Eating out on a ketogenic diet doesn’t have to be an overwhelming, head scratching process. With a few simple strategies under your belt, you’ll be able to confidently navigate the restaurant scene.
When you’re ordering out, keep it simple. Stick to proteins, low-carb veggies and fat sources like butter, olive oil and avocado. Don’t be shy about making special requests, restaurants are there at your service. If you’re polite about it, no one is going to bat an eye about you asking for a cheeseburger without the bun.
Wherever you are, you can order animal protein and vegetables. Order steak, fish or seafood, ribs, chicken, duck, or lamb. Ask for the sauce on the side. Choose a butter or cream based sauce, blue cheese dressing, sour cream or just some pats of butter.
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Eating out on a ketogenic diet is surprisingly easy. Ditch the bread basket and say no to the french fries. These are the things I look for when I’m ordering out:
- Breakfast – any egg dish like an omelet, scrambled or poached eggs with or without cheese and veggies like mushrooms, olives, bell pepper etc, add a side of bacon or sausage
- Brunch – smoked salmon, eggs or meat, salad with avocado
- Lunch – fish and other seafood, Caesar salad with chicken, tacos with extra sour cream and guacamole – hold the tortilla
- Dinner – fish or meat with side salad, baked or steamed vegetables with cream or butter sauce
Traveling with a small bottle of salt is a good idea. Consuming enough salt keeps hunger at bay and guards against fatigue, headaches, and energy lulls.
Eating Out on a Ketogenic Diet
Handle social situations with grace and confidence, no one has to know you’re eating a ketogenic diet if you don’t want to make a big deal about it.
Choose wisely. If you have a say in the matter choose a keto friendly restaurant like a:
- Seafood restaurant
- Sushi joint
- BBQ spot
- Mexican, Chinese or Italian place
The steakhouse is pretty straight forward – order a steak! Ask for steamed veggies on the side with lots of butter. Ditto for the seafood house, get a main of whatever fish or seafood you like and dress it up with a creamy sauce or melted butter.
If you are out for sushi, ask for your favorite roll wrapped in cucumber without rice. Watch out for sugary dressings, add in cream cheese, avocado and macadamia nuts.
BBQ is all about meat! Skip any sugary dips or have them on the side if you aren’t sure if there is added sugar.
Internationally inspired places will also have keto options. Order fajitas or taco without the tortilla and with lots of guacamole, sour cream, hot sauce and cheese. Fuel up on Chinese beef and broccoli, or a simple plate of steamed fish with bok choy and sesame seeds. Enjoy a plate of Italian meatballs or basil infused seafood, add the cream sauce, skip the pasta. Maybe a caprese salad with an order of protein, is more your style.
Be creative when you need to be and you’ll find something worth eating!
Hidden Carbs in Restaurant Meals
If it isn’t clear that your meal is 100% keto friendly, ask a few questions to confirm.
- Ask for your protein to be pan-fried in butter or steamed rather than breaded
- Use olive oil and vinegar for salad/meat dressing if you think the sauces may be sugar based
- Ask for the sauce on the side. Is it thickened with cornstarch or wheat?
- Don’t panic if you eat something like this, just enjoy it and move on.
- Swap out a tomato based or sweet sauce for a butter or cream based option
- Substitute potatoes (baked, mashed or fried) and rice for a salad or steamed/baked/sauteed low-carb veggies
- Add extra cheese, cream cheese, sour cream, avocado, guacamole, pesto, hollandaise sauce, creamy dressings or butter as needed
Be Confident and Be Specific
Food allergies are on the rise and low-carb diets are gaining popularity. Chances are you won’t be the last (and maybe not the first) to make special requests about your food. Be clear with what you want, be confident and polite. The staff is there to serve you, they are literally working to give you what you want, so take advantage of it!
Go Beyond the Food
If you’re out for social reasons, make that the focus! Enjoy the company of your friends and family. Make the experience about the time you get to share together, rather than the food you are eating.
With prior notice, you can plan ahead. Have a small or normal meal ahead of time so you arrive full. Order something small or if you are comfortable enough with the idea, simply state you are fasting and sip casually on some mineral or still water. This places you in a position where you don’t have to get into a big dietary discussion or feel awkward when you order.
This experience is more about how you feel around different types of food more than how anyone else acts. The more comfortable you are with yourself, your relation with food and your body, the less you care what other people think of you.
You have nothing to prove and there is no need to push your opinions onto the lives of others.
Relax and Keep it Keto
Eating out on a ketogenic diet is not too difficult, there is no reason to stress or let the event of eating out break your diet. With a bit of practice, you will soon be fluid in ketogenic menu reading!
Use these tips and techniques to enjoy delicious food, company with friends and family, and the luxury of not having to prepare or clean up after your own foods.