Eating Out While On The Ketogenic Diet: Is It Possible?
Eating keto doesn’t mean being chained to your kitchen. In fact, you can almost always find a keto-compatible meal in any restaurant or fast food joint out there. With the power of the internet, the nutrition information for the very restaurant you are visiting may also be available. If not, you can always check a food calculator like myfitnesspal to get an idea about what you’re thinking of putting on your plate. If you’re the organized type, you could even compile a list of your own for a just-in-case scenario. Even if you don’t want to spend time reading about food, it’s still a good idea to plan ahead so you can avoid being tempted by the list of non-keto items.
General Tips for Eating Out on the Ketogenic Diet
- Your best bet will be to stick to meat, veggies, and cheese. Most restaurants add sugar and carbs to the food so look for the simplest ingredients you can find.
- Use an online calculator to check nutrition and macros before you go, or at least before you order.
- Sauces are notorious for hidden carbs. Get your food grilled and order all sauces on the side —or ask them to leave the sauces off the plate altogether.
- If you don’t have time to check or don’t want to, use common sense and think about the ingredients. Does it taste sweet? It probably contains sugar and you should pick something else. Is it breaded? More carbs you don’t need.
- With all the food allergies today, special requests have become the norm. Asking for ‘gluten-free’ or ‘low-carb’ won’t seem out of the ordinary, and options may even be listed right on the menu.
- If you’re not sure, give it a miss. Better safe than sorry.
American Food for Keto
A burger without the bun is a totally acceptable pick. Skip the ketchup and ask for a lettuce bun. It’s a more common request than you might think. Order a side salad instead of fries.
Getting to eat a thick, juicy steak guilt-free is one of the best perks of keto. Grass-fed beef is always best, but this won’t be a choice at most restaurants (or, for that matter, at most grocery stores). For side dishes, give the potatoes and other starches a pass and stick with low-carb veggies like green beans, cauliflower, or asparagus.
Chicken wings are fine but check out the nutrition information about the sauce. Plain (naked) with a fatty sauce like blue cheese or ranch will be the best, but other dips like buffalo or chipotle are usually good, too. Many places now offer a dry rub which is also low-carb.
A side salad or one with protein is another great keto option. Skip the croutons and the fruit that seems to be making its way into many salads these days. Also look for dressings that are going to be lower in carbs like ranch, blue cheese, or chipotle. If the name contains ‘honey,’ pick something else.
Barbecue can be a perfectly acceptable option as long as you avoid the sugary sauces. Go for things like brisket or pulled pork. For sides, pass the cornbread and go for the greens.
Asian Cuisine for the Ketogenic Diet
Asian food isn’t necessarily something you think of with keto. The things you love about it — rice and noodles — are what you need to avoid. But many of the meat and vegetables dishes, particularly stir fry, can work just fine.
Steamed vegetables are great. Look for things like broccoli, zucchini, and cabbage, and do your best to avoid carb-y veggies like carrots and onions.
Watch out for breading on the meat. Even non-breaded meats are often dipped in corn starch before frying. If possible, ask if they can skip that step. Sweet sauces like orange or sweet and sour contain too much sugar. Check the nutrition info if it is available, or pick plainer things like roast duck, moo shu pork or Mongolian beef.
For appetizers, you could pull apart the egg rolls and eat the insides, but if that feels wasteful, skip ’em. You’re working hard to stick to a healthy diet and don’t need a dose of guilt. Hot and sour soup and egg drop soup will be your best bets.
Low Carb Mexican Food
Mexican can be a good keto-friendly option. Places that have build-a-burrito options will usually offer a salad in place of the rice and beans.
For fajitas, skip the tortilla and you’re good to go with the meat and veggies. Keep in mind, onions are higher in carbs than other things like peppers and tomatoes.
For a taco salad, you can simply eat the inside and leave the shell.
Carne asada is delicious. Who needs a tortilla?
Some restaurant will have the option of swapping out the taco shells for lettuce.
Grilled chicken, beef, or pork works great with keto.
Salsa can contain very little sugar or a lot. If you can’t access the nutrition information about the place where you’re eating, give it a taste. If it tastes sweet, skip it.
And don’t forget the guacamole which is full of heart-healthy fat.
Eating Keto at Italian Restaurants
You’ll have to skip the breadsticks and pasta, but there are still plenty of great options on the menu.
Salad works perfectly as an antipasto, and the spinach and artichoke dip tastes amazing right off the spoon.
Veal, steak, seafood and chicken are all usually available as entrees. Look out for breading and don’t be afraid to ask for it without.
Eggplant is delicious and low carb. Again, keep an eye out for breading.
There are plenty of vegetable choices here too, like sauteed spinach or broccoli with lemon butter. Why not ask for alfredo sauce on your favorite veggies?
Finish off the meal with a zero-carb espresso and you probably won’t even remember you skipped the pasta.
Mediterranean Food and Low Carb Diets
A Mediterranean-style diet has a lot in common with keto, including an emphasis on vegetables and olive oil.
Gyros are delicious even without the pita.
Kebabs. What’s not to love about meat and vegetables on a stick?
Salads are a great way to add micronutrients and fiber to your meal.
Feta cheese and tahini both work great for keto.
Olives deliver plenty of healthy fats. Enjoy!
Keto-Compatible Options at Gas Stations and Convenience Stores
Everyone’s options are limited here, not just keto-eaters. If you’re on the road and this is all you can get, you still don’t need to go hungry.
Pork Rinds shouldn’t be a regular feature of any diet, but they’re way better than a candy bar.
Nuts are another good option, but don’t polish off the economy-size bag because these do contain carbs.
Slim Jims and beef jerky are another good option that won’t throw you out of keto. Again, these usually contain some sugar so don’t go hog wild.
Cheese sticks. Another handy pick (although you might have to fight the kids for them).
Coffee. Plain, with cream, and/or artificial sweetener will warm you up and give you energy to keep going until you can find better options.
With so many choices out there, you should never feel like you’re missing out or going hungry. When in doubt, stick to basics: meat, vegetables, cheese. If something turns out to have more carbs than you thought, it’s okay. You can get back on track at your next meal. The best way to handle any situation will be planning ahead and using common sense.