Following a ketogenic diet on a short-term basis may be a way to achieve your personal health goals, but it can be challenging to stick to your low-carb, high-fat regimen when dining away from home. While restaurants offer a variety of menu options, they may also have additional ingredients that aren’t so keto*-friendly or compliant (e.g., added sugars, carbohydrates and sodium-based ingredients). However, with a bit of know-how and strategy, you can maneuver almost any menu to create keto*-friendly dishes that will satisfy your hunger and your taste buds. Read on to discover our favorite tips and insights to help you dine out with confidence.
AMERICAN COMFORT FOOD
- Hold the bun: Many burgers and sandwiches come with buns that don’t usually fit in a keto*-friendly meal plan. Ask for your order to be served without the bun or wrapped in lettuce instead. However, if you happen to be dining at an establishment with a low-carb bun, then by all means, add the bun!
- Opt for salads: Many American restaurants offer salads that can be made keto*-friendly by opting out of the croutons and adding a dressing with fewer carbs. Olive oil and balsamic vinegar or lemon juice is a no-brainer choice that many restaurants will have on hand.
- Choose grilled or roasted meats: Grilled or roasted chicken, steak, or fish can be a good choice for a keto*-friendly meal. Just make sure to hold off on breaded or fried options.
- Substitute sides: Instead of carbohydrate-heavy sides like fries or mashed potatoes, ask for steamed or grilled vegetables, a side salad or sliced avocado.
- Look for low-carb appetizers: Bacon-wrapped scallops, cauliflower bites, shrimp cocktail and charcuterie trays are delicious keto*-friendly appetizers popping up on restaurant menus all over.
- Swap pasta for zoodles: Pasta dishes are a staple of Italian cuisine, but they're not usually considered keto*-friendly. Ask your server if your preferred pasta dish can be prepared with a zucchini noodle (“zoodle”) or low-carb pasta. But don’t worry if the restaurant doesn’t offer this swap! Simply order your pasta without guilt and box up half (or more depending on the portion size) to take home to share with a friend.
- Choose tomato-based sauces: Tomato-based sauces tend to be lower in carbs than roux-based sauces made with flour. If you’re at a traditional Italian restaurant, you may find that their Alfredo is keto*-friendly too. Just ask your server how they prepare their sauce if there’s a particular one you’re eyeing!
- Ask for extra vegetables: Many Italian restaurants offer vegetable sides that can be added to your dish to make it more filling and nutritious.
- Look for antipasto plates: Charcuterie boards and antipasto plates can be a great option as keto*-friendly appetizers or even a meal on their own.
- Order a caprese salad: A caprese salad with fresh mozzarella, tomatoes and basil is a delicious and keto*-friendly option.
SPICY MEXICAN FARE
- Switch up the tortillas and chips: Tortillas and chips are a staple of Mexican cuisine, but they do contain more carbohydrates than you may have budgeted for at your meal. Ask your server for your order to be served with a smaller portion if you really crave the crunch or to bring lettuce wraps instead of tortillas out with your meal. And, depending on the restaurant, they may just have a low-carbohydrate tortilla on the menu you can swap in as well!
- Choose fajitas: Fajitas made with grilled chicken, steak or shrimp and served with veggies can be a flavor packed keto*-friendly option. Skip the tortillas and ask for lettuce wraps if you want to make them into tacos.
- Load up on guacamole: Guacamole is a keto*-friendly dip that's high in good-for-you fats.
- Cheese is your friend: Cheese is a great source of fat and protein, so it’s OK to leave the cheese on your order
- Look for seafood dishes: Some Mexican restaurants feature a plethora of seafood dishes that can be a great choice for a keto*-friendly meal.
EXOTIC INDIAN DISHES
- Limit rice and bread: Rice, naan and roti are just a few staples of Indian cuisine that, like pasta, are higher in carbohydrates. If you want your rice fix, consider plating approximately a 1/3 cup serving (or a little less than a muffin liner) on your plate and taking the rest home. Or, alternatively, look for menu options that focus on proteins and vegetables, like tandoori chicken.
- Choose tandoori dishes: Tandoori chicken or shrimp is marinated in a mix of spices and yogurt, making it a delicious and keto*-friendly option.
- Go for curries: Curries made with coconut milk and heavy cream are both creamy and flavorful, and they’re both generally fairly low in carbohydrates. Consider enjoying them with a side of steamed cauliflower or veggie of choice.
- Ask for extra veggies: Many Indian dishes feature vegetables that fit into a keto*-friendly diet, like cauliflower, cabbage, carrots and celery, which are lower in carbs than other starchier vegetables.
- Try Paneer: Paneer is a type of Indian cheese that's made from whole milk and vinegar. It contains 6 grams of protein and 1 gram of carbs per 1 ounce portion. Look for dishes that feature paneer as a main ingredient.
ZESTY CHINESE CUISINE
- Limit rice and noodles: Rice and noodles are commonly found in various Chinese dishes. Similar to the other cultural cuisines that have a carbohydrate component (i.e., pasta, tortillas and breads mentioned above), consider a smaller portion of the rice or noodles to satisfy and satiate you alongside your protein and vegetables.
- Choose stir-fry dishes: Stir-fry dishes made with meat and vegetables can be a great keto*-friendly option.
- Look for hot pot: Hot pot is a popular Chinese dish that involves cooking meats and vegetables in a simmering broth. It's a great option for a keto*-friendly meal when you build it with lean proteins, all the veggies, and toppings like eggs, fresh herbs, and spices.
- Swap sweet sauces: Opt for savory sauces like soy sauce, oyster sauce or fish sauce instead of sweet and sour or plum-style sauces that contain more carbohydrates and added sugars.
- Look for vegetable dishes: Chinese cuisine offers many vegetable dishes, such as stir-fried broccoli or green beans, that make excellent side dishes or mains when paired with a protein.
- Ask for extra protein: Meat is an important part of Chinese cuisine, so don't be afraid to ask for extra protein on your dish.
TREAT YOURSELF, YOU DESERVE IT
Dining out is likely something you’re not doing every day! We want you to enjoy yourself, and you certainly can “have your cake and eat it too” by implementing our tips above while sticking to your keto*-friendly diet. You’d be amazed at how satisfied you may feel with having a smaller portion of your favorite carbohydrate dishes at your local restaurants versus nixing them all together. We want you to feel confident in your eating choices, so please, don’t be afraid to ask for modifications to help make the meal something you’re excited about. Trust us, dining out on a keto*-friendly diet can be delicious, nutritious and dare we say, fun!
*Always consult your physician before starting an eating plan that involves regular consumption of high-fat foods