I always pack my healthy snack bars, a boiled egg, a banana, GMO-free tortilla chips, organic carrots, almonds… and when I go out to eat I don’t expect that the restaurant will always have my ideal meal. I am on a rather restricted auto-immune diet that is gluten-free, nightshade-free, soy-free, sugar-free, cow dairy-free… but usually I can pick and choose items off a menu and make do. And if I eat the occasional tomato or have melted cheese here and there, I am fine. But there are a few foods and additives that are sure to ruin a good day- MSG, canola oil, gluten. I used to think it was pretty difficult to mess up a house salad or a scrambled egg. Not anymore.
A recent project had me away from home and eating out a lot in Tallahassee for a period of about 2 weeks. I now know to ask in EVERY restaurant- “Do you use MSG?” That’s the first question to which I may likely receive a reply from the wait staff to the restaurant owner, manager, cook or chef, “I don’t know.”
Really?? You don’t know? You don’t know if you are using MSG??
That’s because restaurants don’t prepare whole foods anymore. They assemble food products that come from restaurant suppliers. Mexican salsa made from scratch? NOT. Roasted chicken with a dash of salt and herbs? NOT. How about just a bowl of black beans and rice without MSG? NOT.
The list of culinary assaults over the past 2 weeks is endless but the most painful experiences have been in restaurants when staff who have stated, “No, this item does NOT contain MSG. We make it from scratch.” And,then, 10 minutes into my meal I get the dry mouth, the red rash and oh, wait… here it comes- the tell tale sign of MSG and chemically-laden food- a headache from hell.
As an aside, I am allergic to seafood. So if I go into a seafood restaurant, my bad. I don’t expect the restaurant owners to create a seafood-free atmosphere. The onus in on me to let the waiter know I am allergic and to please prepare the meat on a clean grill. My other option is to avoid places where seafood contamination may occur. But when I go out to eat, I don’t expect that everyplace I go is laden with pre-prepared foods full of additives and chemicals. Grrrrrr!
I have learned to walk out if in doubt. I have avoided fast food and chain restaurants for years, but now even the well-established expensive restaurants are taking short cuts. In a word, BEWARE.
“Please do not season the meat. In fact, rinse it before you place it on the grill. No, not even salt.”
“I would like a boiled egg. Yes. Just one. I know it will take a few minutes more, but that’s okay. Your scrambled eggs are powdered or you have added flour to them.”
“I would like a house salad. Well, actually, just a bowl of lettuce please- cucumbers if you have them. No croutons, shredded cheddar cheese, tomatoes. And no dressing- just some lemon juice.”
Here are a few handy hints for restaurant owners:
- Lay off the salt please.
- Remove MSG food items from the menu.
- Consider making your own salad dressings.
- In fact, consider making your own everything…
- Use high quality oils please. No more canola!
- Use fresh ingredients. Wilted, brown lettuce is unappealing. Really.
- Please just say no to those “rubs” you slather all over the meat. See 2nd item on this list.
- Remove the word “authentic” from your menu if any of the ingredients were derived in a lab.
- Oh, and if I must eat cow cheese, high quality cheese is preferred. But really, if it is a Greek salad, use goat or sheep feta. That’s Greek.
For others who are interested in avoiding Monosodium Glutamate here is a great resource: MSGTruth.org
And here’s a great post by Dr. Amy Myers on tips for eating out. 10 Tips for Healthy Restaurant Dining
Test your sensitivity to 96 different foods, all from home. Shop Now