Eating Out in Restaurants on a Low-Carb Diet

Low-Carb Restaurant Eating

Rack of Lamb and Vegetables
nicolesy/E+/Getty Images

Following a new way of eating is hard enough at home, but what about when you leave the house? Worried you’ll fall prey to temptation? Concerned that well-meaning friends will sabotage your diet (C’mon, a little ice cream never hurt anyone!")? Here are some ideas to help you through.

Plan Plan Plan!

The more you decide ahead of time, the fewer choices will confront you when the waiter hands you the menu.

Be clear about what you’re going to do. If possible, look at the menu ahead of time (most restaurants have menus online now).

At First, Take the Easy Street

If you are new to a particular diet, make it easy on yourself. You can handle pasta places some time down the road. For now, think about restaurants with easy low-carb choices. Places where things come separately (like steak and salad) are easier than cuisines that emphasize dishes with lots of ingredients.

Don’t Be Shy

Order confidently. Restaurants are used to special orders. As someone who can’t eat wheat products, I have become comfortable asking questions about the various dishes. Although I don’t expect a dish to be changed for me, I often get offers if I am polite about explaining my needs. You might think about adopting the attitude of someone with a medical condition who just can’t eat certain things. You may be surprised at how accommodating the chef can be.

(The more casual the restaurant, the less likely this is to happen.)

Look for These

Here are some of the easiest things to order which are low in carbs:

  • Look for fairly plain (and unbreaded) meat with vegetables and/or salads (no croutons). Ask for extra veggies instead of the potato or fries (often if you say “no potato” you will be asked if you’d like more veggies, or the chef may just "fill out the plate" with them).
  • “Meal Salads” are getting more popular, and can be very tasty. If you don’t like the options, pick a sandwich that looks good, but ask for the “innards” to be put on top of a green salad.
  • Order the burger, steak sandwich, etc, without the bun. Have a salad on the side.
  • If it’s an “breakfast all day” type of place, order an omelet for lunch or dinner, with low-carb veggies such as spinach, peppers, mushrooms, etc. Have fruit on the side instead of the toast and home fries.

And Always…

- Substitute salad or veggies for higher carb sides like fries, rice, or macaroni salad.
- Ask for no bread basket or chip bowl –- or at least keep it as far from your seat as possible.
- Nothing deep fried (these almost always have breading).
- If you're feeling dessert-deprived, taste your table-mate's. A small spoonful could be all you need to satisfy your curiosity.

Finally, if you see something that you really wish you could eat, try to figure out how to make it low in carbs at home. 

Special Tips for Eating in Special Restauants

Low-Carb Eating in Italian Restaurants

Low-Carb Eating in Chinese Restaurants

Low-Carb Eating in Mexican Restaurants

Low-Carb Eating in Fast Food Restaurants (includes links to specific tips for each of the most popular fast food chains)

Continue Reading