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Cola Eating Out: Whole 30 Edition

by Annie Hilldrup,

I’m sure you’ve all heard of it: the Whole30 clean eating program that has been at the forefront of the health and wellness world for the past few years. Many people look at this meal plan as a hope to get back on track with their fitness goals, while others with an insanely killer sweet tooth like me, look to it as a final kick to kill those crazy sugar cravings. The Whole30 Program promotes a whole foods diet that essentially cuts out all processed foods including grains, legumes, dairy, alcohol, and added sugar of any kind. I know, pretty scary right? Many people shy away from elimination diets like this, due to the limiting effects they can have on the convenience of eating out. It’s sadly clear that outside of the safety of our own kitchens, there aren’t many options available to those taking on this often intimidating program.

I was surprisingly excited to take on the Whole30 way of life, despite the many fears I had in the back of my mind about not having my cherished dark chocolate for an entire month. Let’s be honest though, I knew there was no way I was going to want to meal prep or cook every single meal over this thirty day period, nor did I want to completely give up my love for eating out with friends around Columbia. So, I just decided that I was going to have to get creative. It definitely took some research, but I quickly found that there are a number of delicious Whole30 compliant options hidden at some of Soda City’s most loved restaurants.

Publico Kitchen and Tap: 2013 Greene Street

What I Ordered: Two Carne Chimichurri tacos on lettuce wraps

The lettuce wrap, in place of the traditional tortilla, was already listed as an option on the taco portion of Publico’s menu, which made it extremely easy to order this Whole30 compliant meal. I had this taco dish pretty early in the game on my third day three of Whole30, so I’m not going to lie, I had some serious food envy watching my pals chow down on their meals. Luckily though, the flavor of the sauteed mushrooms and cilantro onion relish paired with the grilled sirloin, made up for it. While I must admit that I missed my tasty corn tortilla, this was a great option for a night out with friends.

Freshe Poke: 1102 Huger Street 📷

What I Ordered: A poke salad bowl with a base of spring mix, two scoops of salmon for my protein; for my add-ins I got watermelon radish, onion, cilantro, cucumber, scallions, and a special asian spice mix called togarashi (a ground 7 spice blend including chiles, sesame, orange peel, nori, cayenne, ginger, and Schezuan pepper)

Money Saver: Be sure to add your own avocado if you already have some laying around the house.

The restaurant’s online ordering system made it so easy to navigate and determine what were and were not Whole30 compliant ingredients. My meal was also ready for pick-up within less than twenty minutes, which was perfect timing for my drive back from Target, because where else would I have been on a Friday night? While I definitely wouldn’t have minded some rice or soy sauce to go with my bowl, I thought that this Whole30 option for dining out in Cola was absolutely delicious. This was my first time ordering from Freshe Poke and I was extremely impressed with the quality of all of the ingredients included in my order. Even not on Whole30, I know I will be returning to order the same meal in the future!

Cantina 76: 2901-A Devine St 📷

What I Ordered: The Chicken Salad, but make sure to ask for it without cheese!

This meal is served in a fried tortilla shell which unfortunately goes against the Whole30 protocol, but it was pretty easy to resist and eat around. The salad included a hearty amount of very flavorful shredded chicken with fresh pico de gallo all over a bed of mixed greens. It also came with a cilantro lime vinaigrette on the side, and while I did not ask the waiter about its specific ingredients to see if it was a compliant dressing, I decided to cheat a little that night and go for a drizzle of it over my salad. Whoops, but no regrets because it added a great flavor to the meal.

Grill Marks: 711 Gervais Street

What I Ordered: The “Perfectly Dressed” Burger with red onion, tomato, and guacamole in a lettuce wrap

I absolutely loved how easy Grill Marks made it to order a Whole30 compliant dish that was already listed as an available option on their menu. I would also highly recommend getting your burger with the guacamole because it added the perfect flavor boost to my meal. While I chose to eat it with a fork and knife, rather than in traditional burger style, it still satisfied my cravings to where I almost didn’t miss the toasted buttery bun, repeat almost.

Even though my first Whole30 experience will be ending next week, I think I am going to make it my life’s mission to seek out compliant options in Columbia’s restaurant scene. Maybe it’s the lack of chocolate talking, but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my experience with my first round of Whole30 and I would honestly recommend it to anyone looking to press the reset button on their health journey. It can actually be pretty exciting to get out of your food comfort zone, no matter if it’s in your own kitchen or on the menu of your favorite local restaurant. Whether or not you’ve decided to take on the Whole30 meal plan for yourself, I hope you’ll go out and try some of Cola’s healthier options. I promise they won’t disappoint!

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