You've finally taken the plunge. Scoured all the info on the Ketogenic Success website. Read every keto book you can get your hands on. Lurked a while on the Ketogenic Success Facebook group. Now you've gone to the store and brought home your very first keto grocery haul.
You. Feel. Awesome.
And super prepared.
And then it happens.
Whether it's a dinner invite from friends or you've just had a busy day and cooking a meal isn't in the cards, we will all eat out at some point. Since it's gonna happen, you're gonna need to know how to handle it. We've put together this list of tips to help you make the best choices when eating away from home.
Prepare Ahead of Time
Know where you're going? Look the eatery up on the internet and see if they have a nutrition menu. Most places now make their menus available online and many of them also include nutrition information. Knowing what is possible and what is off limits before you cross the threshold is going to be extremely helpful.
Assume Everything Has Carbs and Bad Oils
When you're not preparing your own food, it's borderline impossible to know exactly what's in it. Whether it's in cooking oil, rubs, or hidden in a dressing, you're probably going to be consuming hidden sugars and starches or bad fats when you eat away from home. In fact, since the various governments world-wide began putting saturated fats on their no-no lists, just about every restaurant has switched to cooking in "healthy" oils like vegetable, canola, or soy. Yes, this is bad news, but unless you plan on making your home a permanent hermitage you're probably going to eat out at some point, and stressing over having an occasional bad oil or some dextrose in the spices on your seared steak is counterproductive to living a full, ketogenic life.
We want to state clearly: This is not an "if it fits your macros" (IIFYM) approach. However, we don't expect everyone to dig a moat around their home and stay indoors forever. Don't expect it of yourself, either. As long as eating out is not a daily thing, having a low-carb meal that may contain something you probably wouldn't cook with at home is not the end of the universe. Do the best you can and keto on.
Stick With the Basics
Grilled, boiled, or seared un-sauced meats, non- starchy vegetables, butter, real cheese crumbles, guacamole, and fatty dressings are all your friends when eating out. Skip the bread or chip basket and stay out of casseroles, slaws, anything breaded, and most sauces- including cheese sauces- unless you can verify that the ingredients of said items aren't sugars or thickening starches. Even saucy side items that you would think should be keto friendly usually are not. Go with straight up meat and veg (or a salad, sans croutons), add in some butter or a drizzle of oil and vinegar, and you'll be golden.
Use the Magic Words
There is no shame in telling your server, "I am on a diabetic-style diet," or something similar (auto-immune protocol works, too). For starters, it's true. It's also something that captures what it is we're trying to avoid and is easy for people to understand. If you spend ten minutes trying to explain keto to the wait staff before you order, you're going to get looked at like you've spontaneously grown a third eyeball and they're not going to be very helpful. Boiling our special dietary needs down to one, universally understandable sentence assures that the staff will be much more cooperative and willing to accommodate your needs when you ask questions and place your order.
Don't assume that fried asparagus is only Parmesan crusted. There's a darned good chance that crust also contains flour or cornmeal, and once you've eaten half the plate is not the time to make that discovery. It may be inevitable to eventually have an unexpected restaurant oops, but the more questions you ask about what's in a dish or how it's prepared, the less likely you are to find out the hard way later on.
Don't Be Afraid to Ask for Substitutions
Most places are happy to allow you to swap out steamed veggies or a side salad instead of French fries or a baked potato. Sometimes there may be an up-charge involved, so if you're on a tight budget you may need to simply ask them to hold the side if they won't make a switch. Either way, avoiding or swapping the carby sides will save your stomach a lot of trouble later, and will go a long way towards helping your reach your goals.
Whether you're at a burger joint or a fancy sit-down place, with these tips you should have no problems finding something compliant when eating out. Don't forget, practice makes perfect! While eating out on keto may seem a bit daunting at first, we promise that it gets much less stressful and more intuitive over time. Once you're used to implementing these strategies, having a meal outside of your home is easy peasy.