During my first three months on the very strict Blood Sugar Solution Diet, I ate low-sugar, gluten-free, dairy-free and mostly vegetables. Many people find eating out 'healthy' very difficult, so I began photographing my restaurant meals in the hopes of sharing some tips with you. Here are 6 tips for finding healthy, diabetic friendly, gluten-free and dairy-free eats and treats.
1. Locate the best salad in town.
I eat A LOT of salad at home, so for me to get excited about a salad out ... well, it needs to be pretty spectacular. Search for the "best salad bar" on your local Trip Advisor, UrbanSpoon or Chowhound forum. Chances are someone else has already done the legwork for you.
The best salad in my town, is at my local European deli:
Vincenzo's, Waterloo, Ontario
Build your own salad bar (5.99-7.99)
With a choice of over 20 fresh salad mix-ins including eggs, nuts, veggies, fruits, etc, it's hard not to come up with a great salad. You can add any of 8 premium toppings including grilled chicken, artichoke, tuna, etc. They have a choice of fresh in-house dressings or you can ask for just oil and vinegar.
Add a bottle of Kombucha = My perfect lunch :)
The deli also carries preservative-free and nitrate-free natural roast beef by McLean.
2. Google "Vegetarian Restaurants" + your city.
I'm not a vegetarian, but some of my best lunches have been at vegetarian-friendly restaurants. Check out Happy Cow which can help you locate vegan, vegetarian, and healthy restaurants in your city. That's where I found this local eatery that focuses on local and organic cuisine:
Seven Shores Urban Market & Cafe, Waterloo, Ontario
Seven Shores Famous -Thai Rice Paper Spring Rolls! 4 pieces $7.99 (includes a side).
These spring rolls were made with raw green onion, red pepper, carrots, mango, cilantro, sunflower butter and a spicy chili dipping sauce (this had sugar). It came with my choice of a fresh side of the day, a vegetarian chili which was really good! I'm always excited to find different ways to eat my veggies.
3. Google key words like "local" "raw foods" "artisanal" "organic" + your city.
Restaurants who market these types of foods tend to cater to health conscious customers. For example:
Marbles Restaurant, Waterloo, Ontario
Raw Pad Thai 12.99
This was under a section called "Raw Food Gluten Free": Asian cut vegetables in a ginger almond butter sauce. Topped with cashews, coconut and mango.
The presentation was beautiful and the restaurant was a good choice because it catered to everyone in our group.
Balzac's Coffee Roasters - Southern Ontario, Canada
Balzac's offers "Fair Trade Organic coffee, sugar and cocoa since 1997 and all milk used in our beverage service is organic and locally sourced".
I visit coffee shops with friends weekly, so I was excited to see these gluten-free, low-sugar brownies with the ingredients plainly listed for all to see. It's not often I get to have a sweet treat at a coffee shop.
Ingredients in their Double Chocolate Brownie: Chickpeas, water, chocolate chips, dates, almond milk, cocoa powder, coconut oil, ground flax seed, sea salt.
4. Check out your local health-food store for an in-store cafe
Many health food stores are now adding cafes, salad bars and sit-down lunch areas to their shops. For example:
The Healthy Haven houses 4 different vendors. Kara's has a fabulous build-your-own salad bar, made from the organic produce they sell. They also serve fresh, homemade soups and fresh fruit. Out front, Fiddleheads runs the smoothie bar and sell organic ice cream, frozen yogurt, coffee, kombucha and other treats. You can grab a table or eat outside on the patio.
Healthy Foods and More in Waterloo, Ontario has an outstanding in-house bakery featuring gluten-free and dairy-free treats and lunch offerings like soups and dairy-free pizza.
One of my favorite treats is the Gluten-Free French Macaron. While it no doubt has a lot of sugar, the ingredients are simple which I like:
Almonds, brown sugar, powdered sugar, eggs, cocoa, cream of tartar, coconut milk, Enjoy Life (dairy-free and soy-free) chocolate chips, vanilla extract.
Like this gluten and dairy-free "healthy looking" Peppermint Nanaimo Bar I picked up on impulse after being lured by a free sample (they got me!).
While I do try to be flexible and relaxed when eating out or out for coffee, I still want nutritious foods and quite frankly, there are better "treats" out there.
5. Be a pain in the butt .... with a big smile.
Aroma Cafe, Waterloo, ON
A few times a month my ride drops me off at work 2 hours early. That means I have a verrry long breakfast ... just me and my laptop.
I found a little coffee shop that let's me order two eggs and if already made ... a salad. They are always happy to come accommodate.
They also don't seem to mind when I bring along my morning smoothie, although I always make sure I purchase a tea or coffee to-go.
I also remember my first gluten and dairy-free supper at Jack Astor's Bar & Grill (New York and Canada). I remember feeling like such a pain. It seemed impossible to find something dairy AND gluten-free and I had to explain to everyone in our group about my new "diet".
I settled on Blackened Salmon. Instead of rice, I asked for a double serving of market-fresh vegetables. My waitress asked the chef to substitute olive oil for the butter. The salmon was perfect and the salsa made it all very tasty! Because I never make salmon at home, this meal was a real treat.
6. Try Greek, Egyptian, Middle Eastern Cuisine
My husband's family is Greek, so I'm blessed to have wonderful meals at my in-laws regularly. While I sometimes worry about eating gluten-free as a guest, I never worry on Greek night. Fresh salads with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, fresh fish, lamb chops, marinated chicken, beef or pork on a stick, shawarma, hummus, lentil soup....the list goes on and on. It's really hard to go wrong with Mediterranean or Middle Eastern Cuisine.
My most recent meal was at Almadina Woodstone Oven & Grill. At this point, I've re-introduced a bit of dairy in my diet, although I continue to eat gluten-free.
I chose the Build-your-own Salad with chicken shawarma.
The salad had the option of adding lettuce, parsley, tomato, onion, pickled turnips, feta cheese, beans, garlic beets, garlic potato salad, taboulee, garlic hummus, red pepper hummus, tatziki, tahini and hotsauce.
Another spectacular salad....so spectacular, the owner insisted I take a picture of it, something I'm normally very stealth about doing.
And that is a sampling of what I've been eating the past 5 months! I know with a bit of searching, you too can find healthy eats too!