I was understandably confused when my paleo friends Abe Wagner and Sara Locke casually mentioned that they’d like to invite me over for pizza sometime. I suppose I always envisioned people who eat paleo to just kind of gnaw on hunks of meat when it came time to eat, so the idea that Abe and Sara would eat pizza threw me for a loop.
Sara did go on to explain to me that when she makes pizza she makes it with a cauliflower crust, and when Abe makes pizza it’s what he calls a “meatza,” featuring either meatloaf or a bacon weave as the crust. It’s their way of still getting to eat the foods they like while also adhering to their paleo ideals.
“Paleo” refers to the paleolithic diet, which takes food back to the basics. People who eat paleo strive to only eat the foods that were available to people back in the Paleolithic Era. That means things like fruits, veggies and meat, meat, meat. Oh, yes. Paleo folks really love their meat.
There’s a lot more to this diet than just eating foods in their true form. If you don’t believe me, offer corn on the cob to a paleo person at a barbeque and brace yourself, because you’re about to get an earful. Most people who eventually arrive at the paleo diet do so because they’ve done their homework and came to the conclusion that this is the best option for them, and they’re usually poised to rigorously defend their decision with facts and personal testimonies.
Don’t think for a moment that my friends who “eat clean” are deprived or unhealthy. Abe –who just so happens to be an MMA fighter – says that his doctor praised him for his excellent cholesterol levels. Sara – who just so happens to be a yoga instructor – finally feels as though she has a healthy relationship with food now that she eats this way. Kaitlin – who is mentioned below and lifts more weights than most men I know – uses the paleo diet to ready herself for fitness competitions.
So where do these folks who are so particular about their food eat when they eat out? Considering the paleo diet is so misunderstood, you may not be surprised to find out that there aren’t many places in town that are prepared to cater to paleo customers without some additional guidance.
“When we’re being strict we just don’t eat out,” says Sara. “There’s nowhere in Omaha to eat that specifically caters to paleo.” Abe adds that he mainly sticks to BBQ places and just gives the server directions on how things should be prepared. For example, if you give him margarine instead of butter, you’re going to get schooled. “I’ll ask the server this question: Did it come from a cow, or did it come from a soybean?”
Kaitlin Heavin-Hollibaugh echoes the sentiment that she doesn’t eat out much because her options are so small. “I don’t eat out much but when I do I stick to leafy greens, sweet potatoes and eggs; it’s typical for my husband and me to bring our own salad dressings when we do go out to eat.” She does most of her grocery shopping at farmers markets, Whole Foods and Hy-Vee, praising Hy-Vee for their large organic section.
Sara adds that she’ll go to a sushi restaurant and order sushi without rice and instead have them wrap the fish in avocado, and when she goes out for breakfast she’ll ask for the eggs to be cooked in butter instead of vegetable oil.
Once she finds a restaurant that will cater to her dietary restrictions, she goes back again and again. Karrays Café in Bellevue is a favorite because they’ve become accustomed to preparing food the way Sara and Abe like it. “They’ll let Abe substitute bacon for toast, and they’re cool with it,” she says. Abe also frequents Outback Steakhouse and Hartland BBQ in Benson.
While there may not be a paleo-specific restaurant in the Omaha area (yet), the trick is to be bold in requesting certain food preparation and paying attention. “They’ll try to pass margarine off as butter, like it’s the same thing as passing Pepsi off for Coke,” says Sara. For a paleo person, however, it is most certainly not the same thing.