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Paleo Confessions: Waiters groan when I walk in.

paleo confessions

A couple of years ago when I was first diagnosed with Celiac disease, learning to eat at restaurants was a nightmare. And my wishes and wants have only grown more particular as I enjoy a Paleo plan of eating.

I have to look for gluten first. That is a non-negotiable. The next thing I look for is other non-gluten grains that might be hidden. I know if I’m eating French Fries that they are potatoes and most likely fried in a soybean or other vegetable oil. I know those oils are highly inflammatory and I will not feel that great in a couple of hours due to headache and joint pain, but I know that ahead of time. What really bothers me is extra sugar. It is EVERYWHERE. So I ask waiters up front if they are familiar with the allergen and ingredient profile of the menu. It helps to find a waiter that can locate an up-to-date separate allergen menu. These tips below are very helpful when trying to dine out while still sticking to your Paleo plan and not have any contamination hangovers the next day.


  • Sauces and Dressings: Sauces and dressings are usually full of sugar, dairy, corn syrup, soy or other vegetable oils and many even have gluten in them.
  • Bread, crackers, and croutons: wheat=gluten
  • Sweet tea, beer, soda: High in crap. Sugar, gluten, and sugar substitutes are the main ingredients. Don’t do it.
  • Desserts: most desserts are high in sugar, dairy, and wheat. For most places, I will get fresh fruit and a scoop of ice cream IF they can assure me the ice cream is gluten free. Otherwise, skip the dessert and drink a decaf. 

What TO look for:

  • Salads with extra side of protein. Stress you only want vegetables. Dressings like oil/vinegar on the side.
  • Grilled protein with butter only, no oil unless you can find a waiter that will beg the cook to grill your salmon in olive or coconut oil. Steamed vegetables with some olive oil and red wine or balsamic vinegar are great!
  • Protein and baked potato. I know the white potato is gray line territory,  but I know exactly what I am getting. A potato comes in its own dish. I just need a side of salmon, beef, pork, or chicken with some fresh lemon and pepper and I’ll be a happy and healthy camper. This is my go-to meal when we travel and we travel often.

Waiters are underpaid which is why I tip VERY well if I can find someone who will help me get a good meal that will not make me regret the whole thing. It’s not just about gluten, but about avoiding things that I find really make me feel bad with joint pain, swelling, racing heart, and just plain feel like the junk I ate. Some waiters groan when I walk in. Some jump to be first to help me because they know I will tip great service. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and get what YOU want in your dining experience.

Sarah Altwater

Sunday 15th of February 2015

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