Eating out isn’t as much of a challenge as you might think, but it should be something you do as a treat, probably not as something you rely on every day as to stay in Ketosis you need to consume around 20-50g at the most of carbohydrate per day. There are plenty of places that offer low carbohydrate options and all you have to do is talk to the staff about their menu. Some great options for eating out here in Australia include the following, and I’ll keep adding to this list as I discover more delicious meals. Each meal can be consumed with either a diet soft drink, diet iced tea, iced water or if you want something a little more special a soda lime and bitters, to keep your carbohydrate levels as low as possible.
When you are eating out, whether it be with friends for a catch-up, celebrating a special occasion or even just enjoying a lunch that you don’t have to prepare yourself, make sure you enjoy the experience. If you have discussed your new diet choices to your friends and family and what you wish to achieve, they should be supportive of you and help to find a location that will suit everyone’s dietary requirements. Try to avoid those places that are clearly going to cause problems such as an Italian Restaurant for example where the lure of pasta and pizza will become too much of a temptation. Avoid desserts and opt for a coffee or a tea instead to round off your meal. Here are some suggestions –
Café & Coffee Shops – The easiest time of the day to go out for a meal is for Breakfast or Brunch and Coffee shops and Café’s usually have all day breakfasts available. A big breakfast (without the bread, hash brown and beans), a delicious plate with poached eggs, bacon, pesto, grilled mushrooms, wilted spinach and feta or grilled haloumi is perfect anytime of the day.
For lunch fresh salads combined with proteins such as egg, cheese, tinned tuna, ham, chicken, turkey, salmon, salami and roast meats are the best choice. Avoid salads containing croutons, quinoa, other pseudo grains (more information on the Grains & Cereals page) and sweet sauces or dressings containing high levels of sugar.
Fast Food Options
Oporto – Quarter Chicken with lemon & herb dressing, tomato salad, coleslaw or garden salad and a diet drink or water.
Subway – Chicken Salad and water.
McDonalds – Grilled Chicken Salad, watch their dressing though as it may be high in carbs depending on the option. Make sure you don’t receive the crispy option which is coated in breadcrumbs and high in carb.
Costco – Costco has fantastic Roast Chicken with no stuffing so the carbohydrate level is low. Paired with their Greek Salad or Caesar salad (minus the croutons) it’s a perfect meal.
Chargrilled Chicken Shop – Quarter chicken, salad (Greek is perfect, If your having Tabouli just make sure it doesn’t contain cracked wheat), pickles and garlic sauce.
Mexican – Many Mexican restaurants have fantastic fresh protein and salad options alongside their high carb options. Just be careful that the dressing isn’t too high in sugar. My favourite restaurant is Guzman Y Gomez here in Sydney. There salads are delicious but they do contain fresh corn off the cob which has a naturally high level of sugar. You can ask them to remove the corn if you like. Served with your choice of meats and Guacamole and Sour Cream as optional extras their salad is a perfect meal.
Fish & Chip Shop – Grilled fish or seafood with a side of garden or Greek salad is a healthy meal. Don’t order the battered or crumbed fish as the coating is loaded with carb. If you’re the type that can’t resist the smell of freshly cooked chips avoid the temptation completely by asking them to just serve you salad, no chips.
Burgers – There are a large number of Burger restaurants opening up everywhere with a huge range of gourmet burgers available. Ask the staff for a “Naked Burger”. All the fillings of the burger but without the bread bun. Some restaurants do offer lettuce to replace the bun for a low carb option. McDonalds here in Australia do a fantastic job offering lettuce instead of a burger and allowing you to change, add and remove ingredients as you wish. The ingredients to avoid are items like pineapple and excessive amounts of BBQ, tomato sauce, relishes or chutneys all which are high in sugar. A good serve of meat, egg, bacon, cheese, onions and lots of salad ingredients is perfect.
Restaurants can be a little tricky to navigate when eating low carbohydrate foods. If you know where you want to go, look up the restaurant’s website and get a feel for their menu. You can even call them before you go to check if you can make changes to specific items. Try to avoid set menu’s if possible as they will definitely be based on large amounts of filling carbohydrates.
Seafood, Steak / Rib House or Pub – Any seafood, sausage, fish, chicken or beef cut that has been grilled and served with garden salad or steamed vegetables is perfect. Avoid the loaded baked potato and potato or sweet potato chips. Also it’s best to avoid ribs or meats basted in sweet sticky sauces as they will be full of sugar. Ask to get your sauce on the side so you can see how much sauce you have actually eaten during your meal.
German / Austrian Beer Hall –German or Austrian food is a great option for eating out as they have a strong focus on meat and smallgoods. Sauerkraut is great, but keep an eye on the level of sugar in dishes such as traditional purple cabbage which is traditionally sweet. Avoid potato dishes, spaetzle and choose steamed vegetables or salad as an accompaniment.
Asian Restaurant – Unfortunately those Asian cuisines that are based on rice such as sushi, noddles or dumplings should probably be avoided. Thai and Chinese restaurants have lots of great dishes to offer. Grilled chicken satay skewers are a great low carb entrée, just be aware that the satay sauce may contain a high level of sugar. There are many delicious Asian dishes that are salad based and you can request replacement of any noodles with extra salad. Thai dipping sauces and dressings are usually a blend of sweet and sour ingredients so they can contain a high level of sugar. Other Asian stir-fried options that are meat based, served with vegetables and with as little sauce as possible are also good options. Avoid dishes that are rice or noodle based, have a sweet sauce such as honey prawns, or that are coated in a batter and are deep fried such as sweet & sour pork. Dishes such as Chicken with vegetables and cashew nuts as opposed to Sweet & Sour chicken would be a better choice. Keep in mind there will still be a high carbohydrate level for most Asian dishes that are heavily sauced, as most Asian sauces are based on starches (a source of carbohydrate) to help thicken them.
Indian – There are a wide range of dishes that you can eat in an Indian restaurant that are low carb. Meat based starters such as Tandoori Chicken and mint sauce are perfect. Vegetable dishes (without potato or dhal), curried meats, and dishes containing Indian cottage cheese paneer are all good choices. Lamb, Chicken or Beef in alomd, cashew or cream based sauces are great. Watch tomato based sauces though as they usually are high in sugar. Avoid rice, breads and fried starters. Unfortunately, the range of Indian desserts are usually soaked in sugar syrup so it might be best to skip dessert.
Brazilian Churrascaria – One of the best options for low carb dining and definitely not one for the faint hearted when it comes to meats. Brazilian Churrascaria’s are restaurants where you sit and are served a continuous range of delicious cuts of meats which have been grilled over a spit and sliced thinly. These usually include beef, lamb, pork, chicken, prawns, and fish. Typically, green salads and salsas are served with Salsa verde (a delicious green herb sauce) for the meat. A range of sides are usually available including rice, beans, taro chips, potato salad all of which are very high carbohydrate and should be avoided. Call your restaurant first to confirm if you are able to receive only a green or tomato-based salad with your meal.
I hope that this list helps you navigate options for eating out. Remember it’s the long-term health goal that you are focusing on and the small steps you take on a daily basis all add up to that goal. One small slip is not going to have that much of an impact but falling off the wagon for a week however, will most likely see you go straight back to your old bad habits. Most of all, remember that special moments in Life are to be enjoyed!! Take the time to savour your meal, the surroundings and the fabulous company that you are with. If you do slip and have a little too many carbs, appreciate the moment and remind yourself of your goals once your back in your own environment.