One thing I found difficult for years was finding a way to eat healthy food at a restaurant. I never could seem to pull it off and usually felt overly stuffed and sick no matter what I chose. One major flaw that I made time and time again was avoiding foods that I knew weren’t ideal. Restaurant meats, for example, are raised on an unnatural diet, living an unnatural lifestyle, and most animals are given antibiotics and hormones to keep their sickly bodies from croaking and to make them grow at an abnormal rate for higher profit margins. With this in mind I couldn’t justify eating these tainted meats, and often chose vegetarian and fish dishes instead.

However, this line of thinking was leading me astray because my focus was more on the production of the foods, and not the processing. Not to brush off pesticides, antibiotics, and hormones as no big deal, because they certainly are, but modern food processing is truly the nemesis of a nourishing food substance. Very few foods can survive the annihilation that most food-processing techniques deploy.

So when faced between a choice of going to Whole Foods for an organic slice of pizza (with canned tomato sauce, processed mozzarella from pasteurized/homogenized reduced-fat milk, and white flour) and running to the nearest Denny’s for the world’s lowest-quality steak and eggs cooked to order, it might just be smarter to hit Denny’s. At least you will be getting real food that hasn’t been adulterated since production, and that contains a nearly complete spectrum of vitamins, minerals, fats, amino acids, etc.

Having said that, run from, not to, your nearest Denny’s, and most of the prepared food at your local “Health Food” store.

Instead inquire in your area about which restaurants, if any, serve grass-fed local beef, buffalo, game meats, pastured meats, organic chicken or eggs, etc. In Maui for example, grass fed local beef is served at Maui Tacos, Fish and Poi/Café O’lei, Hula Grill, Stella Blues, Flatbread, and several others. In Carbondale, CO grass-fed local beef is served at Red Rock Diner and the Pour House, two places that certainly don’t have a reputation for being healthy places to dine, but they can be nonetheless if you order properly.

Restaurants can also be fabulous places to go to add more raw animal foods to your diet. Mineral-rich oysters, enzyme-rich ceviche, sashimi and seared tuna, and nutritionally-stellar beef carpaccio are outstanding choices.

Wild seafood in general is also still a fantastic choice, but I find it doesn’t sustain me like beef, lamb, game, and fowl do.

Many upscale restaurants also serve organ meat dishes, which are not only the most nutritious foods available, but they are particularly lacking in the typical modern diet. Upscale restaurants serve them because, well, they taste good to people who haven’t had their taste buds McRuined. Foie Gras (goose or duck liver) and Sweetbreads (Veal thymus gland) were always the most sought after foods in every restaurant I’ve ever worked in by the kitchen staff, particularly those who were the most passionate about food.

Another rule of thumb to consider while ordering to nourish yourself at a restaurant is to pair plenty of animal protein with unadulterated fat (butter, animal fats, coconut, olives, avocado, etc.), as suggested by endocrinologist Diana Schwarzbein. This insures that insulin levels do not spike and blood sugar levels are maintained at a steady level. Eating in this manner consistently, with little or no exception, can work miracles in the rebalancing of the body’s biochemistry, eliminating cravings, stabilizing emotions, alleviating depression, building lean body mass, eradicating excess body fat, clearing the skin, etc. Thus, this essential nourishing pair, natural fat and unprocessed animal protein, has become my rule #1 when it comes to making food choices in and away from home.

So specifically what should ideally be avoided at restaurants?

* Bread (Refined flours are predominantly used, and when it’s served before a meal you can get quite an insulin spike with no nutrients in return).

* All fried foods (Restaurants usually fry with polyunsaturated oils, many of which are hydrogenated. Hydrogenated or not, polyunsaturated oils, when solvent extracted during processing and heated to high temps, become extremely toxic and are unquestionably a primary contributor to degenerative diseases of all kinds).

* Condiments such as Ketchup and A-1 (These both contain high fructose corn syrup, a primary contributor to Diabetes, Obesity, and the resulting complications of those disorders, and flavor enhancers including MSG, a neurotoxic substance that alters brain chemistry, particularly among hypoglycemics and endurance athletes who are most susceptible to having below-normal brain glucose levels).

* Anything in a paper packet on the table (I don’t care WTF it is, sugar, Splenda, or Equal; it’s something to avoid if you are physically nourished enough to do so without withdrawal symptoms. If you can’t stay away you’re probably not getting enough stabilizing animal protein and saturated fat in your diet. And if you don’t believe that Aspartame causes neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s, read about THIS Diet Pepsi spokesperson).

* Coffee, dessert, and alcohol (Nearly everyone loses the war with these substances without proper nourishment, which must include ample protein and fat (especially saturated) with every meal, lots of calories, no skipped meals, and a large wholesome breakfast. No matter how many times you’ve lost the battle to reduce your consumption of these things, if you actually do exactly what I just said you will be shocked at your sudden ability to avoid them).

All in all, it’s pretty easy to fare well at a restaurant, especially now that the quality expectations are ever-increasing nationwide. Relax and enjoy the experience, and don’t order out of fear, but out of a desire to satisfy the needs of your body with real food – which doesn’t come in a white powder and is not found inside any package, with or without a picture of Paul Newman or the word “organic” on it. And even at times when you do kick back a Coke or 6-pack, or plow a bag of cookies, your best defense against these “foods” are red meat (not salads), butterfat (not vegetables), and other highly nutritious and slowly-digesting foods.