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There are many reasons for dining out, from a special occasion, business meal, date night, or simply, no time to cook or a quick meal with friends or family. Whatever the reason, eating out brings some challenges, but also, some opportunities to strengthen your resolve and have fun exploring the world of keto cuisine!

First, the challenging part: when you are at the mercy of others for your meal, it’s easy to slip off the keto wagon and into “carbage” loading, so it’s important to have a mindset that is open to adaptation and creative solutions. Know that just one piece of sushi, or one bite of cake, can be enough to kick you out of ketosis, especially when you’re first starting out.

Now, let’s talk about how to navigate this new dining territory.

Restaurant Dining

Before You Go

  • Find a keto-friendly spot: If you get to choose the restaurant, do some advance sleuthing and find a place that’s keto-friendly; check websites like Yelp as well as chat rooms or a simple Google search of the city or town you’re going to dine in and the words “restaurant” and “keto.” If you can, choose a place that cooks from fresh ingredients; the staff is more likely to know what’s in your sauce or dressing!
  • Go online and read menus to see which seem most accommodating. You can also call in advance to ask about options, which is especially helpful if you don’t get to choose the restaurant.
  • Check out our alcohol guidelines.

Once Your at the Restaurant

  • Ask questions. Don’t be afraid to inquire what’s in a dish. Servers these days are more aware of allergies and other dietary restrictions, so they should be able to tell you if there’s something to avoid.
  • Ask for substitutions. Just because the burger automatically comes with fries doesn’t mean the restaurant won’t happily hold the bun and fries and sub a salad. Don’t be afraid to ask for the rice bowl without the rice, the eggs benedict without the English muffin, or the curry without the side of rice.
  • Pay attention to your alcohol intake, as it can loosen your resolve. If you’re going to have a cocktail, it’s best to stick to wine and clear liquors: vodka, gin, or tequila. Have spirits with soda, on the rocks, or neat, and you can add a lemon twist or olives. Avoid sweet cocktails.

During and After Dinner

  • Remember, success is not only about low-carb, it’s about high fat, so ask for extra butter or olive oil (and make sure it’s not margarine or vegetable oil).
  • Spread the word–if you have a great experience, make sure to share the news via social media. The ketonian community will be grateful, and the restaurant will be encouraged to keep up the good work.

Restaurant Dining Cheat Sheet

Note: it’s always best to ask your server for ingredients information, as often restaurants will add starch or sugar to sauces and dressings. 

CUISINE AVOID TRY INSTEAD
General Carbs: starches and sugar, such as bread, potatoes, pasta, fruits,  sweets Fat and moderate protein, such as meats, fish, and fat (butter, cream, cheese) plus leafy green vegetables, and salad (beware of croutons and dressings that have hidden sugar or corn syrup)
Mexican Rice, beans, tortillas, chips Fajitas (skip the tortillas), carnitas, carne asada, salad bowl, ceviche, grilled peppers and onions, guacamole, salsa, and sour cream
Japanese Sushi, teriyaki, noodles Sashimi, yakitori, shirataki (plant based noodles), seaweed, bean sprouts, grilled veggies
Indian Rice, naan, potatoes Broccoli, spinach, curries, tikka masala, saag paneer, kebabs, raiata (yogurt dip)            
Italian Pasta, breaded dishes, bread, (garlic, focaccia, sticks) The components of the pasta dishes served over vegetables, carpaccio, meats, fish, and extra olive oil and Parmesan
Thai Pad Thai, fried rice, salads with sweet dressings, sweetened peanut sauce Coconut curries (sans rice);  beef, chicken, or pork larb; beef salad; basil chicken; chicken satay (skip the sugary peanut sauce), soups (ask which don’t include sugar)

 

FOOD TYPES AVOID TRY INSTEAD
Entrees Pastas, anything breaded, anything with a fruit sauce or other sweet sauce Grilled or sauteed meat or fish
Sides Rice, potatoes, starchy vegetables Sauteed or roasted brussels sprouts (no breadcrumbs), sauteed or creamed spinach, salad (see below), green beans, broccoli, broccoli rabe, cauliflower
Salads Sugary/fruity dressings, balsamic (beware of dressings that have hidden sugar or corn syrup) Caesar (without croutons), Cobb, Nicoise (without potatoes), simple olive oil and vinegar, blue cheese or feta,  vinaigrettes, such as Dijon, lemon, and Parmesan
Desserts Cake, pie, ice cream Cheese plate, berries, decaf coffee with heavy cream
Breakfast Pancakes, waffles, cereals, fruit juices, breads Eggs benedict (sans English muffin and potatoes); omelet (bacon, ham, cheese, mushrooms, spinach); scrambled eggs, bacon

 

Fast Food

From Mickey D’s to Starbucks, many chains are coming up with really good no-carb alternatives. In general, no matter where you’re eating, skip the bun, breading, any ketchup, sweet sauces, condiments, and fries. Some places will do a lettuce wrap or offer a side salad, and it’s common to find cheese and vegetable snack packs (ditch the crackers and carrots).

Pizza Joints

Some pizza parlors are now offering cauliflower or cheese-only crusts. If you can’t find one of those, see if they will do the pizza without the crust (literally cheese and toppings on a pizza tray). Otherwise, just eat the toppings and toss the “carbage” crust.

Dining at Someone’s Home

Family and friends can be especially challenging to maintaining your keto diet. It’s very hard to reject the suggestions of people who have cooked for you and perhaps say, “Just have one bite”… “It’s your favorite”…“It’s Grandma’s special pie.” It’s important to be prepared for this, and it’s okay to say you’re on a special diet. It can be tough, but friends and family can become your biggest supporters, so put it out there that you are keto. Who knows, they may even make something just for you, or become inspired to join you on the keto journey.

Celebrations

When attending a party, especially something like a Super Bowl party, where keto choices tend to be be limited, it is best to eat something before you go. Volunteer to bring something, and make it keto (Crudite, cheese, salume, and nuts are a good way to go)! Monitor alcohol intake. Avoid grazing. Use a chip as a disposable spoon, so you can enjoy the dip, instead of the carbage. If a slider is presented to you, think of the bread base as a disposable plate.

Mojo On!

You will soon learn how to easily navigate menus, and dining will out become a fun adventure! Just remember, it’s not about moderation–bring on the fat! It’s truly about finding the most scrumptious keto things to eat and drink and enjoying them fully. Happy Dining!

 

References

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