The first thing to recognise is that you can, absolutely, eat out whilst following Paleo – providing you sacrifice all desires for quality, uncontaminated food. If you are following a Paleo regimen without any health concerns or fears of intolerances and allergies then any restaurant will serve you some protein with sides of veggies, providing you ask nicely and aren’t too rude about ordering off menu.
But if you are following Paleo ‘fully’ (i.e. you are prioritising quality – particularly of proteins and oils) then you cannot eat out easily on Paleo, so forget about finding a restaurant that serves a menu from which you can select ‘plain’ foods. The reason for this is down to the world of practices in restaurants which are tricky to avoid.
Let us explain…
All restaurants do something called ‘mise en place’ – which is basically prepping things beforehand, and often part-cooking or at least pre-marinating and pre-preparing proteins so that dishes leave the kitchen quickly once they are ordered during ‘service’.
If you are avoiding generalised seasonings (which you will be on Paleo or AIP, especially if you’re sensitive, because they may contain gluten) then you are at risk of an exposure here.
If you’re avoiding things being cooked in vats full of reused processed oils (which you should be because they are full of rancid and oxidised fats, and almost every restaurant uses these oils) then you will also struggle.
And if you’re avoiding dairy, including butter (which is completely individual depending on your sensitivities, or if you’re following AIP, where you’ve got to with reintroductions)… then everything that’s in the mise en place is likely to be ‘off’ your plate of possibilities.
Now obviously, how fussy you want to be will largely depend upon why you’re following a Paleo diet, and whether these ingredients will really negatively effect your health in the short- and long-term.
To be clear, rancid and oxidised fats are really unhealthy, for everyone.
However, the occasional exposure whilst eating out, surrounded by a lifetime of care and using good quality fats at home, may be the compromise that is on your ‘reasonable’ list. Likewise with the gluten in packaged spice mixes or seasonings. If you have coeliac and/or real intolerance symptoms with gluten then you are probably unwilling to risk gluten exposure. However, if you’re somebody who chooses to avoid gluten because you feel your body just ‘feels better’ without it then the amount of gluten in those spices or herb mixes is highly unlikely to cause you any real issues.