Eating Out While on GAPS

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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

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.
    –OR–
  • 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.

Restaurants

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?

New to our GAPS series? Get up to speed by browsing past posts in this series or reading what the GAPS diet is.

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Comments

  1. Martha says

    This is the hardest thing for me as well. Five guys, McDonalds both know how to handle a wheat allergy, and no bun- wrapping the burger in lettuce or putting it on a bed of lettuce. Some Arby’s (grass-fed beef) will do that also. Ruby Tuesdays has a good gluten-free menu which is mainly gaps friendly, and they will do to order. I leave off seasonings, and get veggies and salad bar. Once a month I have to travel out of town with my husband, and sometimes it’s easier to just get a baked potato so I do.

    • says

      You shared some great tips, Martha! Thanks for those ideas on how to handle fast food. I typically avoid it because I never feel well after eating at those restaurants. One place I’ll stop at occasionally is Chipotle. I just get the burrito bowl without rice or beans and get the fajita veggies instead. Instead of any dairy I add guacamole. That seems to work pretty well for me.

      • Katie G. says

        Chipotle is the one place I eat out right now. I haven’t felt like doing a bunch of research into other restaurants and chipotle lists its ingredients on the website. I can have the cheese and the sour cream, and I’m so thankful for that! I only get the carnitas because all the other meat is cooked in soybean oil, and so are the fajita veggies, so I get lettuce instead of those. I also always get guacamole, even though it costs almost $2 extra! Ah well, it’s delicious!

        • says

          Katie, that’s so great you can have the cheese and sour cream! Hopefully I’ll be able to one of these days, too! It’s such a bummer to have to pay an extra $2 for guacamole, even though we’re not getting so many of the other items, but I agree it’s totally worth it! There’s a little local place near me that’s very similar to Chipotle that has a great option for those of us who can’t do dairy – they’ll sub in their guacamole for no charge if you skip the cheese and sour cream. Love it!

    • Martha says

      I just spent 5 days away from home on full gaps (with some cheats). I only cheated 2x- 1 baked potato with my own creme fraishe, and some creme brulee before we got home. I had good experiences at Outback- ordered the New Zealand rack of lamb with green beans (no seasoning, and wood-fire grilled), and a house salad- no croutons (brought my own dressing); At Red Lobster- ordered fresh fish- wood grilled, no seasoning, with a caesar salad (better lettuce) with parmesan, dressing on the side, and again used my own dressing, and ate a mound of broccoli instead of starch. At one point, I was getting a bit stopped up so went to Whole Foods, and bought a pat of pastured butter, and a jar of Bubbies, and that helped a lot. It was a good trip, and doable with what I brought.

  2. says

    We are planning to go to RenFaire later this month. It’s an all-day event and bringing food in is not allowed.

    I assume even relatively “safe” things like turkey drumsticks will be provided by a food service vendor and just cooked there, so it’s doubtful the folks in the booths will even know the ingredients of their foods.

    However, they do have gluten-free labels on many items, so I will just pick whatever looks closest to real food from the gluten-free labeled items.

  3. Charlotte says

    When dining at friends houses, I usually say i will bring gravy then if they just provide a simple meat and veggie meal we are sorted. I also offer to bring a dessert to share or suggest a fruit salad and bring our own sour cream. If there will be salad I bring some salad dressing too.

    In the Body Ecology Diet, Donna suggests a dining out kit containing salad dressing stevia drops and i can’t remember what else. The last time we ate out i brought our own gravy in a flask and that was used by those who chose meat dishes, and i brought some sour cream for the fresh strawberries we ordered for dessert.

    • says

      I love your idea of bringing gravy, Charlotte! I never thought of that, especially when out at restaurants. So many times you can’t get any of the sauces, which makes the meat less appealing. Thanks for the great tip!

  4. says

    These are great tips, Mindy. I’m not doing GAPs, but considering it, so I’m gathering as much information as possible beforehand— I like to be prepared!

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