How to eat a low-carb or keto diet when dining out
Most restaurants now have their menu available online. If you are new to keto and concerned about navigating the menu, why not take a peek at home before you go? Scan the menu for keto-friendly options that are likely to be sugar-free and delicious. Once you get to the restaurant, careful ordering can customize the dish so it is perfect for your keto or low-carb regimen.
Eliminate the starch
Bounce the bread. Pass on the pasta. Purge the potatoes. Refuse the rice. Keep temptation off your plate by ordering your meal without the starchy sides.
- If ordering an entrée, most restaurants will substitute a salad or extra veggies for the starch.
- If ordering a sandwich or burger, most restaurants will substitute lettuce wraps for the bun.
- If they will not substitute, simply eliminate the unwanted item, regardless.
If, in spite of careful ordering, your plate arrives with a starchy side, consider your options. If you are certain you can leave it there, untouched, feel free. If you will be tempted to eat some of it, immediately ask the waiter to replate the meal without the starch. If you are at a more casual place, take care of the unwanted food yourself by discarding the unwanted carbs in the trash before you dig into your meal.
If you feel you must explain yourself (to the waiter or your fellow diners), simply suggest stomach issues, food allergies or a restrictive diet. Although most of us want to fit in, health comes first. Always trust your judgement about a dish rather than caving-in to pressure from your dinner companions.
Add healthy fat
Restaurant meals can be low in fat, making it hard to feel satisfied without eating carbs. But this problem can be resolved by adding fat to a standard offering:
- Ask for extra butter and melt it on veggies or meat.
- Ask for olive oil and vinegar dressing and drizzle the oil liberally on salads and your meal.
- Some restaurants serve cheaper vegetable oils rather than olive oil. This is likely not as healthy, unfortunately, as these oils are highly processed.
In addition, they are very high in omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), which most of us consume far too much of.
To avoid this, many seasoned low-carb eaters carry a small bottle of olive oil with them.
- Ask for heavy cream for your coffee or tea.
Keep an eye on sauces and condiments
Some sauces, like Béarnaise sauce, contain mostly fat. Others, like ketchup, contain mostly carbs. Gravies can go either way.
If you are unsure about the sauce, ask about the ingredients and avoid it if it contains sugar, flour, or other starchy thickeners. You can also ask for the sauce on the side so you can decide how much to add to your meal.Choose drinks with care
Perfect drinks are water, sparkling water, tea, or coffee.
If you chose to add an alcoholic beverage, champagne, dry wine, light beer, or spirits — straight or with club soda — are all great low-carb choices. For more details, check out our low-carb and keto alcohol guides.
Are you really still hungry? If not, preferably enjoy a nice cup of coffee or tea while you wait for others to finish their sweets. Perhaps you don’t want to drink coffee because it’s late? Good thinking — ask for decaf coffee or herbal tea instead.
If you are hungry and need more food, look for a cheese plate or berries with heavy cream. Sometimes just cream or butter in your coffee is enough to satisfy.
Get creative if necessary
If nothing on the menu seems to work for you, feel free to improvise.
- What about the Spaghetti Bolognese item – could the restaurant serve just the sauce in a bowl, like soup, with a large serving of sautéed green veggies on the side? Both would be perfect sprinkled with Parmesan cheese!
- Or, might you order two or three appetizers? A salad paired with shrimp cocktail and a cheese plate makes a delicious low-carb dinner.