We all talk a good game about how to eat, what to eat, and the importance of preparing our own food from quality ingredients. The truth is that everyone faces the same dilemmas from time to time. Whether it's travel, working late, business lunches, social outings, or simply not being interested in cooking, there are many reasons that eating that home cooked meal may not always be possible.
I've decided to pose a series of questions to our members on a weekly basis on what gets them through these situations. You might be surprised at some of the answers and others might be exactly what you expected — either way, I'm hopeful that this will help you navigate your way through the myriad of awkward, inconvenient, or simply lazy situations you find yourself in.
Diana Rodgers, RD, NTP from Boston, Massachusetts
CA: Do you put much thought into where you eat out? Or do you simply go anywhere and try to make do with what's on the menu?
DR: I have celiac disease and try to be relatively low-carb, so I'm pretty picky about where I eat. That being said, I can pretty much make any place work for me except chains like Olive Garden or fast food joints. I prefer small, mom & pop restaurants, especially ones that feature ethnic foods like Brazilian BBQ (my ultimate favorite!). I also of course love farm to table restaurants that serve grass-fed meats and local veggies. I'll check out "Find Me Gluten Free" and "Yelp" when I'm in a new city for the best rated places, but I tend to order pretty simply - a piece of fish or meat, some simple veggies or a salad. I don't get excited about sauces unless I'm certain they're gluten free. It's just not worth it. I also don't ever get fries in a shared fryer, or eggs cooked on the same griddle as pancakes and French Toast - making breakfast one of the most dangerous meals for me to eat out. In my 20's I loved going out for breakfast (I was diagnosed at age 26) but now, I'll only go out if I absolutely have to.
CA: Most memorable restaurant meal in (or near) Boston?
DR: I tend to remember the company more than the actual food. A few of my favorites include: The outdoor patio at Oleana, the bar at La Brasa, Highland Kitchen, Moqueca (any of the Brazilian fish stews are incredible), Craigie on Main (special occasions), and closer to where I live is Woods Hill Table, owned by my good friend Kristin Canty who has her own farm supplying the meat (and my farm supplies some of the veggies) and Salt Box Kitchen, also owned by a farmer. There are some great ethnic places in Lowell like Mexican and Vietnamese that I like to visit with the kids.
CA: Most memorable restaurant meal outside of Boston?
DR: Each time I try to think about an amazing restaurant, I keep thinking about the amazing people at the meal and not the restaurant. I travel a lot for nutrition-related conferences, and really enjoy it when I get to have a meal with fellow science geeks. I also LOVE traveling internationally, and have had some incredible meals through Italy, Spain, France, Morocco, New Zealand and in Costa Rica. One meal in particular doesn't really stand out — I have too many favorites!
CA: For people with special diets, how do you suggest they talk with restaurant staff in order to get what they need?
DR: I honestly want them to think I'll have a serious reaction and possibly die if I eat gluten. That usually works pretty well. I'll call ahead if it's a nice place that takes reservations. If there's a serious language barrier, of if they seem uneducated or unmotivated to work with me, I don't risk it and will leave. I can always make a meal of jerky and nuts. Since I've changed the way I eat, I still appreciate food but it doesn't hold the same emotional weight for me. Food is just fuel, and sometimes it can taste really good, other times it's just so so.
Although I love a great meal, I'm much more interested in who I'm eating with than what I'm eating.
CA: Do you prepare an emergency meal when you travel? If so, what do you include?
DR: Always. I'll get to the airport and eat a huge omelet (Boston Logan has some great GF options for breakfast) and then usually fast on the plane until I get to where I'm going. I keep some meat sticks, nuts, sometimes fruit in my bag. I also try to book an Airbnb instead of a hotel. I tend to wake up super early, which translates to the middle of the night on the west coast, so being able to fry up a couple of eggs at 4am is much nicer than having to wait until all the diners open.
CA: Your favorite quick meal to prepare at home?
DR: Eggs (from my farm) are by far the fastest and easiest meal I can make. Sometimes lunch is a can of tuna and half an avocado if I'm running late. I've always got leftovers on hand. I make big batches of soups and stews so I'm not usually caught off guard. I like to cook for like 3 hours on a Sunday then not cook for the rest of the week.
CA: In terms of food, what is your guilty pleasure?
DR: Dark chocolate. I'm much more of a salty/savory person than a sweets person. Candy doesn't excite me, but potato chips do — which is why I don't buy them for the house, because I'll destroy a bag of chips in about 2 seconds. We all have our kryptonite!
Diana Rodgers is a “real food” Licensed Registered Dietitian, Nutritionist, and Nutritional Therapy Practitioner living on a working organic farm west of Boston.
She has an active nutrition practice where she helps people get on track with diet and lifestyle. She's also an author, host The Sustainable Dish Podcast, and the mom of two active kids. She speaks at universities and conferences internationally about nutrition and sustainability, social justice, animal welfare and food policy issues.
She's the Consulting Dietitian to several gyms and also to: Robb Wolf, Nom Nom Paleo, Whole30, Dr. Kirk Parsley, The Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund, and Fresh Advantage. She's a staff writer for Paleo Magazine, contributes regularly to several blogs and her work has been featured in The Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe, Outside Magazine, and Mother Earth News.