5 Tips For Eating Out On Keto
- September 12, 2020
Louise Hendon | December 7
Eating out doesn’t mean you have to break your ketogenic diet.
Follow our tips and strategies below and you can eat out AND stay Keto while you do it.
And to make it even easier for you, we’ve suggested what you can order at various restaurants (including fast food restaurants like McDonald’s and Pizza Hut).
5 Tips For Eating Out On Keto
Here five strategies you can use to stay keto when you eat out:
1. DO YOUR RESEARCH
As Dr. Mark Hyman, M.D. says, “Go online before you stand in line. Most restaurants have their menus posted on their website. Choose a restaurant that allows you to plan ahead of time by checking out their menu at home or at the office.”
You can try…
- Looking on the restaurant website
- Having a look on Yelp
- Or Google searching the restaurant name, the restaurant’s location, and the word “menu.”
Then decide on the keto friendly option you’ll order at the restaurant. That way, when you get to the restaurant, you’ll already know what you’re going to eat that’s Keto. Needing to customize Keto for your own body? Read this article for help.
2. EAT BEFORE YOU LEAVE
You definitely don’t want to arrive at the restaurant starving hungry –
It’s a sure-fire way to decrease the chance you’ll stick to your diet.
By filling up with a light meal beforehand:
1. You’re less likely to make unhealthy food choices.2. You can order a burger without a bun, or just a keto friendly side dish and you won’t still be hungry afterward.
And you can also pack some snacks to take with you just in case. So you don’t feel worried about being hungry at the end of your meal.
3. STICK TO CERTAIN TYPES OF RESTAURANTS
It’s true that certain types of restaurants are more Keto friendly than others.
Good Keto restaurant options include:
- Mediterranean/Greek and Middle Eastern restaurants,
- Seafood restaurants,
- Chinese restaurants, and
- Some BBQ joints.
On the other hand…the restaurants you’ll want to try to avoid on Keto are:
- Pizza joints,
- Sandwich shops, and
- Small Mexican or Italian restaurants.
With those ideas in mind, try to suggest keto friendly restaurants for meals out with family and friends. Explain to them that this will help you stay on track with your weight-loss and health and ask for their support.
4. DON’T BE AFRAID TO ASK QUESTIONS
You’re the one who’ll be eating the food you order and paying for it.
Dr. Tommy Wood, M.D., PhD., says, “Most places are getting much better at dealing with special diets. However, it’s always easier to find somewhere that already has appropriate dishes rather than turning up and being surprised that all the sauces and soups have gluten and dairy in them.” He recommends calling ahead to find out about menu items that suit your needs, and also asking the server for options.
So don’t be afraid to ask questions!
Here are a few questions to ask just to be on the safe side:
- If you’re ordering seafood, fish, or meats, ask whether it’s breaded.
- Ask if your dish comes with sauce or toppings as they’re often not mentioned on the menu. Most sauces aren’t very Keto as they’ll contain added sugar, cornstarch or wheat flour.
- Ask to see if you can switch starchy side dishes to a side salad or steamed vegetables.
- For salads, ask for olive oil and red wine vinegar dressing.
And if you have a food intolerance, let the restaurant know. Not all restaurants can accommodate these changes, but you can ask to check and then decide if you want to go elsewhere.
5. DON’T STRESS YOURSELF OUT
Community and friends are an important and healthy part of our lives.
So enjoy the time you spend with them!
Try to eat the most keto friendly meal possible.
But if you end up eating a small amount of glaze, sauce, dressing or breading?
Don’t beat yourself up!
(That’s not a free pass to stuff your face with pizza every time you go out, though.)
The Best Types of Restaurants To Eat Keto At (+ What To Order At Them)
Use this quick Keto guide for what to order at restaurants to help you make better choices when dining out.
You’ll avoid scanning menus while desperately wondering which options are keto friendly.
INDIAN RESTAURANTS – What To Order That’s Low Carb/Keto
Best options for Keto at Indian Restaurants:
- Tandoori chicken/shrimp/lamb without naan bread or rice
- Meat tikka (very similar to tandoori)
- Chicken korma (but double check ingredients as it can differ)
While most Indian food is gluten-free and curries can be very healthy if you make it at home, most restaurant options are filled with sugars, flours, and served with high carb sides like rice and naan bread. Some curries also contain potatoes (aloo) and dairy (cream, cheese). So be careful when ordering.
CHINESE RESTAURANTS – What To Order That’s Low Carb/Keto
Best options for Keto at Chinese Restaurants:
- Plain roasted duck meat with spring onions/cucumber (ask the waiter to leave out the pancakes)
- Stir-fries (but make sure there’s no added sugar in the sauce)
- Some rib or meat soups
There are often some great ketogenic options at Chinese restaurants, but you have to double check about ingredients. Common problems are rice, noodles, and sauces.
THAI FOOD – What To Order That’s Low Carb/Keto
Best options for Keto at Thai Restaurants:
- Coconut curries (without the rice)
- Tom Yum or Tom Kha soups
- Beef/chicken/duck/fish larb
- Basil chicken or pork stir-fries and other stir-fries
- Some Thai salads (check ingredients and dressing)
Thai food can be a great option for Keto meals, but as with all restaurant experiences, there are a few things to watch out for. In particular, some of the stir-fries and soups will have added sugar, so double check that. Also, rice, rice noodles, and wheat noodles are common in Thai cuisine, so avoid Pad See Ew, Pad Thai, and Pineapple Rice!
SPANISH RESTAURANTS – What To Order That’s Low Carb/Keto
If you can find Spanish tapas restaurants, then they can sometimes offer quite a lot of interesting dishes that are Keto friendly.
Best options for Keto at Spanish Restaurants:
- Gambas al Ajillo – Garlic Shrimp
- Jamón and Chorizo
- Olives and other vegetables
- Beef stews (some might have potatoes in them)
- Galician-style octopus
- Fried meats
If you’re unfamiliar with tapas, it’s small plates of food which you can share with friends. It’s a good idea to order a variety of them (they’re not huge portions so if you’re hungry, then you might need to order more or eat something before you go to the restaurant).
A few menu items to watch out for at Spanish restaurants: 1) Spanish omelets (these are filled with potatoes), 2) paella (a rice dish), and 3) Chopitos (these have breading) and other fried foods as they are often battered.
FRENCH RESTAURANTS – What To Order That’s Low Carb/Keto
French restaurants (unless it’s just a pastry shop or bakery) are often the easiest places to eat at on Keto. They do tend to be a bit more expensive though.
Best options for Keto at French Restaurants:
- Chicken provençal
- Various salads
- Duck confit
- Steak tartar
- Charcuterie platter
- Coq au Vin
- Leg of lamb
- Various stews (watch out for beans, starchy vegetables, cornstarch)
- Beef Bourguignon (watch out for starchy vegetables, cornstarch)
There are usually quite a lot of Keto friendly options at French restaurants, so if you’re not familiar with the dishes on the menu, ask the wait-staff to tell you the ingredients.
Try to avoid dishes that include bread, like Croque Monsieur or Croque Madame and baguette sandwiches. And if the dish you order comes with sides, then opt for vegetables like French green beans (haricot vert).
LEBANESE, TURKISH & GREEK RESTAURANTS – What To Order That’s Low Carb/Keto
Best options for Keto at Middle Eastern Restaurants:
- Kebab or gyro meat
- Meatballs (check if they use breadcrumbs or flour to make them)
- Grilled fish and seafood
- Grilled meats
- Various salads
Middle Eastern cuisine is a great eating-out option when you’re Keto. There are lots of meat options and they typically come with sauce on the side. Their salads are also simple and don’t involve sugary-dressings. Just make sure to avoid: couscous, tabbouleh, potatoes and anything wrapped in filo pastry.
ITALIAN RESTAURANTS – What To Order That’s Low Carb/Keto
In traditional Italian restaurants, eating a ketogenic meal is remarkable easy (the Secondi part of the menu is typically all meats/seafood). However, many American Italian restaurants omit these dishes and only include the Primi dishes (pastas/gnochi) and pizzas.
So watch out when you go to Italian restaurants – double check the menu before you head there to make sure there’s something you can eat.
Best options for Keto at Italian Restaurants:
- Various salads and cold cuts (e.g., antipasto salad)
- Veal dishes (double check it’s not breaded
- Various chicken and fish dishes (just check if it’s breaded and what’s in the sauce)
MEXICAN FOOD – What To Order That’s Low Carb/Keto
Best options for Keto at Mexican Restaurants:
- Burrito bowl with salad instead of rice and beans (Chipotle offers this)
- Carne asada
- Chili Verde
- Grilled seafood
Certified Nutrition Specialist Amy Berger, CNS, NTP adds “Fajitas are perfect for low carbing! Grilled meat, peppers and onions. Doesn’t get much better than that. Just ask the server not to bring the tortillas, and ask for extra vegetables instead of rice and beans.”
GRILLS, PUBS, & SPORTS BARS – What To Order That’s Low Carb/Keto
There’s good news here – many grills, pubs, and sport bars have Keto friendly food options. Just make sure to decide what to order that’s Keto in advance so you don’t get tempted to get the fries, burgers, onion rings, and desserts.
Best options for Keto at Pubs:
- Steaks (with side of vegetables or salad)
- Grilled chicken (just make sure it’s not breaded)
- Pork chops
- Grilled salmon (check it’s not breaded and ask them to omit any sauces that might go with it)
- Various salads (ask for olive oil and red wine vinegar dressing)
- Burger without the bun
Eating Keto At Fast Food Restaurants – What To Order + How Many Carbs
Fast food restaurants (surprisingly) have a fair number of Keto friendly option. And below we’ve listed some from the most popular fast food joints.
Of course, we suggest avoiding fast food places if possible and focus instead on eating at home with high quality ingredients. As Ketogenic Dietitian Nutritionist Lara Clevenger, RD, puts it, “While it’s not the best option for foods to eat on a ketogenic diet, fast food can be a great alternative if you otherwise would not be able to stick to the diet.”
If you have to eat at fast food restaurants, then the guide below will help you make better decisions.
Eating Keto at McDonalds
What to order: a breakfast sandwich, chicken breast or burger without the bun.Avoid these foods: chicken nuggets, as they’re covered in breadcrumbs.
You can use the nutrition calculator on their website to figure out your macros. Just remember to account for the extra carbs in condiments like ketchup.
Eating Keto at Taco Bell
What to order: choose one of their meat tacos and simply toss the taco shell before eating. And make sure to add guacamole to your meal. Their power menu bowl is another great choice as you can customize to fit what you enjoy.Avoid these foods: quesadillas and burritos as they have very little protein and are high in carbs like wheat flour, beans, and rice.
Eating Keto at KFC
There are some great keto friendly options on the menu at KFC:
What to order: grilled chicken, which has only 0 or 1g carbs per serving. And if you want a side dish, one serving of green beans has 2g of carbs. There are good salad options too – just ask for no croutons and order the House Salad (2g carbs) or the Caesar Salad (1g carbs). Best to omit the dressing, but if you can’t eat a salad with dressing, then the Heinz Buttermilk Ranch Dressing has 1 g carbs and the Marzettie Light Italian Dressinghas 2g carbs.Avoid these foods: all breaded chicken and sandwiches.
Eating Keto at Pizza Hut and Dominos
What to order: chicken wings are a keto friendly food option at both Pizza Hut and Dominos. Most of the wings are gluten-free and low in carbs (ofter 0 g carbs in 2 wings). Watch out for the sauces though as they do contain sugar.Avoid these foods: pizza.
Dining Out Keto at Subway
You might be surprised to hear that sub shops like Subway can be a good place to get a keto friendly meal!
What to order: chicken salad or ask for an entire sub to be put into a salad instead of a sandwich. Include ingredients like boiled eggs, grilled chicken, bacon, spinach, and olive oil. Check their nutrition calculator for more macros info.Avoid these foods: the bread on their sandwiches.
2 Alternatives To Eating Out Keto
If you’re traveling or often find yourself on the move, dining out can really start to bite into your budget and your health!
Try these two alternatives instead:
Option 1: Fasting or Intermittent Fasting
Fasting is an option if you can’t seem to find a good Keto restaurant.
This doesn’t mean going without food for days on end. But most of us can skip a meal easily.
And once you get into fasting, you might find you’re able to fast for several days at a time. I’ve heard from Keto folks who fast during plane flights or even short business trips in order to avoid eating junk.
So don’t be intimidated by the idea of fasting. It might just take a bit of time to get used to it.
Plus, intermittent fasting has been linked to various health benefits:
- it raises your metabolic rate,
- it helps your body fight inflammation,
- it stimulates your body’s cell repair and renewal process.
Option 2: Carry Keto Snacks With You
Handy ketogenic snacks you can buy include:
Carry these in your bag, stash them in an office drawer or keep them in your car.
And for more suggestions (including snacks you can make yourself), have a look at our Keto Snacks post.