Dining Out On The Gluten Free, Paleo, & Primal Diet

my cajun family
Me, my sister Alyssa, brother-in-law Danny, and adorable nephew Grayson

What an amazing weekend I just had! My sister, brother-in-law, and baby nephew came to Chicago to visit me from New Orleans. The entire weekend was a whirlwind of shopping, restaurants and baby time. I was able to stay on a completely gluten free, primal, and paleo diet the entire weekend.

When many people are confronted with the challenge of eating healthy while enjoying family or social gatherings, they tend to fall off their diets. That was not an option in my case. If I fall off my diet, I suffer greatly. Then, what kind of fun would I be? All it takes to remain true to your diet is a little pre-planning and discipline.

Luckily, I have a very supportive family. They were adamant about eating at restaurants with options for me. We planned out which restaurants they wanted to eat in. Then, I researched their menus online, to see my options. Some offered a full gluten free menu; others did not. For those restaurants that did not offer an actual gluten free menu, I looked for options that would still fall under either the primal or paleo diet.

Saturday night, we headed to Portillo’s. They make the most delicious Italian beef sandwiches, which I cannot eat. But, the restaurant actually has Barnelli’s restaurant housed inside of it. At Barnelli’s, I was able to get a delicious Apple Walnut Chicken Salad, totally primal approved. Because I had done my pre-planning, I was able to bring my own dressing of balsamic vinegar and olive oil. I ordered my salad without dressing, and used my own. I could have made it paleo by having them skip the goat cheese. But, since I tolerate goat cheese well, I left it on my salad. Day one was a primal success!

apple walnut chicken salad from Barnelli's pasta bowl
Apple Walnut Chicken Salad from Barnelli’s Pasta Bowl

On Sunday, the guys went to a White Sox game. My sister, nephew, and I headed to the mall to do a little retail therapy. We grabbed lunch at Aladdin Mediterranean Grill, which I had researched earlier. I ordered the Chicken Shwarma, which was amazing, with jasmine rice. I could have ordered the grilled vegetables; but, they were nightshades, a big no-no for me. I haven’t been able to add bell peppers and tomatoes into my diet successfully. I do, however, add some rice into my diet sometimes to up my carb intake. Plus, they had the best iced tea with fresh mint. I added my own Stevia, which I brought with me. I always carry a few packets in my purse. After lunch, we shopped our little hearts out. All the walking, while pushing a stroller, was great exercise. Plus, the exercise I got from pulling the car seat and stroller in and out of my tiny Fiat, was an added bonus.

chicken shwarma from aladdin mediterranean grill
Chicken Shwarma from Aladdin Mediterranean Grill

That evening, when the guys got home, we headed out to eat at Cucina Bella, a wonderful Italian restaurant, nearby. They have an entire gluten free menu. I ordered the veal wrapped in prosciutto, topped with parmesan cheese. I could have had them leave off the cheese if I wanted to go paleo. I ate my meal with a side of broccoli and a salad with balsamic dressing and olive oil. My dinner was so good. It was like heaven in my mouth! I enjoyed a red wine sangria with my meal. Some people allow that on the paleo diet, others frown upon it. I personally allow wine on my paleo diet on special occasions (or, if I’ve had a particularly rough few days). Day two was another primal dining out success!

veal wrapped in prosciutto
Veal wrapped in Prosciutto at Cucina Bella Italian Restaurant

Monday, I babysat while my sister and brother-in-law drove to Chicago to eat at Hot Dougs. I used the time with my baby nephew to teach him about eating healthy and paleo. I made one of my favorite Tuna Broccoli Slaw salads for lunch. He was beside me the whole time, soaking it all in. Then, we played until I wore him out. My dog, Giddy, especially loved having another tug of war partner.

teaching my nephew Grayson about paleo
Teaching my nephew, Grayson, about paleo
giddy and grayson playing tug of war
Giddy and Grayson playing tug-of-war

That night, we headed out to Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg. Texas de Brazil was the natural choice of restaurant for a paleo, like me. This restaurant is a paleo heaven, all veggies and meat…lots of meat. The salad and soup bar is amazing! I was able to create a salad that was exactly the way I wanted it. Then, the gauchos started bringing the meat to the table. I had lamb chops, leg of lamb, bacon wrapped chicken, beef filet wrapped in bacon, top sirloin, beef ribs, garlic steak, and more. I ate until I started to get the “meat sweats”. The food is phenomenal! We spent the next few hours walking the mall. I took the stroller duty again, to ensure a good workout. At the end of shopping, my husband and I wandered into the Sleep Number Bed shop to rest our weary legs. We actually found a bed so comfortable, we decided to buy it. Day three dining out paleo and new bed success!

salad at Texas de Brazil
Make it yourself salad at Texas de Brazil
meat at Texas de Brazil
Tons of meat at Texas de Brazil
lounging at the sleep number bed store
Lounging at the Sleep Number bed store

On Tuesday, my family left to fly back to New Orleans. I miss them already.

The point I’m trying to make is, there is no reason to go off of your diet because of family or friend entertaining. We all ate very well. I was able to spend all of my time with them because I was not feeling sick from eating the wrong foods. I had the energy needed to take care of an eight month old. It was my choice to go primal for a few meals. Had I needed to keep it paleo, I could have.

Like I said before, I’m lucky to have family who are supportive of my dietary restrictions. If you’re struggling with friends and family who are not supportive, my advice is to get rid of them. Just kidding! My actual advice is to reevaluate spending time with them (for reals!I) and do your own research on healthy options you can either bring with you or order from the menu. Then, don’t make a big deal out of it. You don’t have to call attention to yourself. If anyone says anything negative, just tell them it’s sad they don’t care about your health. Next, tell them to shut their yap! See, a lot of people know changing their diets would help their health; but, they’re not strong enough to make those changes. They just want you to be as weak as they are. Don’t fall for it! You are stronger than that!

Stay strong y’all! Summer is all about having fun. It’s up to us to stay healthy so we can enjoy every second of it. Have a good time and dine out right!


Laissez les bon temps rouler!

Tara Perillo

Welcome all. I am Tara Perillo, herbalist, homeopath, yoga and fitness instructor, and healthy foodie . After successfully reaching remission of my lupus symptoms, through changes in my diet, exercise, and lifestyle, I wrote the ebook, Sickness To Fitness Quick Start Guide. I am also honored to have my paleo and AIP recipes featured in Paleo Magazine, Paleo Living Magazine, Shape Magazine Online, 85 Amazing AIP Breakfasts, The Paleo AIP Instant Pot Cookbook, and blogs by The Paleo Mom, Kris Kresser, Whole New Mom and many others. My focus is to help others become stronger in every facet of their lives. Join me to become stronger in health, mind, body, and spirit, together!

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