No garlic, no onion, no nightshades please: How I enjoy an Ayurvedic meal at (almost) any restaurant
By Stephanie Stillman
I love cooking. But sometimes I’m invited to dinner at a restaurant or simply want to enjoy a meal outside of my home. When I first came to Ayurveda I felt it was impossible to eat well off a menu, but now I’ve got tricks that help me to enjoy an Ayurvedic meal at almost any restaurant.
It’s not always possible to eat a totally balanced Ayurvedic meal at a restaurant. I may not be able to order a grain, legume, augmenting and extractive vegetables, but I can do my best. When ordering a 60:40 meal isn’t possible, I break it down to the basics by creating a plate with a balance of augmenting to extractive foods.
Where are the veggies?
Fresh, cooked veggies are a must have on my plate. So I choose restaurants that I know will have an array of fresh vegetables in their kitchen. Chinese and Thai cuisines are usually a good choice but I’ve also had success at gastro pubs that focus on serving high-quality food. When in doubt, I go for vegetarian sushi. If I’m not sure about what the restaurant serves, I check the menu beforehand.
Instead of choosing a dish based on its enticing name, I go straight for the description. I scan the side dishes and entrees looking for ingredients that I enjoy eating, like rice, beans and vegetables. Then when it’s time to order, I piece together a meal that may not have been offered right on the menu. There is often a rice dish that comes with a fish or chicken entree, and instead of ordering that whole meal I simply order the rice dish and a side of vegetables. By doing a menu scan, I get some insight into the restaurant’s kitchen and what they can offer.
No garlic, no onion, no nightshades please
Before I came to Ayurveda three years ago, I ate garlic in just about every dish, often without knowing it was even in there. Since eliminating it from my diet, I notice how its rajasic qualities agitate my mind. Also the taste and smell now make me feel nauseous. I leave out onions and nightshades (tomatoes, peppers, potatoes) because their inflammatory qualities do not agree with my body and give me indigestion. Asking if a dish can be made without garlic, onions and nightshades tells me a lot about the quality of a restaurant. If they say “no,” it’s often because their sauces or vegetables are pre-made or pre-packaged from a distributor. There are plenty of restaurants that make their food fresh and are happy to accommodate this request, so when a restaurant can’t, I cross it off my list of places to eat. I’d rather not be spending my time and money at a place that isn’t cooking from scratch or prepares their food a week in advance.
Before enjoying the first bite, I take a moment to thank the food and all the energy that went into bringing it to my plate. I am sure to chew my food and enjoy the experience. And at the end of my meal, I thank the servers by offering a nice tip to give my appreciation for them answering my questions and helping to create a delicious meal.
What tips have you found to eat according to Ayurvedic principles at restaurants? Leave your ideas in the comments.