In Part One I covered the basics of sourcing and preparing food for home.
In this post I will cover how to eat in a reasonably healthy way whilst travelling the mean streets of the Nation’s capital.
Ok, so here’s the situation: you’re out and about in London. Perhaps you are doing tourist things, perhaps it’s lunchtime at work. For reasons left unexplained you don’t have a pre-prepared meal or snack with you and you are hungry. How, when faced with row upon row of bloomin’ sandwich shops, sushi bars, and noodle restaurants can you ever hope to eat Paleo?
Well, my friends, there is a way. In fact there are loads of ways.
In true hunter-gather style you’d like to eat on the move. Or at least at your desk.
Option 1: Local supermarket
This is my go-to meal of choice during the working week. Simply grab a pack of prepared salad leaves, perhaps some additional prepared veggies (sugar snap peas are a fine choice), some cooked and sliced meat, a pack of nuts and a fruit. Bingo! I like to roll the salad leaves and veg up in little meat rolls, but that’s just me. Very simple and pretty cheap.
Bonus tip #1: buy the cooked meats from the deli counter rather than the shelves. They are cheaper and better tasting (probably fresher)
Bonus tip #2: Go for berries rather than bananas, mangos or dried fruit. Their sugar content is significantly lower, and they still taste sweet enough
In increasing order of price (and perceived quality) I would look at UK supermarkets in the following fashion:
- Asda (Wallmart to our friends from o’er the sea)
- Marks & Spencer
The latter four all tend to have inner city ‘metro’ versions that stock a more limited but still useful range of goods.
Bonus tip #3: You’d think it would be possible to find an all-in-one prepared salad (with meat and veg) in the supermarket that meets your needs. However most have either pasta, rice, noodles or couscous making up the bulk. Once you have eaten around this, it is hardly worth the effort. Make your own!
Option 2: The sandwich shops
Yes. You read that correctly. If you look carefully, you can actually pick up a pretty good grain free meal in these places.
For example Pret a Manger do an excellent chicken salad in a box. Yes, it has slivers of parmesan cheese in it, but you can always leave those to the side. The rest is fresh leaves, juicy chicken and a lovely oily dressing. Perfect! By memory, Eat is also a pretty good bet for a nice salad – just watch out for hidden noodles or pasta!
Your other option is to find the kind of sandwich shop that actually makes them to order; the ones that have endless tubs of ingredients and a large (black)board listing all the bready permutations.
Guess what? You don’t have to have the bread! In most of these places if you ask they’ll make you a salad on a plate with the ingredients. And now you have a huge choice!
Option 3: The kebab shop
I love how I can – with a straight face – suggest that eating food from a kebab shop is good for you. Well maybe not ‘good’, but certainly not bad.
Just in case you don’t know what I am talking about, these are the places that often have some mystery meat cooking on a spit in the window (generally chicken, sometimes lamb). You may also remember them as the place you tended to end up at after a night ‘on the ale’.
It goes like this:
Oily/fatty dressings? Check
Simply chose from the meat on display (I recommend the lamb for fat content), take your pick of the vegetables present, splash on some sauce, and ask for it to be put into a box without the bread. Or chips. Result!
Option 4: The workers cafe (pronouced: “caff”)
This one is a little bit of a stretch, but is generally pretty good in a pinch especially at breakfast time.
Who does eggs? They does eggs! Omelettes, scrambled, poached and fried. There will be some apologetic nod towards salad, but don’t get your hopes up. Like I said, good in an emergency.
Eating in restaurants
Ok. Let’s manage expectations here.
I haven’t eaten in every restaurant in London. I simply don’t know what is on the menu in each of the several billion eateries that scatter our fair city. What follows therefore are my general rules of thumb for dining out.
Remember the basis
Your are searching firstly for quality protein (meats and fish, perhaps eggs), then for a little carbs from vegetables, ideally. Finally you a looking for a good source of healthy fats to make up the meal. When you think about it, that isn’t actually as restrictive as you may first reckon.
Most gastropubs (check Wikipedia) for example, do a fine range of meat, fish and vegetables. That they should choose to garnish them with rice, chips or potatoes needn’t be an impediment to you. Simply…
Ask the waiter/waitress
…to remove the offending grains or starches and ideally supplement with additional veg. Yes. It is pretty much than simple. In my experience a pleasant smile, accompanied with a slightly apologetic look (well, we are English after all) gets you most of the way there. If you feel the need for additional leverage, mumble something along the lines of “gluten allergy” and you should be golden.
The posher the restaurant, the more likely you are to be able to ‘customise’ your meal. Perhaps even to the extent of ordering “off piste” i.e. meals that are not listed on the menu. Your mileage may vary.
Use your common sense
Not just a rule of thumb for eating, but also useful in everyday life, I find. However, I digress…
If you think you’ll be able to wrangle a nutritious meal in the Land of the Golden Arches or via the Ruling Monarch of Hamburgers, then you are likely to be disappointed. Yes, they technically do ‘salads’. But [insert your own snarky metaphor here]. So there.
Particularly if you are new to Paleo eating, try to avoid getting into a situation where you are searching for food whilst hungry. That is a recipe (pun partly intended) for poor decision making. If possible, try and plan the sort of food you would like to eat and seek out those places early rather than leaving it to chance.
Finally, if you know that your willpower around some foods is…suspect. Then guess what? Don’t put yourself in those situations! Got a thing for cakes? Then steer clear of the coffee houses (Starbucks, Costa, Nero, etc.)
I’ll end with a couple of suggestions of places you might want to consider:
- All Turkish/Middle Eastern restaurants: usually pretty good range of meat (chicken, lamb, occasional beef) and lots of tasty salads available. Watch out for: bread, rice and occasional couscous
- Nandos: Chicken is pretty good, although sauces may be a little high in sugar if you are being very picky. Salads available. Plenty of options if you don’t want rice or chips as accompanyment
- Pizza Express: Do an excellent chicken salad. It comes with dough balls, which you can use as bargaining chips with the chef for “moar cheekin”. A reasonable compromise if you are eating with folks who don’t share your dietary proclivities.
- Thai restaurants: a little risky, what with all the rice and noodles. However a good vegetable stir fry and some excellent meats will generally fit the bill
- The ‘Fresh & Wild’ healthfood stores do a great range of Paleo friendly salads (thanks, Trevor)
- Old Spitalfields Market do a “huge” pick’n’mix chicken salad (thanks, Trevor)
- Opuz Kitchen, in Old Compton Street, Soho is a very good Turkish Grill (thanks, Morgan)
And some that are probably worth avoiding:
- Italian restaurants: a sea of pasta and bread
- Japanese/sushi: rice in spades
- Chinese: more rice
- Anything with “Steakhouse” in big red neon letters: (primarily for the benefit of our visitors from overseas). In the words of the great Admiral Akbar, “It’s a trap”. Don’t ask. Just walk by and feel content in the knowledge that CrossFit London saved you.
- Subway: If I even have to discuss this, then something has gone very wrong*
Doubtless the more gastronomically adventurous of you will be able to identify other opportunities for Paleo eating in London. If so, pipe up in the comments. I will add your suggestions to this post, credited accordingly.
*Although I did appreciate the schadenfreude of seeing another UK CrossFit affiliate proudly advertising a 10% off deal with the aforementioned establishment “for our members”. Nicely done, friends.