Estimated reading time: 5 mins
Ah, the age-old dilemma of wanting to stick to your dietary restrictions while enjoying a meal out with friends! If you’re following the ketogenic diet, you might be apprehensive about dining out, thinking that restaurants won’t cater to your low-carb, high-fat requirements. But fret not! With a few strategies and some knowledge under your belt, you can easily enjoy a night out without derailing your keto journey. Here’s how.
1. Plan Ahead
One of the simplest things you can do to ensure your dining experience aligns with your keto goals is to plan in advance.
- Research the Restaurant: Before heading out, take a few minutes to peruse the menu online. Many restaurants nowadays offer nutritional information, making it easier to pick keto-friendly dishes. If not, familiarize yourself with the menu and plan what you’d like to order.
- Call Ahead: If you’re unsure about the carb content or ingredients, don’t hesitate to call the restaurant. Most places are accommodating and might even customize dishes to your preference.
2. Opt for Low-Carb Restaurants
Some cuisines are naturally more keto-friendly than others. Grilled meats, seafood, and salads are staples in many cultures. Consider choosing:
- Steakhouses: Perfect for a meat-heavy diet. Just remember to swap out any carb-heavy sides.
- Seafood Restaurants: Most seafood dishes are low in carbs. However, be wary of sugary glazes or batter-fried items.
- Mediterranean & Middle Eastern Restaurants: Think grilled lamb, chicken kebabs, or a fresh Greek salad (hold the potatoes).
3. Master the Menu
While dining out, look for keywords on the menu that typically indicate a dish is keto-friendly:
- Grilled, Broiled, Baked: These cooking methods usually imply that the food isn’t breaded or cooked with sugary sauces.
- Au Gratin or Creamed: These dishes are often low in carbs, but it’s still a good idea to ask about added ingredients.
- Avoid: Anything labeled as crispy, breaded, battered, glazed, or sweetened. These usually mean the dish is high in carbs.
4. Customize Your Order
Don’t be shy about asking for substitutions or tweaks to make a dish keto-compliant:
- Swap out fries or potatoes for a side salad or steamed veggies.
- Ask for dressings and sauces on the side. Many contain hidden sugars.
- If ordering a burger or sandwich, ask for it to be lettuce-wrapped or simply eat the insides and leave the bread.
5. Stay Hydrated
Opt for water, sparkling water, or unsweetened iced tea. Avoid sodas, even diet ones, as they can sometimes impact ketosis. If you fancy an alcoholic beverage, stick to dry wines, pure spirits like vodka or whiskey, and avoid sugary mixers.
6. Share with Friends
Sharing dishes is a fun way to enjoy a variety of foods without overindulging. If a friend is ordering a dish you’d like to try, propose sharing. This way, you can have a small portion of a possibly non-keto dish without going overboard.
7. Mind Your Portions
Just because it’s keto doesn’t mean it’s a free pass to overeat. Remember, the ketogenic diet is also about calorie intake. Practice portion control to ensure you’re not consuming too many calories, which can halt weight loss.
8. Beware of Hidden Carbs
From salad dressings to sauces and gravies, hidden carbs can sneak their way into seemingly keto-friendly dishes. Always inquire about ingredients and preparation methods.
9. Enjoy the Experience
Remember, dining out is not just about the food but also about the experience and company. Engage in conversations, enjoy the ambiance, and relish the break from cooking. If you happen to consume a few extra carbs, don’t stress. One meal won’t derail your keto journey.
10. Get Back on Track
If you suspect you’ve gone over your carb limit, don’t panic. Focus on getting right back to your keto routine with your next meal. Consider incorporating some exercise or intermittent fasting to help get back into ketosis.
11. Choose Appetizers Wisely
Many restaurants offer tempting appetizers, but it’s essential to tread carefully. Opt for options like:
- Cheese boards: A great keto-friendly choice, but avoid any accompanying bread or sugary additions.
- Olives or Pickled Vegetables: These are typically low in carbs and offer a tangy start to your meal.
- Wings: If they’re not breaded and not smothered in a sugary sauce, wings can be a good choice. Always ask about the preparation.
12. Stick to Simple Desserts
If the group is ordering dessert and you don’t want to feel left out:
- Opt for cheese plates, berries (in moderation), or a plain whipped cream if available.
- Steer clear of desserts with pastry, sugary sauces, or hidden carb-loaded ingredients.
13. Stay Informed
The more you know about the keto diet, the better decisions you can make while dining out. Equip yourself with knowledge about which foods are high in carbs and which ones fit within your dietary guidelines. There are several mobile apps available that provide net carb counts for various foods and can be a helpful tool when dining out.
14. Don’t Cave to Peer Pressure
Your friends might not understand or support your dietary choices fully. Politely explain why you’re making specific choices and remember that you’re doing what’s best for your health and goals. It’s okay to decline certain foods or drinks that don’t align with your diet.
15. Remember It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint
While sticking to the keto diet is essential for results, one meal won’t determine your overall success. It’s what you do consistently over time that matters. If you have an occasional deviation from your diet, it’s essential not to beat yourself up. Reflect, learn from the experience, and move forward.
Dining out while sticking to the ketogenic diet might seem challenging initially, but with practice, it becomes second nature. It’s all about finding a balance between enjoying social outings and maintaining your dietary commitments. By being prepared, making informed choices, and maintaining a positive perspective, you can navigate the restaurant scene confidently and enjoyably. Your keto journey is unique to you, so be kind to yourself and relish every step of the experience.