Eating Out on Whole Life Challenge:
What to Order at Zoes Kitchen & Wegman’s
(And Why You Should Avoid Ruby Tuesday)
First things first: This post is for everyone! It sounds like this will be specific just to those doing the Whole Life Challenge, but really, getting better acquainted with the ingredients that restaurants – even “healthy” restaurants – put in your food is always a good idea. Long after I finish the Challenge, these will be my go-to meals when I need to grab something to eat quickly while I’m out. And I certainly won’t be back to Ruby Tuesday.
Zoes Kitchen provides self-described “simple, tasty, fresh” Mediterranean-inspired fare. One good thing is that they provide a comprehensive Allergen Guide online. My local restaurant also had an easy-to-read copy of this on hand when I was ordering.
I want to give a shout out to Scott Melice, manager of my local Zoes, because he was very helpful. I had given up on finding something, but he insisted we could figure out a WLC-compliant meal, and we did. And I will say: It was delicious and it filled me up.
Now here’s the negative: It should NOT have been that hard! In a place that has a reputation as a “healthier” fast food choice, there really should be more than one, hard-to-figure-out meal that I could eat.
One of the main problems is their soybean oil blend. This is used for cooking, in their dressings, and even in their hummus. Their chicken is marinated in it, and it just comes that way (meaning you don’t have an option for un-marinated chicken).
The good news is that the restaurant does at least have real olive oil and real butter.
What manager Scott and I came up with for a WLC-compliant meal is this:
*Shrimp kabobs (shrimp and veggies), cooked only over the open flame with real butter if necessary;
*Side salad, minus feta, dressed only with real olive oil (I then squeezed lots of lemon wedges on it and sprinkled it with salt); and
*A fruit cup.
Note: This was just a side salad with the kabobs. If you order a full size salad at Zoes, it comes with potatoes on the bottom (weird, right?) so you’ll need to request they leave those out.
Another note: If I wasn’t doing WLC, I would have kept that yummy feta in the salad!
There are lots places to eat at Wegman’s. But for all the natural and organic food they stock on their shelves, their “Market Cafe” leaves a lot to be desired. If you’re eating WLC (or Paleo, or gluten-free, or GMO-free, or MSG-free), pickings can be pretty slim.
Obviously the sub bar, panini grill, and pizzaria are out. Unfortunately, the sushi bar is out, too: Even the sashimi is coated in soy oil! And while the salad and prepared foods bars now indicate which foods are gluten-free, the only ones offered are the fruit and plain salad fixings. They offer Ken’s salad dressings, which are soybean oil-based and contain MSG among other evils.
So that leaves the seafood bar. Although this is where I ended up finding a great meal, without some special requests it’s not much better than the rest of the options. They use a basting oil made with canola oil, along with a soy cooking spray. And their sauces… Well, let me give this ingredient list as an example:
Lemon Butter Sauce:
Water, Sherry Reduction (Contains Sulfites), Cream, Sugar, Lemon Peel, Shallots, Salt, Hydrolyzed Soy and Corn Protein, Xanthan Gum, Maltodextrin, Soy Protein Concentrate, Citric Acid, Lemon Oil, Lactic Acid, Malic Acid, Corn Oil, Onion Powder, Autolyzed Yeast Extract, Sodium Citrate, Flavorings, Soy Protein Isolate, Ascorbic Acid, Lemon Juice, Organic Evaporated Cane Juice, Garlic Powder, Tartaric Acid, Lime Oil, Turmeric, Lime Juice, Beet Juice, Polysorbate 80, Propylene Glycol, Natural Extractives of Turmeric and Annatto Seeds, Potassium Hydroxide.
The good news here is that the chefs are willing to cook to order and accommodate special requests. For my lunch at the Wegman’s fish bar my girlfriend (Hi, Colleen!) and I split some delicious raw oysters, and then both got Day Boat Scallops, cooked only with olive oil, with a side of veggies cooked the same way. It was very good. So good, in fact, that one wonders why they aren’t always cooked that way!
The only positive thing I can say about Ruby Tuesday is that they have a comprehensive allergy book (you can also view it here) which includes gluten, dairy, soy and MSG, among other allergens.
I spent quite a bit of time poring over this book, and unfortunately could not find a WLC-compliant meal (or even one that I felt comfortable eating). What I did find, though, was some very upsetting information about the ingredients they use.
*Many of their sauces, spreads and cooking mediums contain MSG. In fact, you’ll even find MSG in their dinner rolls and french fries!
*They list some items as being soy-free, even if they are cooked or coated in refined soy oil.
*Almost everything is cooked or coated in said oil (or a soy-and-MSG-containing margarine product).
*They provide some sort of breaded chicken product that is supposedly gluten-free, but no one knew what it was made of, except that my waitress assured me it’s “much better” for me. Um… OK…
*They can provide real butter, but I couldn’t find anything safe to put it on.
*Even their vegetables sides (“Fresh. Fresh. Sides.”) are coated with liquid margarine.
*The baked potato (which wouldn’t be WLC anyway) is covered in refined soybean oil.
*Even their cheese contains soy!
If I was absolutely forced to eat there, I would get the salad bar, avoiding all the dressings and prepared foods on the bar (such as pasta salad). Sunflower seeds are the only safe protein/fat.
Two thumbs down for Ruby Tuesday.
If you’ve found somewhere easy to eat out, or created your own meal somewhere, please share below!
This post was shared at Kelly the Kitchen Kop’s Real Food Wednesday.
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