Updated: Oct 12, 2021
By Lauren Hollmer, GLIM Intern This blog is part of the Fall 2021 Detox Kickoff with GLIM!
While I love the changes this detox has brought to my boring kitchen routine, it’s nice to also know that eating out while detoxing is totally doable. At first glance, the detox program appears to present some challenges to ordering whatever looks good. However, with proper planning and thought, it is relatively easy to find a clean and tasty meal that follows the guidelines. To get you started, I present some general guidelines when eating out and a few options from chains that can provide fast-food for a busy day whether you are grabbing to-go or eating out with family & friends.
Fast food joints are notorious for enhancing flavor and ingredient shelf-life with chemical additives and for using cooking methods that generate the very toxins we are looking to remove. However, eating out is still possible and pleasurable! Here are some tips to keep in mind when ordering:
Remember the goals: The purpose of the detox program is to minimize excess toxins or foods that are difficult to digest, reduce inflammation and support the body’s natural ability to effectively detox. Here’s a reminder of GLIM’s recommendations:
Avoid gluten, dairy, sugar, saturated fats, excess carbohydrates, and processed food.
When enjoying one of the “dirty dozen”, make sure they’re organic!
Tomatoes, celery, strawberries, spinach, kale, peaches, nectarines, cherries, apples, grapes, pears, potatoes, hot peppers
Pass on unnecessary condiments: Try to avoid any sauces that appear to be based in butter, containing added sweeteners, or involving wheat (like flour in gravy). This includes salad dressings (opt for oil and balsamic vinegar if you are wary of the options).
Seek out warning signs: Check to see if your menu contains Gluten-Free, Vegetarian, or Vegan markings on meals. These can signal the best options for sticking to the detox.
Stick to greens and proteins: Your best bet at avoiding highly processed food is eating dishes where you can see what went into it. Whole vegetables and meat are often go-to selections for those with dairy and gluten allergies because they’re normally pretty pure (assuming they’re not also drenched in sauce).
Speak up: If you’re concerned about what went into the meal, ask your server for clarification. Kitchens are often accommodating to allergies and may be able to substitute any concerning cooking methods or ingredients.
Relax: We advise adhering to the dietary guidelines as strongly as possible to enhance the detox, but we all slip up on occasion. If the stress of being safe is too excessive, then give yourself a breather and just try to follow along as closely as possible- especially because unwanted stress could trigger the undesirable results we want to avoid.
Chipotle: One of the beauties of Chipotle is its mission to provide local and organic ingredients whenever possible. Although it is hard to guarantee, you can at least feel confident in selecting ingredients from an organization that is conscious of the dangers of pesticides and long-shipping for produce. Even better, Chipotle provides a list of every ingredient used on their website, and odds are you know all of them (suggesting minimal use of unhealthy additives).
Build a bowl: Skipping the gluten and processing found in tortillas or taco shells is a great first start.
Choose your protein: Chipotle cooks and flavors its meats in a number of spices, sticking to rice bran or sunflower oil (take that, butter). There is no added sugar to any of the seasonings either, therefore you can take your pick. To avoid the extra addition to the “Dirty Dozen” (hot peppers), carnitas is the only option without chipotle chili. If you’re vegetarian, like me, unfortunately sofritos are not the best pick (there are sulfites added and potentially non-organic tomato paste). However, if you’re at all concerned about the protein purity- go for beans! They are seasoned, with chipotle chilis among other things, but they can get you that essential protein while avoiding any uncertainty or undesirable spice. If you’re okay with jalapenos, the guacamole can also be substituted for free in place of protein (and again, no added sugar).
Bulk up the base: Grain lovers unite- Chipotle serves gluten-free rice! Go for brown over white to gain more nutrients and avoid excess processing. Rice is a great way to make your bowl more filling, and extra beans are even better.
Top it off: Toppings can bring a meal from good to great. Although cheese, queso, and sour cream are off the table, you can still add a little flavor through salsas or veggies. The fajita vegetables completely avoid the “Dirty Dozen” to add excellent texture and taste. Corn salsa only contains hot peppers as well. Feel free to call your local store to investigate if the tomato salsa and superfood lettuce blend is organic as well!
Customize at home: If you have some extra time, add some of your favorite organic ingredients and spices at home. Maybe you have a special organic salsa, extra veggies, or any other fun toppings to make it unique. My favorite way to get multiple meals out of one bowl is adding extra lettuce and making my own salad out of the delicious Chipotle components.
Panera Bread: Panera’s motto is “food as it should be'' and their guidelines for production reflect that. They avoid artificial additives including added MSG and artificial trans-fats. In 2014, Panera removed artificial colors, sweeteners, flavors and preservatives from their menu. They work closely with their farmers to ensure antibiotic and stress-free meat is procured. Although Panera does monitor all levels, pesticides are allowed by their farmers and therefore must be taken into consideration with consumption. With a good eye, you can still find a way to enjoy Panera’s freshness during the detox.
Mediterranean Bowl: Remove the tahini, greek yogurt, and cheese for a filling, gluten and dairy-free bowl of flavor!
Greek Salad: Avoid the cheese and non-organic tomatoes, but keep the rest for some more Mediterranean flavors in this salad.
Turkey chili: Other than molasses, there is no other added sugar in this dish. Consisting of antibiotic-free turkey and full of warming spices, this is a cup of good food. The only question is the organic and pesticide content of the vegetables.
Protein Add-ons: If not already included, Panera provides the option to add a hard-boiled egg (if you’re not fully against the Sinister Seven) or quinoa as protein.
Dressing: Unfortunately, most of the dressings at Panera have a lot of unwanted ingredients. Luckily, the app allows you to switch to olive oil (get it on the side with some salt and pepper).
Sweetgreen: This chain started by three Georgetown students is committed to transparent, scratch cooking with sustainable practices and local ingredients, and has multiple Chicago locations. They only source from trusted farmers and even provide details on where their ingredients came from.
Bases: Sweetgreen boasts organic lettuce blends and grains to give you a lot to work with to bulk up your bowl and stomach.
Proteins: All protein options are cooked in sunflower oil with a blend of spices, but no added sugar.
Toppings: Beware of the cheese and any crispy toppings like tortillas or croutons, but otherwise top that bowl to your heart's content!
Dressings: There are a few dressings that only consist of whole ingredients and no processed sugar. Go for the pesto vinaigrette, Sweetgreen hot sauce, lime cilantro or jalapeno vinaigrette. If you really want a treat, maple syrup or honey can be found in their balsamic vinaigrette, hot honey sauce, miso sesame ginger dressing and either spicy cashew dressing or pesto. These are all gluten and dairy-free options!
Signature bowls: The Shroomami, Crispy rice bowl, and Green goddess avocado only need consideration for the dressing used, but otherwise meet the detox standards. Others simply need the removal of dairy or gluten-containing toppings, but will surely not disappoint.
CoreLife Eatery: CoreLife is an expanding chain from the Northeast, sharing its bowls of goodness across the country and now in Downers Grove. They seek products from local farmers, striving for organic and non-GMO ingredients. Their meat comes from sustainability raised animals without hormones or antibiotics. You can even check the board at your local store to see what’s in season and where it came from!
Goodbye gluten: All of their bowls are gluten-free, providing one less concern for sticking to the detox at this joint. Just make sure that you’re not opting for processed bases, like rice noodles.
Build your own: CoreLife allows you to design a bowl that meets your desires and preferences. If you fear the uncertainty around organic sourcing (CoreLife is not 100% organic), then customize away from the dirty dozen. Romaine, arugula, quinoa and purple rice are all safe bets. As for toppings, load it up with beet strips, jicama, carrots, corn or beans. The proteins are all gluten and dairy-free, but stick to the basics for the best results.
Dressings: Core Life makes all of their dressings from scratch on site, and provides their ingredients online. They opt for natural sweeteners like honey and agave in place of sugar, making many options a great fit for the detox. Some dairy-free options include the Thai Cashew Dressing, Carrot Chili Vinaigrette Dressing, and Fire Sauce. To avoid any sugar, they offer Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Fresh Lemon Squeeze or Fresh Lime Squeeze.
Signature bowls: Sriracha ginger tofu and ancient grains, Tuna poke grain bowl, or Coconut curry chicken soup. Make sure to customize any other bowls to be dairy-free and avoid the dirty dozen when uncertain about the source.
True Food Kitchen: If we could recommend any place in Chicagoland to eat out while detoxing, it would be True Food Kitchen. Founded by the “grandfather of integrative medicine,” Dr. Andrew Weil created TFK with the commitment to nourish the body with healthy and craveable meals. Each ingredient was hand selected to curate dishes that not only reduce inflammation, but also taste as good as they make you feel. Even better, they commit to modifying their recipes to meet your dietary needs, including keto and paleo diets.
Starting out smart: Roasted brussel sprouts, butternut squash soup, and charred cauliflower hit the ground running with some vegan and gluten-free flavor! Or go for one of their awesome sides, like the sweet potato hash or cauliflower polenta.
Make your meal: The seasonal ingredient salad is made without any of the 8 major food allergens, and many others just need slight modifications! We also recommend their Grilled Sustainable Salmon for some delicious protein you can feel good about.
Speak up: If there is something on the menu that is really calling your name but questionable in content, speak up and let TFK know about your dietary guidelines. The staff will try their best to meet your needs and serve your palette.
When in doubt, go for whole foods and stick with the basic detox guidelines. This will allow you to stick to your detox while still eating out!