I don't like eating out much I love eating out, but know it's not good for me so I try not to. However, my mother-in-law has been in the hospital and a rehab facility for the past month so we have been on the go more than usual and eating out has become a regular occurrence.
That doesn't mean I have an excuse to eat whatever I want, though. I've found lots of low carb options – and realized some I thought were low carb actually weren't – and wanted to share a few tips with you.
Best Tips for Eating Out on Keto and Low Carb
Plan ahead! You can look most, if not all, menus up online before you head to your restaurant of choice. Knowing what you'll eat ahead of time makes for less temptation and rushed decisions. You can't always plan ahead, but do so when you can.
Skip the bun and bread. Whether it's a burger, sandwich, or a soup with a side of bread, typical breads are far too many carbs to fit into a keto or low carb lifestyle. Most restaurants offer a lettuce-wrapped option for burgers.
Create your own portions. Choose the lunch portion when possible. If you do end up eating a dish that is higher in carbs, save half for later – or bring it home for your kids or spouse.
Eat breakfast, even if it's lunch time. Breakfast is typically made up of eggs and meats, so those are going to be better options than a salad with tons of sugar-added dressing, or pasta or bread. You don't always have to eat breakfast, but if you've got limited options, it's an easy one.
Don't avoid buffets! Buffets can have great keto-friendly options, but you shouldn't stuff yourself so full your stomach aches. My best tip for not overeating at a buffet is to use the dessert plates instead of the big buffet plates. Stick to meats and veggies for the most part. I always have strawberries and whipped cream for dessert, making sure I count those carbs before I eat anything else! 🙂
Add healthy fats. Keto isn't just about avoiding carbs, you should add healthy fats to your meals when possible, too. Ask for olive oil instead of ranch, get extra butter on your veggies, and add heavy cream to your black coffee.
Low Carb at Subway
When you think about Subway and other sandwich shops, you probably think of the bread. The bread at Subway can have upward of 40 grams of carbs per 6 inch sub! That's almost my carb intake for the whole DAY. I'd much rather have double meat and cheese without the bread – and without the carbs.
Order sandwiches without bread from:
- Jersey Mike's
- Jimmy Johns
- Firehouse Subs
- and any other sub shop!
Order meats, cheeses, and veggies. Add condiments sparingly, as many have added sugars aka carbs. You can also order a salad, like the Double Chicken Chopped Salad. Add avocado and you'll have a lunch or dinner with 36 grams of protein!
Pro tip: Bring your own bread when you go out to eat. I like these seasoned chaffle bowls. Perfect for a breadless sandwich!
Low Carb at Chipotle
Chipotle has some goooood food. It's one of my favorite places to eat, and it's super easy to load up on high protein foods with healthy fats while avoiding carbs… just skip the rice!
What to order for low carb at Chipotle:
- Salad/bowl: double meat, grilled veggies, and guac (14g carbs, 8g fiber)
- Use salsa instead of dressing.
- Skip the beans, rice, chips, and tortillas.
Low Carb at Burger King and McDonald's
All burger joints are not created equal, but if you're in a rush and you have to stop at a chain restaurant, get a burger without a bun. Skip the fries.
Whether you're at Five Guys or Burger King, you can order the same thing. The quality of the burger and toppings will be different when you choose fast food over a sit-down restaurant, but some food is better than no food… and staying on your low carb diet is important. If you skip a meal you're more likely to binge on carbs.
What to order at a burger place:
- Mustard (skip the ketchup and BBQ sauce)
Low Carb Options at Olive Garden
Olive Garden is known for pasta and breadsticks, but if you have willpower of steel, you can eat here on a low carb or keto diet. It's not a restaurant I'd purposely end up at, but if you're having lunch with friends and find yourself walking into this pasta heaven, have no fear: you can eat low carb at Olive Garden!
- Herb-grilled salmon (8g carbs, 43g protein)
- Chicken Margherita, lunch portion (13g carbs, 64g protein)
- Stuffed Mushrooms (13g carbs, 15g protein)
- Zuppa Toscana (15g carbs, 7g protein)
Low Carb Options at Indian Restaurants
When I lived in St. Louis, we visited Indian restaurants often. I'm a pretty picky eater, so I ate the same few dishes over and over again. When I started my low carb lifestyle, I was happy that I could still eat Indian food! Some options will be higher in carbs, but most are also high in healthy fats.
Best tips for low carb at Indian restaurants:
- Ask for ghee, or clarified butter, to be added to any dish.
- Order kebabs, tikki or veggie masala, butter chicken, chicken Shorba, or tandoori dishes.
- Watch for thickeners in dishes, as they will have added carbs.
- Skip the vegetable samosas and try Shahi Paneer (homemade cheese in tomato sauce).
- Swap pakora out for roasted veggies, and swap out biryani (rice) for korma (meat in cream sauce).
Low Carb Options on the Road
Now you've got an idea of what you can – and shouldn't – eat while you're on the road. I'd love to hear your tips in the comments! I've done low carb as far back as Atkins (whew!), but would love to get ideas from y'all.