Keeping a Low-Carb / Keto Diet When Dining Out

by Eric Gordon on December 12, 2019
One of the great things about the keto diet is the fact that you have so many food choices. Achieving a state of ketosis is simply conditioning your body’s metabolism to burn fat rather than deriving energy from carbs that are converted into glucose. If you can keep your carbs to a minimum, you will achieve ketosis. This sounds simple enough until you need to dine out.
Now what? Staying away from pre-packaged foods and eating organic is simple enough when you can make your meals at home, but can you accomplish this when you are dining out? Amazingly, you can. This short guide will give you tips and tricks to stick to your keto diet eating out and enjoy meals with family and friends. Keep these tips in mind and you will have no trouble cutting the carbs.

Portion Control Is the Key

Even when a food item is low-carb, the more of it you eat, the higher your carb intake. By limiting your portions, you can control how many carbs you consume. First, you must familiarize yourself with how normal portions look. It may seem crazy, but the size of a plate can play a trick on the mind and make a meal look smaller or larger. A large plate or bowl will make it look as if there is less food there. Practice at home and learn how the right portion of food looks before you go out to eat. This will make keto eating out easier for you.
Many restaurants have a menu posted online with all kinds of nutritional information. If you are meeting friends at a restaurant, you can actually determine how many carbs are in the restaurant’s meals before you go. If you are going to someone’s house, you will need to go on what you already know. Don’t be afraid to share your excitement about your lifestyle choice; your friend will understand that your reduced portion is about that and not an insult to his or her cooking.
Portion control relates to condiments as well. Condiments provide flavor for low-carb meals but too much ketchup will ruin your diet. Make sure that you keep the condiments to a minimum and ask for sauces on the side. You can also ask for half a portion of a child’s dish when you order. If this is not possible, share a meal with your dining companion.
Worrying endlessly about dinner plans because of eating out on a keto diet is no fun at all. That said, take control of it and plan ahead by looking up menu items and learning what the correct portion of food is for you.

Eat in Advance at Home

Another great trick for reducing your carb intake is actually eat something before dinning out. It may seem redundant to eat before you go out to eat but it really helps you control your carb intake. There is nothing worse than sitting at a restaurant, drooling over the delicious items on the menu but trying to limit what you order. The best way to avoid this is to have a snack before you go.
Here are a few healthy low-carb snacks that you can keep in your fridge:
  • Mini frittatas: You can beat eggs in a bowl and season them with salt and pepper. Then pour the mixture into small muffin cups. Add low-carb foods such as spinach, tomatoes, cheese or mushrooms. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 to 20 minutes and refrigerate. Now you have a great keto-friendly snack when you need it.
  • Veggies with nut butter: If you dip celery sticks in almond butter, you are taking in 15 to 20 grams of fat and low carbs. Try nut butter with broccoli or cauliflower.
  • Avocado and egg salad: Make an egg salad but substitute avocado for the mayo. Avocados have healthy fats, fiber, and other good things inside. When you sprinkle this salad with a touch of salt and pepper, it is ready to be served on a slice of lettuce.
  • Guacamole: Mash an avocado into a bowl and combine it with salt, pepper, and a touch of lime. Keep it in the fridge and dip celery sticks or broccoli in it for a tasty snack.
  • Mozzarella, basil, and cherry tomatoes: Slice fresh mozzarella into quarter-sized pieces and keep it with a bowl of cherry tomatoes and basil leaves in the fridge. Dip it in olive oil for a wonderful snack.
There are a number of delicious keto-friendly snacks that will take the edge off. When you sit down, drink a glass of water and enjoy the conversation with your dinner companions. If you take your time, you give your body a chance to recognize that it doesn’t need a lot of extra food.

What to Look Out for at the Bar

The fact that you are on a keto diet is no reason to stay home every night. From time to time, you will want to go out with a few friends or a special someone and that is perfectly fine. The key is to understand different alcoholic beverages and mixers and learn what to order.
There are alcoholic drinks that you can definitely enjoy in moderation. The key word is moderation; even for those who aren’t on the keto diet, drinking too much alcohol has many negative effects on the body and can lead to much more serious health conditions. However, having a drink or two at the bar is just fine.
Pure forms of alcohol have no carbs at all and you can drink them straight or with low-carb mixers. Here is a list of carb-free alcohol:
    • Vodka
    • Whiskey
    • Rum
    • Tequila
    • Gin
In addition, wine and light beers have low carbs. For example, a five-ounce glass of red or white wine contains three to four grams of carbs and a twelve-ounce glass of beer contains only three grams of carbs. If you are planning to go out, make sure that you factor your one or two drinks into your daily carb count.
If you prefer to use mixers with pure forms of alcohol, stay away from juices, soda, and energy drinks. Any of these mixers can ruin your diet and kick you right out of ketosis. Improve the taste of your drink with seltzer or sugar-free tonic water, both of which have no carbs at all.
There are a number of high-carb drinks that you need to avoid altogether. They will absolutely ruin your diet. Avoid the following drinks:

Fast Food Restaurants

Eating at a fast-food restaurant can appear to be incompatible with the keto diet. Fast food is known to be high in carbs but many restaurants are now offering alternatives for people who want to eat healthily. Almost all fast-food restaurants display the nutritional content of their foods, much the same as the labels on food at a grocery store. You can also look them up online to see what the best options are for you. In addition, you can change up what you order to get rid of the extra carbs.
Here are a few options to make your fast food more keto-friendly:
  • Get rid of the bun and request a lettuce wrap instead: Often, the bun is the culprit driving up the carb count on burgers or chicken sandwiches. Remove the bun, wrap the meat in lettuce, and you will eliminate the bulk of the carb count.
  • Order a low-carb salad: Some salads are very high in carbs so you need to check the ingredients before you order. Avoid fruits, croutons, sweet nuts, and sweet dressings and stick to lettuce, tomatoes, guacamole, cucumbers, and low-carb dressings.
  • Eat eggs: Eggs are low in carbs and high in fat and protein. They are normally available at fast-food restaurants. Order your eggs without the bread or hash browns and request a side of cheese.
  • Try a breadless sandwich: You can order your sandwich with the fillings but without the bread. Be careful of the ingredients as some ingredients will increase your carb count. The meat, cheese, and veggies make a great meal and can be low in carbs.
You know eating out for keto is more challenging than preparing your meals and snacks at home. However, sometimes there is no alternative and that’s okay. Take the time to familiarize yourself with what is available at fast-food restaurants and be creative. Forego the bread and add low-carb veggies or lettuce in its place. Be creative and order what is right for you.

How to Prioritize If You Want to Cheat

Nobody really wants to cheat on a diet. However, sometimes it happens. You could be caught at an unexpected meal out or maybe you didn’t have a chance to snack and you are just starving. Maybe there just aren’t any low-carb options. It’s even possible that temptation could take over and willpower will go out the window. Even in these moments, you can prioritize.
First, you need to understand why you might want to cheat. A big reason why people do so is that they don’t want to be rude to their companions or hosts. It can make you feel uncomfortable and vulnerable to tell someone that you are on the keto diet eating out. The reality is that you should never forego your diet in an attempt to please someone else. You might actually be surprised when your friend or family member sees you as a stronger person because you are standing up for what is right for you.
A lack of willpower is another reason why you might want to throw your diet plan out the window. If one of your favorite candies is a horribly unhealthy sugar candy and you tell yourself that you can never have it again, you will want it more. That’s just human nature. You have to focus on what you can eat and why you have made this lifestyle change or you will find yourself craving unhealthy calorie-packed snacks in a short time. Make a plan to avoid cheating and you will have fewer of these impulsive snacks that undermine all of your efforts.
When you allow yourself to go too long without a snack, the desire to eat grows. The best way to avoid this is to have low-carb snacks in your purse or in your car. When your body has gotten too hungry, you will find the most ridiculous things to be mouth-watering. Avoid this situation by planning ahead.
It is unrealistic to think that you will never eat something that doesn’t fit in with your diet so plan it ahead of time. The reality is that eating low-carb is a lifestyle choice, not a temporary fad. That being the case, cheat intentionally so that you don’t go to bed dreaming about the foods that you used to enjoy. Do it at regularly scheduled times and return immediately to low-carb eating.

Restaurant Categories and the Keto Diet

    • Regular beer: One twelve-ounce glass of regular beer has 12 grams of carbs.
    • Margarita: One cup has 13 grams of carbs.
    • Pina Colada: 4.5 ounces have 32 grams of carbs.
    • Cosmopolitan: 3.5 ounces have 22 grams of carbs.
    • Bloody Mary: One cup has 10 grams of carbs.
As you can see, some popular drinks are not friendly to your keto diet. Stick to pure forms of alcohol with low-carb mixers, wine, or light beer. Limit yourself to one or two drinks, not just for your diet but also for your health in general. As long as you know what to order before you go, your night at the bar can be stress-free and fun.
Italian: When you think of Italian food, you think of pasta, sauces, and bread. There is nothing low-carb about any of that. So when you are eating out on the keto diet, how do you stay low-carb? You plan ahead and learn what you can eat. Here are some foods that will keep your carb count low at an Italian restaurant:
  • Carpaccio: This is raw thin-sliced beef or fish with olive oil and veggies.
  • Minestrone: Ask for no to limited pasta.
  • Caprese Salad: Enjoy mozzarella, tomato, and basil leaves.
  • Italian Salad: This is normally chopped greens with olives and veggies.
  • Veal: Order it unbreaded and served with vegetables.
  • Meatballs and sauce: Forego the pasta.
  • Coffee or tea for dessert
These are just some of the good options for staying low-carb at an Italian restaurant. The main thing is to avoid the starches and control your portions. Skip the dessert and have a nice cup of coffee or tea instead.
Mexican: There are options that will keep your carbs low when you dine at a Mexican restaurant. Pass on the chips or tortillas and definitely skip the margarita. You don’t want to eat starchy foods such as rice, beans, or potatoes. So what can you eat?
Here are a few suggestions of what to order:
  • Guacamole: Don’t eat chips, but order a side of veggies.
  • Pico de gallo: This fresh salsa will give your food some flavor without the carbs.
  • Salad: Order without the tortilla bowl and replace starchy veggies with meat or cheese.
  • Tortilla-less fajitas: Ask for lettuce wraps for your steak or chicken and add guacamole and fresh salsa for flavor.
  • Tequila: Avoid margaritas but have tequila straight or on the rocks.
Most importantly, know what you can and should eat. Avoiding starches such as tortillas and chips is a given but many tasty Mexican foods will be absolutely fine.
Asian: You can find low-carb dishes at an Asian restaurant. Definitely avoid the rice and noodles, breaded meat, and heavy sauces. However, many dishes made with light sauces, meat, and vegetables won’t create a problem at all.
Try the following dishes at an Asian restaurant:
  • Egg drop soup
  • Meat and vegetable combinations with thin sauces (Moo Goo Gai Pan or Curry Chicken)
  • Egg foo yung (no gravy)
  • Mongolian barbeque
In addition, you can ask your server if he or she knows what the low-carb options are. Order your sauces on the side, and research the menu before you go. Ask your server what the chef recommends and you just might discover a new favorite.
Indian: Indian food is delicious and you can certainly eat some dishes and stay on your keto diet. As with all cuisines, avoid breads, rice, and starchy vegetables. In addition, try to order your sauces on the side. You will need to avoid appetizers (most are high carb), but you can enjoy the following dishes:
  • Chicken soup: Enjoy chicken broth mildly spiced with curry.
  • Kachumber Salad: This salad is made with lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, and olives.
  • Chicken or vegetable curry: Watch how much sauce you use.
  • Tandoor clay oven items: Choose lamb, chicken, or shrimp.
  • Karahi: This can be any meat cooked with onion, green pepper, tomato, ginger, and garlic in a Kadai masala herb.
  • Makhani: This can be vegetables, tofu, or paneer cooked in a tandoor with buttercream and mild curry.
Masala chai tea: Enjoy a black tea made with Indian spices and herbs.