If you have no time for food prepping, or you just have zero interest or motivation to pack food for work, you can certainly eat in restaurants and order take out. Today, it’s commonplace to grab food in a restaurant or at a takeout establishment during your lunch hour. This is a daily reality for many, so a strategy for keto meal ordering at restaurants is helpful to allow your routine to coexist with the keto nutrition plan. Some are led to believe that cooking at home is the only option upon starting a healthier lifestyle, but that can’t be further from the truth. Yes, you can still go to restaurants and enjoy wonderful company with these tips for ordering keto-friendly restaurant meals.
Keto Meal Ordering Basics
It’s misconception that one must seek out a designated keto-friendly restaurant, however, the majority of dining establishments are privy to the keto and low-carb lifestyles, and allow modifications to their menus. You may be pleasantly surprised to find that you can make your meal align with ketogenic macros at most restaurants—all it takes is a little simple finagling of the food options.
Follow these simple guidelines to make ordering your keto-friendly meal a snap:
· Feel free to order your favorite protein—whether it’s meat, poultry, or fish—just make sure it’s not breaded.
· Replace all pasta, potato, and rice side dishes with low-carbohydrate vegetables and/or a side salad.
· If a pasta main course sounds delish, replace the noodles with squash or vegetables but still enjoy that chicken smothered in alfredo sauce—add some parmesan if you like.
· Choose a packed salad with protein and fat (think chicken, cheese crumbles, olives, and avocados) and smaller amounts low-carbohydrate toppings such as tomato and onion—hold the croutons and use oil and vinegar, or any low-carb, high-fat dressing.
· Inquire about the soup—select cream or broth based. You may have to ask if there are any high-carb wheat or flour thickeners.
· Get it lettuce wrapped. Most dining establishments are familiar with removing the bread and buns from their sandwiches and burgers.
· Think omelets and scrambles at breakfast—for something a little fancier, order a benedict but replace the bread base with sliced tomato. Or get the lox platter and ask for sliced cucumber and tomatoes instead of the bagel.
· Add the avocado—many restaurants have them on hand and it’s a simple way to up your healthy fat intake.
· For beverages, stick to water, sparkling mineral water, and unsweetened tea or coffee. Low carbohydrate wine or hard alcohol in moderation won’t derail your keto nutrition plan.
· If your meal is large (many are!), only eat half and take the rest for an easy lunch of leftovers.
· Chain restaurants like fast food restaurants are required to have nutrition menus onsite so check them out—you can see if your meal meets your keto macros or if you need to adjust with a substitution.
Keto-Friendly Restaurant Meal Examples
Now let’s put the above-mentioned guidelines to use! Below are seven common restaurant scenarios which include high-carbohydrate and high sugar foods, as well as keto-friendly replacement options.
Scenario One: You’re at a typical café and the server arrives with a basket of bread and butter.
Solution One: Replace with green veggies and a high-fat dip.
Solution Two: Order a small starter salad with oil and vinegar.
Solution Four: Choose a low-carbohydrate cream-based soup.
Another possibility–before the bread even touches the table, just say “no thanks!”–you’ll be eating a full meal soon anyway.
Scenario Two: You’re at an Italian eatery and everyone is getting pasta.
Solution One: Beef carpaccio with additions such as arugula, cheese, olives, and tomatoes.
Solution Two: Any typical Italian protein dish such as chicken, meat, or fish but replace the pasta with zucchini, mushrooms, and green vegetables.
Solution Three: Caprese salad topped with olive oil.
A word of caution regarding pizza–restaurant cauliflower crust pizzas are usually not keto-friendly as they are made with a mixture of wheat flour and cauliflower flower.
Scenario Three: You’re at happy hour and friends for drinks and small plates.
Option One: You celebrate your new keto lifestyle with brut sparkling wine and oysters.
Option Two: You relax with a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon and cheese board with nuts and olives.
Option Three: You pair a Pinot Noir or Chardonnay with a steamed artichoke and mayo and butter for dipping.
Option One: Shrimp, steak, or chicken fajitas with guacamole, shredded cheese, and salsa–ask for lettuce cups or eat as a platter.
Option Two: Chile verde platter of pork, green sauce, sour cream, and guacamole–skip the rice, beans, and tortillas!
Scenario Five: You’re out for Chinese or Vietnamese food, or for sushi.
Option One: Beef and broccoli and egg drop soup instead of a noodle dish.
Option Two: Vietnamese Pho (meat, noodle, herb, and vegetable soup)—omit the noodles and ask for extra veggies and herbs–this is a standard option on most menus!
Option Three: At sushi, instead of a role with rice, ask for it to be wrapped in cucumber–this, too, is a standard option on most menus!
Scenario Six: You’re out to breakfast or brunch with family and friends.
Option One: Omelet with your favorite low-carb additions (cheese, bell pepper, mushroom, tomato) and coffee.
Option Two: Eggs Benedict with no bread base (most restaurants will make it this way); ask to add fresh produce such as leafy greens, asparagus, tomatoes, or mushrooms.
Scenario Seven: You’re at a fine dining establishment to celebrate a special occasion.
Option One: Steak and lobster with a green vegetable, and a glass of red wine.
Option Two: An eclectic seafood dish with fish, shellfish, and low-glycemic produce.
Option Three: A fancy poultry dish such as duck confit with low-sugar fruits and greens.
Contrary to popular belief, the keto nutrition plan can be achieved even if one frequents restaurants–you just have to be a little meticulous about your order! As with anything, once you establish a routine, ordering dining out on keto will become second nature.
Making modifications to the menu can be beneficial to anyone (keto or not) since typical restaurant fare consists of excessive portions, far surpassing the needs of human energy requirements.  Effortless substitutions will drastically cut your calorie, carbohydrate, and sugar intake which makes eating keto in restaurants a viable option for anyone who is trying to lose weight and improve overall health.
Aimee Aristotelous, author of The 30-Day Keto Plan, Almost Keto, Super Simple Keto, The Whole Food Pregnancy Plan, and The Doctors Weight Loss Diet is a certified nutritionist, specializing in ketogenic and gluten-free nutrition. Her expertise has been featured in Health, People, HuffPost, Parade, Yahoo!, INSIDER, Motherly, Consumer Health Digest, Simply Gluten-Free, Well + Good, and the National Celiac Association. Aimee resides in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, with her husband and son, and enjoys cooking, working out, wine tasting, and traveling.
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