Whole30 Restaurants Guide
Completed the first week of the Whole30 diet and looking to take a break from cooking at home from your Whole30 Meal Plan? Whether you’re prepping for your first round of Whole30, or you’ve completed 15 or more, this Whole30 Restaurants guide is here to help.
We’ve gathered our favorite Whole30 takeout options to help you on your Whole30 journey.
Tips For Eating Out on Whole30
It’s actually not as hard to find Whole30 fast food options as you think. Lots of restaurants these days cater to a variety of allergy and dietary restrictions.
When in doubt:
- bring your own Whole30 compliant food
- giveaway any sides or garnishes to someone else at the table (if possible) OR
- eat ahead of time.
And here are some more tips and strategies that can help you stay on track and not cheat on your diet when you’re heading out to the restaurant:
What is WHOLE30
WHOLE30 is a nutritional diet plan that focuses on eating real-food for 30 whole days.
This food plan is designed to help you change how you feel and eat by:
1. Eliminating / cutting out all problematic foods that may be making you feel bad such as:
- added sugars
- artificial sweeteners
- and processed foods containing any of these ingredients
2. Consume all sorts of:
- quality meats
- seeds, and healthy fats.
WHOLE30 RULES – WHAT YOU CAN AND CAN’T EAT ON WHOLE30:
- all fresh vegetables: broccoli, leafy greens, cauliflower, mushrooms, all peppers, all squash, all potatoes (even white – this is new), radishes, turnips, onions, garlic, lettuce, arugula, spinach, kale, kohlrabi, beets, zucchini etc.
- fruits: apples, berries, peaches, plums, pears, melons,
- high-quality grass-fed meats: beef (ground, steak), chicken, duck, pork, turkey, sausage, deli-meats (sugar and nitrate free)
- wild-caught seafood: cod, eel, flounder, haddock, halibut, monk fish, perch, pike, salmon, snapper, sea bass, trout, tuna etc.
- salt, black pepper, sugar free herbs & seasonings (chili-garlic, paprika, cumin, turmeric etc)
- healthy fats: extra-virgin olive oil, coconut oil, ghee, lard, animal fats, coconut oil
- limited amount of nuts, seeds and healthy fats
WHAT CAN’T YOU EAT ON WHOLE30:
- all grains – wheat, rye, barley, oats, corn, rice, millet, bulgur, sorghum, sprouted grains, quinoa, and buckwheat.
- legumes – beans of all kinds, peas, chickpeas, lentils, peanuts, and peanut butter.
- soy – soy sauce, miso, tofu, tempeh, edamame, and lecithin.
- dairy – milk, ream, cheese, kefir, yogurt, sour cream, ice cream, or frozen yogurt.
- all alcohol even for cooking
- added sugars – maple syrup, honey, agave nectar, coconut sugar, date syrup, stevia and monk fruit
- artificial sweeteners – erythritol, Splenda, Equal, Nutrasweet, and xylitol.
- and processed foods containing any of these ingredients
- no baked goods / desserts even with Whole30 “approved” ingredients
1. PLAN AHEAD
Scope out the restaurant menu – if you know where you’re going to eat ahead out time, do some research and see if the restaurant has a website that includes the menu.
If the restaurant doesn’t have a website, check out Yelp or Google to see if their are reviews or if there’s a contact number, try calling the restaurant to see if someone can help you with any meal suggestions.
2. BRING A FEW WHOLE30 SNACKS OR YOUR OWN ENTIRE MEAL
One of the ways to ensure that you’ll stick to your diet is by bringing your own stash of Whole30-friendly snacks or food.
I often pack my own avocado, nuts or salad dressings with me when I want to load up on my fats and keep me feeling full if the restaurant doesn’t have a big selection.
3. CUSTOMIZE YOUR SIDES
- Ask for a side salad or a double side of low carb vegetables: broccoli, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, cauliflower, sauteed spinach, mushrooms, or green beans
- Avoid common sides like: rice, fries, mashed potatoes with butter, pasta, noodles, etc.
4. CONSIDER FILLING UP ON A LIGHT MEAL BEFOREHAND:
Don’t head out to the restaurant when you’re starving or hungry without being prepared otherwise, you’re more likely to make some less than optimal choices.
You can choose to eat something beforehand or pack some Whole30 snacks to take with you just in case.
5. STICK TO CERTAIN TYPES OF WHOLE30 RESTAURANTS
Certain types of restaurants are more Whole30 friendly than others (more options and open to substitutions):
- Mediterranean / Greek restaurants
- Middle Eastern
- Family friendly / chain restaurants – Applebee’s, Panera’s, Chili’s, TGI Fridays, Chipotle etc.
- Seafood restaurants
- Salads are usually a Whole30 safe bet. Chopped green salads with mainly leafy greens are all great options. If there’s an ingredient on the salad you do not want, try substituting for another ingredient or giveaway any ingredients on your plate that are not Whole30 compliant.
- If a sandwich looks delicious, you can ask them to serve it on a bed of greens instead of bread. Egg salad, chicken salad or tuna salad are some great options but be sure to ask what type of mayo, butter, oil, sour cream they are using. If in doubt, opt for tuna, chicken or hard boiled eggs without any mayo and bring your own or ask them to mash in an avocado.
Less Whole30-friendly restaurants (fewer options or less likely to offer alternatives):
- Italian restaurants (smaller or not chain-type)
- Burger joints / sandwich chops
- Mexican restaurants (smaller or not chain-type)
- Chinese / Asian restaurants (smaller or not chain-type – they usually add sugar or starchy sauces to their dishes)
WHOLE30 RESTAURANTS – WHERE TO EAT AND WHAT TO ORDER ON WHOLE30
1. Burger places:
- Order an entree-sized salad with no cheese or dressing and bring your own
- Swap out a bun for a lettuce wrap or have the patty meat served on a salad instead
- Avoid fries (even sweet potato fries) and opt for a side of celery, pickles, cucumber spears or a salad
- Add avocado or another healthy fat to your burger
2. Mediterranean / Middle Eastern Restaurants
- Grilled meats: chicken Souvlaki, chicken Sharma, pork gyros – be sure to ask what type of oil if any are used to cook your meats and ask if they can use compliant olive oil or avocado oil.
- Grilled fish and seafood – be sure to ask what type of oil if any are used to cook your meats and ask if they can use compliant olive oil or avocado oil.
- Entree salads (minus cheese and dressing)
- Avoid hummus, couscous, tabbouleh and rice
3. Mexican Restaurants:
- Avoid rice, beans, chips & tortillas
- Try ordering fajitas and asking for lettuce wraps instead of tortillas and extra meat instead of rice and beans
- Guacamole, carnitas, Carne asada are all okay
- Grilled seafood – be sure to ask what type of oil if any are used to cook your meats and ask if they can use compliant olive oil or avocado oil.
- If dining at fast food like Chipotle, order a burrito bowl salad / taco salad and top it with meat, pico and guacamole
4. Italian Restaurants:
- Avoid pasta dishes and look for those that are a “meat/veggie/carb” combo. Simply swap out the carb for an extra serving of veggies
- Grilled fish, steak & chicken entrees (check to see if there is breading or sugar in the sauce) – be sure to ask what type of oil if any are used to cook your meats and ask if they can use compliant olive oil or avocado oil.
- Order entree-sized salads with no dressing
5. Indian Restaurants:
- Order items with less gravy or sauce that way you can avoid naan and rice
- Tandoori meats and kabobs are great options
- Many restaurants add sugar, high-carb starches & creamy to their sauces so it’s better to check and ask.
6. Chinese Restaurants:
- Stick to stir-fries (beef & broccoli, cashew chicken, chicken and broccoli) (ask if they could leave out sauces and just season with salt and pepper and be sure to ask what type of oil if any are used to cook your meats and ask if they can use compliant olive oil or avocado oil.)
- Avoid noodle dishes and fried rice and get lettuce wraps
- Roasted chicken & duck are some great choices
- Steamed fish
7. Thai Restaurants:
- Stir fries: chicken, pork or beef (ask if they could leave out sauces and just season with salt and pepper) – be sure to ask what type of oil if any are used to cook your meats and ask if they can use compliant olive oil or avocado oil.
- Coconut curries (minus the rice & serve with lettuce)
- Soups: (minus any root vegetables)
- Leafy green salads (minus sugary sauces or high carb vegetables)
- Avoid noodle dishes and fried rice (no Pad Thai, Pad See Ew, Pineapple Fried Rice or Basil Fried Rice
8. Japanese Restaurants
- Stick to sashimi or tataki (minus sugary sauces or soy sauce)
- Sushi-rolls minus the rice
- Chicken, steak, salmon or shrimp entrees minus sauce – be sure to ask what type of oil if any are used to cook your meats and ask if they can use compliant olive oil or avocado oil.
- Avoid edamame, noodle dishes and fried rice
9. Pizza places:
This can be a hard one, but more and more pizza places are offering low carb crusts:
- Order a salad instead and top with meats, no croutons and no dressing – be sure to ask what type of oil if any are used to cook your meats and ask if they can use compliant olive oil or avocado oil.
- Sometimes, it’s worth staying away from pizza places. When the craving for pizza hits, you can make delicious pizza casserole at home using compliant ingredients
With those ideas in mind, try to suggest Whole30-friendly restaurants for meals out with family and friends. Explain to them that this will help you stay on track with your weight-loss and health and ask for their support.
10. Sports bars / pubs / wing joints
- chicken wings (no breading) – be sure to ask what type of oil if any are used to cook your meats and ask if they can use compliant olive oil or avocado oil.
- Grilled chicken, steak, pork, lamb chops – no breading – be sure to ask what type of oil if any are used to cook your meats and ask if they can use compliant olive oil or avocado oil.
- Grilled salmon or shrimp (no breading and ask for no sugary sauces) – be sure to ask what type of oil if any are used to cook your meats and ask if they can use compliant olive oil or avocado oil.
- Bunless burger or serve patty meat on a bed of salad
- Entree-sized salads – Aim for leafy salads minus croutons and no dressing
SO WHAT ARE THE BEST WHOLE30 FAST FOOD OPTIONS
Sometimes, you can’t avoid hitting a fast food drive-thru line when you’re out with friends or traveling. While it’s best to bring your own snacks when possible, here are some tips to stay on track if you are heading out to these popular fast food places:
1. What to order at McDonalds when eating Whole30:
- Order grilled unbreaded meats served without the bun and on lettuce wraps (grilled chicken burger, hamburger, quarter pounder, big mac etc.) and no sauces
- Aim for leafy salads minus croutons and no dressing
- Avoid breaded meats, wraps, buns etc.
2. Whole30 Dining options at KFC:
- Order grilled chicken or grilled chicken burger without the bun and on lettuce wraps
- Aim for leafy side salads minus croutons and no dressing
- Avoid breaded chicken, wraps, buns.
3. What to order at Subway:
- Order tuna, egg or chicken salad over lettuce / spinach with no mayo and include any vegetables with cucumber, green peppers, avocado, boiled eggs, bacon and olive oil
- Ask for no dressing
4. What to order at Pita Pit when eating Whole30:
- Order tuna, egg or chicken salad with no mayo, chicken Souvlaki, chicken Schawarma, grilled chicken over lettuce / spinach and include vegetables with cucumber, green peppers, avocado, boiled eggs, bacon and olive oil
- Ask for no dressing
Just say “no”
If the restaurant is not so keen on substitutions (which most are) you can simply set it aside or give away anything not compliant to a dining buddy if possible. If not, just ask the waiter to not include something. It’s better to not even see if than be tempted to eat something sitting on the table
And yes, saying no to a bread basket is a thing.
When it comes to beverages, stick to water
Sodas and sugary beverages are a big no-no
Skip the dessert menu or bring your own
If the whole party is getting dessert and you don’t want to be left out, ask if they can serve a berry platter or veggie tray with celery, broccoli and cucumber.
Unsure? Ask the staff or look at nutrition facts
Sometimes it can be daunting to tell your waiter about your dietary restrictions but they handle this stuff all the time. Luckily, lot’s of menus include nutrition facts for you to make smart decisions, but also, there’s no harm in asking the staff!
Be prepared for surcharges
Eating healthy can come at a price. When you get charged to modify your meal, as annoying as it can be, stick to your why and remind yourself why you choose this healthy lifestyle.
Do the best you can with what you got
We’re human and it can be hard to adhere to rules 100% of the time. If you slip up, accept it and realize tomorrow is a new day.
Dine at restaurants or take-out places that are
Pita Pit, Panera’s, Chipotle, Qdoba, Whole Foods Salad Bar or other grocery store salad bars, TGI Fridays, Applebee’s, Chili’s are great at accommodating and offer lots of gluten free and healthier options.
This one can be tricky because you are not always in control of restaurant choices, but encourage your friends and family to eat at places that accommodate you. Chances are, your friends and family will be supportive of your lifestyle decisions.
If you are completely out of control, however, that’s when you can be creative and customize your own meal.
It might not be the best dish in the world, but hopefully, with these tips above, you can create a meal that suits your needs!