I had to attend a business dinner last night with little paleo options. That got me thinking about how I was going to handle it. I'd like to hear how you have handled similar situations whether it was at a business dinner or a friends house?
I actually had a very similar situation the other day. My company was holding a luncheon and because it was a fancy sit-down affair I couldn't exactly refuse to eat. Prior to the event I was able to contact the lady who set it up and ask about the menu. She was able to get me olive oil instead of the creamy dressings they were serving and fruit instead of apple pie. I couldn't do anything about the green beans or potatoes so I just didn't eat them or the bread, but as there were two meat choices - I had both! In any case, I always keep fish oil with me knowing that it's doubtful when I eat out that the meat is grass-fed or free range.
Also, because I travel for work, I always keep a cooler in my car with Paleo-friendly foods and snacks and this has helped out more than once, not only from the travel perspective, but also for those times when I don't have the option of "editing" a menu beforehand. Being prepared is definitely the key. Plus, when I'm eating differently than everyone else it often raises questions and I'm able to impart a little nutritional wisdom. And I never miss an opportunity to do that!
Personally, and this does not go down well in such bread-y circles as the Netherlands where I am based, I take 4 sandwiches and eat the filling from them and leave the bread on my plate.
I'm looked at like I'm a big fat freak, but in the end, people are intrigued by those who are different and it WILL give you an edge in the business world if you don't conform, even in such a small detail as not eating bread as if it were a gift from God.
When it comes down to it, by following the Palo diet, you've proved your're not a follower,so go your own path and the ones who HUNGER to learn will follow your example!
Pre-eat! This is a must for me, since I'm looking to gain some weight.
Tell them you're allergic to wheat, soy, whatever. Preferably tell them this beforehand. They may work with you on substitutions, if you ask nicely.
Eat around what you can. There's almost always some kind of meat, some kind of vegetable. Unfortunately, it will probably be cooked in canola or soybean oil, but you can't do a whole lot about that.
Another option, as Aaron and paleonyc mentioned, is to fast, but you will have a hard time explaining this. It may not be worth it to you to get strange looks from business partners or colleagues or clients. I prefer to pick around and prioritize avoiding trans fats, gluten, and soy. Anything else that is non-Paleo is still not optimal, but tolerable for me (sugar, and some dairy, for example).
I am very fortunate not to have temptation issues, but many people do, especially newbies. If you are going to be tempted to have some cookies or brownies or pasta or whatever, you really need to have a plan going into the event. You will most likely succumb to temptation if you try to wing it -- if not this time, then eventually. This is not a big deal, by itself, but it can set you up for several days or weeks of eating poorly afterward. If this is you, then you need a solid plan, plus a few friends or a coach to keep you accountable. Do not set yourself up for failure. Success on Paleo is NOT about willpower. It is about planning (IMO).
If you have serious auto-immune or inflammatory illnesses, and it is critically important that you stay gluten- or soy-free or avoid n6 seed oils, then your best option is probably to pre-eat AND just tell everybody that you have severe food allergies and that you do this (pre-eat) all the time. Your health is more important than whatever strange looks you will get.
There are 2 ways to handle the situation in my opinion. One is to IF, the other is to eat the crap. Paleo is not vegan, it is not a religion. When you treat it as a religion and NEVER eat bad food it will lead to a closed mind, or blindly following the crowd just because its the cool thing to do at the time. Thats my 2 cents!
If this is a function where someone will feel responsible for the food I have two goals, first keeping myself as healthy as possible and second making the person who is trying to feed me feel like they have done a good job of taking care of me.
I prefer to eat, so I will generally do that to the extent possible. Luckily no one typically thinks it is strange if I don't eat everything since I am female and not really very big. This calls the least attention and will be most reassuring to food person.
If I have a good reason to suspect that my choices will be limited to the point of being obvious, for example the dinner is being held in a pasta heavy restaurant or the host is vegan or it is for a pagan event I will contact the food person ahead of time. I will explain that I have a restricted diet for medical reasons and I really don't want it to be a big deal, but I don't want anyone to feel weird either. I say I was thinking about bringing a dish and just slipping it in to the kitchen, or getting a copy of the menu and asking for a special order on my dime and ask them for their advice. People love feeling like problem solvers and really do usually want to be helpful if you give them the chance.
If I am surprised by the lack of options I will do the best I can and not try to make an issue. Unless it is a sit down meal I have not seen people notice me not eating if I have a glass in hand. If I can't fly under the radar I will seek out the food person and tell them I am very limited in what I can eat right now and that I am sorry I could not do more justice to their food. I will also probably show them the snacks in my purse and make it clear that this is my issue and that they are not at any way at fault for failing to accommodate me.
I am a total "take the food in the cooler" girl also. We went to a Halloween party and I just knew it wasn't going to be pretty.
I brought some pumpkin sausage soup in a mason jar, some raw almonds and other treats I keep on hand. It squelched my anxiety about starving by doing this and will be normal protocol for me from now on no matter where I travel away from home. As far as being at a dinner party or sit down function there is always a way to eat. For a wedding I went to they had wonderful salmon so I had two servings of that. Usually there is always vegetables and salad, so I never fret.