Monday, October 20, 2008

The Challenge of Eating in Restaurants

Sticking strictly to a high nutrition vegan diet has its challenges. All my business associates and friends know my "strange" eating habits.  Nevertheless, eating in restaurants presents some issues. My strategy is to just stick to the game plan.  I am committed to not compromising and to 'leading by example."  So far, my success rate at conversions to healthy eating is near zero, but I keep trying. 

When in restaurants social pressure is real. An acquaintance, also a vegan, mentioned recently that while sticking to a his diet in restaurants he "doesn't feel like one of the guys."  My response was that I don't want to be one of the guys who take statins every day to control cholesterol, constantly run to the doctor with various health problems, or who have had coronary bypass surgery, etc.

I eat in restaurants maybe 2-3 times per month.  Most of the time I can negotiate an acceptable meal with the waiter/waitress.  I will eat pasta (hopefully whole wheat) with marinara sauce, a plain baked or sweet potato, raw salad, or rice (hopefully brown) with steamed vegetables.  I rarely run into trouble.  Avoiding salt is the biggest problem, but I am a "pit bull" about that issue. Having gone salt free for several months, salty food tastes awful.

The other day in a Mexican restaurant I ordered vegetarian fajitas.  I told the waiter to skip the cheese, steam rather than sauté the vegetables and bring corn tortillas rather than flour tortillas.  I told him to hold the refried beans and bring a double order of Spanish rice. I also had him take back the fried tortillas at the start of the meal and bring plain corn tortillas, which I dipped in the salsa.  I used the salsa to flavor the fajitas also.  It was a good meal that contained few compromises. I was with my family who waited patiently while I negotiated with the waiter and finally got it right, or at least close to right.

The other thing I do is negotiate hard for the type of restaurant we go to.  Thai, Vietnamese, Japanese or maybe Chinese are my favorites.  I can always do okay in an Asian restaurant.  Steak houses usually have salad bars that are pretty good.  Two trips to the salad bar to load up on raw salad ingredients works well.  I try to avoid Fish Houses and Italian restaurants, if possible.  Fish places are the worst, IMHO. In contrast to steakhouses, they rarely have salad bars. I haven't gone to a fish place in a long time.  Fish is not health food and I avoid it like the plague.

The key to eating out in restaurants is to not be intimidated by social pressure. It is important to be uncompromising in sticking to the game plan. Communicate clearly to the server and don't worry for a moment about what others think. You might even have a positive influence on your fellow diners. Above all, don't preach or lecture about what you eat, be willing to answer questions in a matter of fact way, and enjoy your food.

Healthy food is the most satisfying. It is very nice to not worry about your weight, or your health. It is also wonderful to do something good for the environment and the welfare of animals.

1 comment:

Nancy said...

Hi Howard,

I'm rather new to Dr Fuhrman's ETL but am having some success so far as I get used to it. I know this lifestyle is the truth for our body's health.

Thanks for your restaurant tips on ordering. We go mexican quite often and I'm wondering about the usual guacamole served?

I've been ordering a guacamole salad (shredded lettuce, tomato and guacamole) and side of rice...to that I add salsa and I'm satisfied. No chips of course.

Thanks for your blog...I'm just beginning to read over your posts.

Nancy