Unfortunately, the term “gluten-free” is often associated with the phrase “high maintenance”.
So what’s the secret to becoming that healthy but also easy to please girl? Is there a trick to overcoming dietary obstacles without inconveniencing everyone around you? I believe there is. The key to (the dietary restricted) life is simple… prepare in advance.
In order to dissociate the diva stereotype with dietary limitations, you have to put in the work. Resorting to inconveniencing everyone in order to fit your food needs is simply the easy way out. But having a high consideration for others is like taking the road less travelled, it’s more of a challenge, but reaps a great benefit.
I will address three common scenarios that can be difficult to approach for those with dietary restrictions: Dining out, Eating while Traveling, and Dining at a friend’s house.
How to thrive in a restaurant setting:
My number one restaurant trick is to thoroughly examine the menu BEFORE you step foot into the dining room. Practically every menu is accessible online and restaurant customer service is usually very informed on preparation of food and allergens. Moral of the story: When you find out where you’ll be dining, research what options might work for you on the menu and/or call ahead and see if the restaurant can accommodate you.
This avoids any awkward interactions during the dinner ordering process. Which brings me to my second point.. If you are already at the restaurant and realize you have lots of menu questions, consider getting up and finding your waiter to discuss your options away from the table to avoid drawing attention to your restrictions.
My third pearl of restaurant wisdom involves the way in which you place your order. BE VERY CLEAR with your waiter about what you cannot eat. For example, if dairy is your poison and your meal does not list milk products in the menu description, still tell your waiter you have a dairy allergy and want to ensure no butter or cream is used in preparation. The worst scenario is having to send a meal back to the kitchen because you forgot to say “hold the cheese please”. I have found that uttering the word “allergy” in any restaurant setting perks the ears of the employees. Often times they will take special care to prepare your meal separately from any utensils that have touched your specific allergen.. So don’t be afraid to pull your waiter aside and tell him the dealio before hand!
**** A great piece of advice that one of my favorite bloggers, Lee Tilghman, (@Leefromamerica) told me is to take digestive enzymes before eating restaurant food. The purpose of digestive enzymes is to help the body absorb nutrients and convert food into energy with ease. Her favorite brand is Digestive Gold!****
How to Eat and Travel like a Boss (a healthy boss):
For me, weekend trips don’t just require throwing jean shorts, a couple shirts and my toothbrush in an overnight bag. My weekend and modeling trip preparation takes a little more elbow grease, but saves me a lot of grief later on and keeps my belly flat. Keep in mind when ordering food to go, reusable plastic food containers make for a fantastic travel buddy. Reuse your take out boxes (the sturdy kind that won’t leak) for prepped meals and snacks that will last you through the weekend, then once empty they can be tossed in the recycling bin. For car rides, soft coolers packed with disposable containers and ice packs keep food cold and fresh. For airplanes, keep the soft cooler but nix the ice packs as they will get confiscated at security.*** Also remember to keep containers of guac, coconut yogurt and almond butter in containers that are the TSA regulation of 3.4 oz or smaller, and secured with a rubber band to avoid leaking. ***
My go to travel prep food:
-Cumin+Cinnamon Baked Sweet Potatoes
-Broiled Salmon with Lime + Dill
-Basil Pea Mash
-Roasted Turmeric Carrots
-Coconut Yogurt+Protein Powder with Berries
-Easy to Peel Tangerines
-Sauteed Garlic Zucchini
-Roasted Basil+Mint Cauliflower with Pistachios
-Roasted Garlic Broccoli
-Baked Cinnamon+Cumin Butternut Squash
Dining at a Friend’s house:
In my opinion, this scenario is the most difficult to navigate. Each case is very different and takes special consideration. The most important step is having a conversation with your host so they understand your diet. This will both help ensure you have a meal that suits your diet, and also avoid anyone getting offended if you don’t lick your plate clean. The type of meal you’re having and your relationship to the host will determine your meal plan. The only solid unwavering advice I have for this scenario is to not put your host at any inconvenience. You shouldn’t expect them to go out of their way to make something special just for you, especially when they’ve been planning a dinner party. Some options are to call your host and let her know your dietary restrictions, or to suggest bringing a dish yourself that could be shared.
Jolene Hart, the author of my favorite book, Eat Pretty, told me to try offering to bring a shareable dish to add to the dinner party spread. If this option is available, consider whipping up a healthy, inexpensive, shareable side dish. Roasted veggies are always a safe route. I’d recommend roasting something like sweet potatoes, green beans, asparagus, cauliflower, carrots or butternut squash. You can spritz up the plate by adding fresh herbs and roasted nuts. One of my favorite potluck party dishes is True Foods’ Roasted Cauliflower. After roasting cauliflower with sea salt and olive oil on 400 degrees for 25 minutes, drizzle tahini and pistachios, dill and mint. A beautiful and healthy dish to share! In addition to knowing your host, know yourself and what’s best for your body. For Jolene, if she has a craving for a treat outside of her eat pretty lifestyle, having a taste will satisfy her. However, if I try a nibble of a food outside of my restrictions, it amplifies the craving even more instead of satisfying it. So know yourself and what is best for your body and make that decision before you arrive to the party.
When I prepare in advance, it makes it easier to stick to eating foods I know will make me feel beautiful from the inside out. And when I eat those foods, I wake up every morning feeling strong in resisting temptations, healthier in my energy levels and brighter in my complexion and eyes. I hope these tips will encourage you to prepare in advance so that together, we can prove that vegan or gluten free does not mean high-maintaince.