No need to put your low-carb lifestyle on hold while travelling just because you can’t cook in your own kitchen. There are plenty of options when it comes to dining out while sticking to a keto diet. To avoid common pitfalls, brush up on your menu reading skills, keep an open mind, and don’t hesitate to ask your server about the ingredients of a menu item!
Some general tips can get you started on the right foot:
- Pack snacks and stay well hydrated to avoid decision making on an empty tank. As the Snickers tagline says, “you’re not you when you’re hungry!”
- Scan the menu for keto staple foods: non-starchy vegetables (ex. salads, vegetable sides etc.), protein (ex. chicken, beef, eggs etc.) and fats (ex. avocado, mayo, vinaigrette dressing, cheese etc.).
- Avoid breads, breading (ex. breaded fish, chicken, onion rings etc.), croutons and casseroles.
- Choose zero carb beverages like water, unsweetened iced tea or coffee.
- Pay attention to sauces and dressings. Zero or low carb sauces and dressings typically include mayo, classic hot sauce, Caesar, ranch, vinaigrette dressings (with exception to raspberry and other fruit vinaigrette's packed with sugar), fresh salsa, oil and vinegar.
- Consider menu combinations as suggestions and feel free to ask nicely for any foods you see listed, in any arrangement. Most restaurants are willing to accommodate special requests.
For some inspiration, check out these keto-friendly selections from some popular menus:
Beverages: Coffee, San Pellegrino, Unsweetened Tea, Bottled Water
Nutrition facts calculated using: Olive Garden Menu
Make it work, at any Italian restaurant: choose salad, protein and steamed or roasted low carb vegetables. Ask for no croutons on the salad and dress with olive oil and sugar-free vinegar.
Create Your Own Entree: Pair un-breaded fresh fish (ex. cod, snapper, haddock, halibut etc.) with broccoli or asparagus for <10g of net carbs
Beverages: Coffee, Unsweetened Tea, Water
Nutrition facts calculated using: Red Lobster Nutrition Calculator
Make it work, at any Seafood restaurant: keep it fresh! Choose un-breaded steamed, baked or broiled fish and pair with simple green vegetables. If you’d prefer smaller portions, mix and match green vegetable sides with appetizer shellfish like scallops or shrimp.
California Pizza Kitchen
Create your Own Entree: Pair Halibut, Cedar Plank Salmon or Ribeye with asparagus or arugula salad for <10g net carbs. Note that California Pizza Kitchen does offer pizza with cauliflower crust, but it is still a little carb-y at ~13 g of net carbs per slice.
Beverages: San Pellegrino, Water, Coffee or Unsweetened Tea
Nutrition facts calculated using: California Pizza Kitchen Personalized Menu
Make it work, at any pizza joint: If you don’t mind being messy, pull the toppings off the pizza for very few net carbs. Stick with non-starchy vegetables, olives, meat and cheese. Salad with protein and a low carb dressing are always a safe bet – skip the croutons and any breaded or deep fried proteins.
Beverages: Coffee, Iced Coffee, Unsweetened Tea, Bottled Water
Nutrition facts calculated using: Panera Nutrition Information
Make it work, at any bakery: order sandwiches bun-less or salads without the croutons. Can’t decide? Mix and match to include the inside fixings of a sandwich and a salad. If its morning, you may also consider coffee with heavy cream to hold you over until lunch.
With so many great choices, there’s no need to abandon your low carb lifestyle to enjoy a meal out. With a little practice, you’ll develop a keen eye for spotting workable items on restaurant menus and the best way to place your order to get what you need.
When in doubt, pull out a smart phone or tablet and check out the menu online before placing an order so you can be prepared and in the know.
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