids meal… You have to live a little, people.)
Might I add that most of these options also accommodate keto, whole 30, and vegan diets, so this is a great resource all around.
This is my first go-to place for a fast paleo meal. If I’m being strict, I will order a salad bowl with no dressing, fajita veggies, steak (any meat would work minus the vegan option), pico, hot salsa, and guac (duh). If I’m feeling a little mischievous, I will get the dressing and some cheese…
(Or In-N-Out, you Californians. Or any burger joint, really.) For Five Guys particularly, I know they cook their food in peanut oil, which is technically a “no, no.” But, in the name of quick food, I bypass this. I order a bacon burger on a lettuce bun with whatever toppings I’m in the mood for that day. Sometimes cheese. And if I do get condiments, I will limit it to one since they tend to be high in sugar. (If you’re bringing it home anyway, then you can always add paleo-friendly condiments later. Or, if you’re like me, you keep paleo condiments at the office too.)
This is my least favorite fast food option as I don’t trust the meat here to be locally sourced like I do at Chipotle, but a grilled chicken nuggets meal with a side of fruit mostly follows the rules. You could also get a salad with grilled chicken, but opt for no dressing.
(Or any other coffee shop; options will vary.) This is also an establishment that is upping their game with alternatives. Again, 5 years ago, they didn’t have any other milk alternatives besides soy. As a result, I just learned to drink black coffee. Now, I love that I can treat myself to a coconut milk or almond milk latte; I still avoid syrups because of the high sugar (and whatever other crap) content. Also, tea. For snacks, you will have to just see what is available at your location. In my healthy, hipster city, I have found Emmy’s cookies, Hippie Snacks, dark chocolate almonds, and snack boxes (where I just pick out what I can eat).
Whole Food’s Hot Bar
Now this… this is my favorite. Not only can you eat paleo here, but you have options! If you are reading this post, I would guess you know the rules of paleo. If you don’t, I like this article here for clarification. My best advice here is to make sure you read the ingredients list because sometimes the sauces will sneak some soy, sugar or cornstarch in there. I do not have a “go to” buying option here because is changes based on my mood. Also, there’s always that awesome salad bar.
I thought I should mention this separately, since not all grocery stores offer healthy options/ hot bar/ restaurant area. When I’m left going to a Kroger or Publix, I look for these items: pre-cooked chicken, ready-to-eat fruit, pre-packaged salad, protein bar (read labels), green juice, nuts (again, read labels). Once you’ve been doing this for a while, you will know what brands to look for.
For all other restaurants, it’s not that hard to eat paleo somewhere they prepare fresh food. Think meat and veggies. That’s it. Any good place will have some sort of steak or chicken with steamed broccoli (or an even better option), or a half way decent salad that you can top with protein.
As in one Lindsay’s previous posts, don’t give up your diet just because it’s hard. There are lots of resources, and it’s not worth sacrificing your healthy.