Adhering to a Keto diet when eating out can pose some unprecedented challenges besides munching on a bunch of fries.
First, the portions are skewed. The protein can be too massive, and there are few vegetables, making the meal you ordered unreliable. Plus, restaurant food can come with hidden ingredients.
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Understanding Macronutrient Ratios in Meals
There are certain types of a keto diet, and they all depend on strict macronutrient (carbs, fat, protein) computations.
Generally, the medical keto diet used to treat epilepsy advises 3 to 4 grams (g) of fat for every 1 g of carbohydrate and protein. This means that you’re getting 90 percent of your calories from fat, 6 percent from protein, and 4 percent from carbs.
Meanwhile, a modified Atkins diet has no protein limitation. Hence, you can have about 65 percent fat, 30 percent protein, and 5 percent carbohydrates. When it gets to keto for weight loss, you might eat 70 to 80 percent of calories from fat, 10 to 20 percent from protein, and 5 to 10 percent from fat.
Calculating Net Carbs and Ketones
Many people on keto use net carbs when measuring their carb consumption.
According to Atkins, you can determine your net carbs by taking total carbohydrates minus grams of fiber and sugar alcohols. Your net carbs are what influences your blood sugar level and can jeopardize weight loss.
But keep in mind that neither the federal government nor the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics identifies this term. Dietitians also agree that calculating net carbs is not an exact science.
This is why it would be best to consult a dietitian if you plan to do the Keto diet. This is to create a personalized plan that allows you to hit a specific macronutrient target.
Tips for Dining Out on a Keto Diet
Sure, doing the Keto diet may appear daunting. But because of its growing popularity, many restaurants are becoming open to this kind of diet. Some chains have even come up with menu selections specifically catered to keto dieters.
However, you may need to customize your meals to ensure that you are hitting your macro ratio.
That said, it would be best to begin with a base of a cooked protein like poultry, fish, or grilled meat without sauce. And then mix it with a non-starchy vegetable. Next is to add healthy fats into the mix.
In general, smart picks incorporate a bunless burger over a bed of greens with lemon and olive oil or avocado. Moreover, steak tips, grilled fish, and bunless sandwiches are served with salad. Other options are broccoli or cauliflower rice.
Keep in mind that a healthy restaurant eating while on keto is possible. That is if you know where to go.
For a healthy, keto-friendly meal, opt for grilled lean meat and veggies.
You’d be surprised that other chicken recipes load up on carbohydrates (some carry upwards of 50 g). You can run for the steamed broccoli here, but if you want to turn it up, the fire-grilled veggies add a good 6 g of net carbs. To add fat (to make the meal fall precisely into keto range), request a side of guacamole to top your chicken.
In most places, you’d have to skip the crust to eat a keto-friendly pizza. But this fast-casual pizza chain newly advertised its keto pizza crust, so no one has to miss out on a Pizza Friday.
Go for their Keto pizza. Its crust is created from a base of cauliflower, mozzarella cheese, flaxseed, and eggs. Then it’s coated with their spicy red sauce, more mozzarella, bacon, tomatoes, mushrooms, and more veggies, but you can turn up the toppings as you please.
Ordered as is, you won’t get adequate calories from fat to enter keto status, so be sure to order extra cheese and bacon, as well as olive oil and a drizzle of pesto.
Those additions will make this plate up to 63 percent of your calories from fat. Bonus: Every slice offers 2 g of fiber — not bad!
The simplest options are the best here. Steak added with green veggie is one perfect keto combo.
Go for the Classic Sirloin With Side of Steamed Broccoli. Opt for the smaller, 6-ounce (oz) portion (versus the 10-oz serving) to keep protein in check. This is a great chance to add a source of digestion-friendly fiber with the broccoli (4 g of fiber).
To make this up to keto-friendly status, add a drizzle (about one tablespoon) of olive oil.
Prepared sandwiches and salads are hard to customize, but there are many protein- and fat-heavy alternatives to turn to.
If you resemble a zero-carb bite, this mini salami-cheese tray is it. Unfortunately, there’s no produce on this plate, so make sure to take in veggies elsewhere during the day.
The traditional snack combo will help keep you pleasantly full, and the average amount of protein won’t ruin your macros for the day.
A steakhouse is instead a prominent place to find a keto-compliant meal. You’re better off taking the smaller steak or fish meal to keep protein in check and pairing with a nonstarchy veggie side.
Try their 5-oz Grilled Lobster Tail With Roasted Butter Garlic Topping and Sautéed’ Shrooms.
This dish is a complete special-occasion indulgence, but most of the net carbs grow from the addition of mushrooms. Don’t forget to combine the roasted garlic butter topping to up your fat, which adds 18 g.
Don’t think you have to be boxed into buying pasta at Olive Garden (and eating a couple of breadsticks on the side).
The restaurant suggests their grilled salmon fillet, served with a drippy tab of garlic herb butter on top. Parmesan-garlic broccoli spins out the meal. You’ll be offered a variety of soup or side salad, and in this case, the salad is your best chance.
Watch portions, though, as a portion of salad with Italian dressing adds another 11 g of net carbs.
Disregard the sea of pancakes and crepes, and get on board with a DIY piece.
Adding avocado and spinach offers heart-healthy monounsaturated fat. It also has vitamin K, which is crucial for healthy bones. However, you should skip the carb-laden sides like pancakes and toasts.
The restaurant may be perfectly suited for happy hour apps, but you’re best served to evade these.
A “green style” cheeseburger has 7g net carbs. You can add avocado on top for zero net carbs and a dose of healthy fat. Moreover, the green style cheeseburger might be an excellent time to get in more veggies when you can.
Go for the lunch part — full-size salads here quickly top 1,000 calories. Ranch dressing is a good option, carb-wise, with only 2 g of net carbs. Other keto-friendly choices are blue cheese and Caesar. Just avoid the balsamic vinaigrette, which holds 11 g of net carbs.
The Cheesecake Factory
First, let’s get this out of the way: Cheesecakes may be high in fat, but they’re also packed with sugar (carbs). So completing the meal with a slice is out on the keto diet.
You also have to be very cautious with this menu, as some choices near 200 g of total carbs. Breakfast is a bit easier, as omelets and eggs are both choices.
Try their Pan-Seared Branzino With Lemon Butter. This tasty white fish gets jacked up in the fat department with a creamy butter sauce. If the calorie count and macros — including net carbs — are higher than you’re striving for, eat half and take home the rest.
Buffalo Wild Wings
You don’t have to shy away from the wings here. An order includes no carbs until you add the sauce. For the most desirable sauce, stick with the simple classics: hot, medium, or mild.
A bunless burger or grilled chicken breast, plus cheese and mustard, is another excellent choice.
Try their Traditional Wings and Celery Sticks. Each plate carries a wallop of protein, so opt for the snack-size serving size, and then match them with refreshing celery and blue cheese.
If you’re looking for a light, fresh meal, a smoothie may be your go-to.
The problem is, most smoothies prepared with milk, yogurt, juice, and fruit contain far too many carbs for a keto diet. Smoothie King just started their two keto-friendly smoothies, the Keto Champ Coffee and Keto Champ Berry. The coffee variant has fewer carbs of the two.
Opt for the Keto Champ Coffee, made with almond milk, coffee, almond butter, cocoa, and a keto protein blend. Doing so means you’ll take in just 1g of extra sugar, 7g of fiber, and only 7g of net carbs.
Carrabba’s Italian Grill
Pass over Italian apps like bruschetta in favor of grilled asparagus with prosciutto for a total of 4 g net carbs.
As for your entrée, chicken, steaks, or fish is your best bet, but watch out for sauces and sides that jack up carbs. A green veggie side will round out the meal, and a drizzle of olive oil will get your fat portion up to where it needs to be.
Try their Chicken Marsala. Grilled chicken is smothered in a mushroom-wine sauce. Steamed asparagus will bulk up the meal for a few carbs.
With a little preparation, you can eat well at the classic seafood restaurant.
Take advantage of their interactive menu online. This will allow you to sort each category from least to most carbohydrate content. Fresh seafood (unbreaded shrimp, lobster, crab) and grilled fish are all low-carb choices — and dipping or slathering it in butter adds fat.
Their keto choice, Wild-Caught Snow Crab Legs With Asparagus. Focusing on crab legs — dipped in butter, no less — you’re keeping carbs at the bare minimum. With your choice of side, go for fresh asparagus, which has the fewest net carbs and added fat.
California Pizza Kitchen
Salads are your best bet at CPK because, unfortunately, even a slice of gluten-free pizza can eat up most of your carb allotment for the day.
Go for the Asparagus and Arugula Salad, With Extra Olive Oil. This is a great chance to get various greens (asparagus and arugula), plus healthy fats from the toasted almonds.
This comes dressed in a lemon vinaigrette, adding more fat and calories by ordering a side of their herb-infused olive oil.
Cracker Barrel Old Country Store
Sausage and biscuits, gravy, pancake plates, and grits are all traditional offerings at Cracker Barrel that you’ll have to skip right over.
The good news here is that it’s easy to mix and match your plate with an entrée and sides to choose low-carb options and get the right mix of macros you need.
Try the Lemon Pepper Grilled Rainbow Trout With Steamed Broccoli and Turnip Greens
A trout is a higher-in-fat option than catfish (another keto choice). And the addition of a greenside means you’re getting a non-starchy veggie on your plate. Adding butter to this meal adds 4g fat per tab.
Maggiano’s Little Italy
Pasta places are rife with crave-worthy high-carb dishes. If you can get past those (and the breadbasket), you have good options.
Try the Grilled Salmon Lemon and Herbs. The grilled fillet is bathed in a white wine butter sauce and served alongside spinach. At 800 calories, though, you could easily save half for tomorrow’s lunch.
A fish and seafood restaurant is a prime place to find an excellent keto meal. Generally, avoid anything fried or breaded in favor of grilled. Rather than sauces (which can be a surprising source of carbs), add butter or olive oil on your own.
Their keto option, Grilled Atlantic Salmon With Green Beans, has Salmon, which is naturally fatty. It is packed with heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. If 50 g of protein is too high, eat half. Ordering lemon butter as a topping adds 6 g of fat. Make green beans your side to get in veggies for minimal carbs.
The classic chicken place serves you well when you choose basic chicken and veggies. Skip the bread and sauce; they can quickly put you over your carb allotment.
Try the Rotisserie Chicken and Caesar Salad and go for the three-piece dark meat meal (dark meat contains more fat than white breast meat). You could also choose steamed veggies, cucumber salad, or creamed spinach.
But if you want to up your fat consumption, go for the Caesar salad minus the croutons.
Head to the “Nudies” menu of this popular hotdog chain. There, you’ll find chicken, sausage, burger patties, and fish that you can top with a source of fat and side at your discretion.
Their keto choice is the “Nudie” Grilled Tuna. Brats and sausage contain more fat, although saturated.
Grilled yellow-fin tuna, on the other hand, offers some healthy omega-3s. Consider eating half of the tuna steak to keep protein in check.
To bump up this meal’s fat content, head over to the salad section and order a side of olives or get a side salad and douse with olive oil and vinegar.
Au Bon Pain
You can belly up to the hot or cold lunch bar for options like adobo chicken or beef and broccoli. But if you need something to-go, opt for their all-day breakfast options made keto-friendly.
Try their 2 Eggs, Cheddar, and Sausage recipe. This option comes on a bagel, so ask them to skip the bread entirely, and grab a fork when you feast. Remember to choose whole eggs to keep the fat content higher, as egg whites are fat-free.
Turning to a low-carb diet can be challenging. Most people don’t understand just how many carbs they’re ingesting or the impact it’s having on their digestive health and weight.
That said, an increasing fraction of restaurants are tailoring menus to low-carb eating. And, to be sure, low-carb consumption isn’t for everyone, and everyone should check with a doctor before any significant dietary changes.