Brunch Short Ribs with Greens and Eggs
One of the big questions I often hear from someone who is considering giving the GAPS diet a try is: how will I be able to eat outside of my own home?
When you read through the list of allowed foods, it does seem like there's no way you’ll ever eat out again!
I'm happy to tell you that after more than a year on GAPS, I’ve found some solutions for eating out at the homes of my friends and family, attending potlucks, and even going out to restaurants. It takes a little advanced preparation, but is entirely possible and enjoyable!
Friends and Family
Friends and family can offer either the easiest place to eat — or the most challenging! I’m fortunate that my friends and family have all been really encouraging about the journey I’m on to heal my gut. In reality, I know that’s not always the case for everyone.
I made sure I had all the sides I would want at our
Thanksgiving family meal, including GAPS stuffing.
A key to this is: don't expect others to prepare meals that work for your diet. It would be so nice to just show up and enjoy a meal at someone else’s home without having to plan and prepare in advance, but it is not a reasonable expectation.
What’s helped me the most in this is remembering this is just a temporary period in my life.
Here’s what to do before dining at someone else’s home:
- Explain your diet (briefly) and why you’re doing it. Most people are very open to the idea of following a particular diet to help heal health issues. They may even want to try and make sure their meal is something you can eat.
- Ask what will be served. Often there is at least a side dish or sometimes a main dish that can easily be made to work for GAPS. Your hosts may also be willing to make some slight adjustments to make it work for you as well. You might ask what cooking oils, sauces, or thickeners they may be using.
- Bring what you need to fill in the gaps (pun intended!). I will often bring a main dish or side dish to accompany what’s being served, ensuring I have a full meal that works for me. Or, sometimes I’ll even bring an entire meal that I can heat up for myself — if what is being served won’t work for me.
Potlucks can definitely be a challenge when on the GAPS diet! You have no idea what’s in the dishes being served, especially at a large gathering.
I brought my own salad and these deviled eggs to share at a potluck.
In my small house church we share a weekly potluck meal, so I’ve become pretty adept at handling potlucks! The key is to make sure I have a full meal for myself. If it happens that there are options available for me to eat, then that’s a nice bonus.
How to survive potlucks:
- Eat only what you bring. Some exceptions are fruit, veggies, and clearly labeled dishes. It’s helpful if you know the person who brought the dish because sometimes ingredients may not always be labeled.
- Bring a main dish to share, and your own sides/dessert. Make a main dish that you can eat and share with others. You’ll also want to bring your own desired sides and/or dessert.
- Bring a side dish or dessert to share, and your own main dish. This is my favorite option for large potlucks. I’ll bring a chef salad for my main dish and then typically bring a dessert or side dish to share.
I saved the most challenging for last! Going out to restaurants can be tricky, depending especially on your stage in the GAPS diet. When I first did the Intro portion of the diet, I wanted to be extremely strict with it — so I could make the most of the healing effects. I did not eat out at a restaurant for the first three or four stages.
But never going out is not that practical and can limit your social life. One of the things I love about living near downtown Boulder is the variety of restaurants available within walking distance. I’m not willing to give those up completely while spending a couple of years healing my gut.
I discovered a wonderful dish at a local Mexican restaurant:
Steak wrapped around a poblano pepper stuffed with veggies and shrimp.
I just had them skip the cheese inside and subbed extra veggies for the rice.
Obviously, fast food is not your friend when on the GAPS diet (or any other time!). You want to find restaurants that serve quality meats and vegetables and that don’t rely too heavily on processed foods as the base of their meals. The key for me when eating out is: first, limit how frequently I go out to eat; and second, do my homework ahead of time when going to a new restaurant.
Ordering may feel like a marathon at times, but it will be worth it to get a meal that is delicious and that won’t undo all the good you’re doing with the GAPS Diet. Don’t worry if you and the waiter are on a first-name basis by the time you’re done ordering. But, your dinner companions’ jokes about how hungry they are may occasionally get a little strained!
How to eat out at restaurants:
- Decide what cheats you will allow. It’s very difficult to find a completely GAPS-allowed meal when eating out. I am careful about what I’ll eat, but there are a few exceptions I’m willing to make that don’t seem to affect me greatly. These will vary depending on how your own body reacts. I don’t worry about what cooking oils are being used when out. I’ll allow soft goat cheese, like chevre, since I can’t eat any cow’s milk cheese at this point. However, I don’t allow any corn, grains, potatoes, or cow’s milk dairy (except butter).
- Look ahead at the menu. Most restaurants have their menu available online, or you can call ahead to see if you anything on their menu might work for you. Some restaurants won’t have appealing options and are best avoided.
- Explain your dietary requirements. Clearly tell your server what you need to avoid and ask lots of questions about exactly what is in the meal. The menu won’t always list everything and it’s best to find out before you order a dish.
- Meats and veggies are great options. A burger without the bun is often my go-to dish at a lot of restaurants. I’ll be sure to add lots of toppings to it, and I typically ask for sautéed mushrooms and onions in place of the fries that go with the meal. You can do this with a variety of meat-based entrees. Most restaurants are very willing to swap out the bread or potato items for extra veggies. Unfortunately, they will often also charge you extra for doing so. I’ve decided it’s worth a little extra to get a meal that I find truly satisfying.
Eating Out is Possible!
…and it becomes easier with time. You can still have a social life while on the GAPS diet!
How do you handle eating outside of your home while on the GAPS diet?
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