EATING OUT AT RESTAURANTS
We tend to live busy and social lives these days so the convenience of a take-a-way meal or a treat meal at a restaurant sometimes helps to to take the edge off our stress levels
...but can we still do it whilst staying low carb and keto?
Eating out...can we do it?...yes we can
We all have those days when we just can’t face cooking and although not being an advocate of fast food and dining out on an everyday or frequent basis, I do believe that there are times when life gets so hectic that you just don’t have time to cook or you miss junk food Friday, or your friends and family want to grab some take-out, or you are tired or have been working super hard and just deserve a treat. On those occasions it’s nice to know that you can still find low carb and keto friendly foods to eat at the majority of fast food outlets, restaurants and cafés.
In the context of the tips provided below, lets assume that you are eating out, whether it be fast food or other eatery, and not bringing your take-a-way food home to eat. And we won’t focus on beverages because most of you know by now to avoid any sweet drinks, including sugar sodas, smoothies, fruit juices. Water is your best “go to” beverage, or perhaps a diet soda if you crave a fizzy drink and don’t mind the artificial sweeteners. Take cream in your tea or coffee instead of milk and omit the sugar. One final tip that is useful for dining out across the board is to check on the internet to see if the respective eateries and take-a-way outlets have their menus and nutritional information available. It definitely takes the anxiety out of ordering if you already have an idea about what you may be able to pick.
Fish and Chips
Okay, I’m not going to lie…this one can be a little trickier when eating out. I mean, if you are at home, there is low carb breading you coat your fish in and low carb french fry alternatives, but the average fish and chip shop, particularly in New Zealand, will definitely not be able to cater for the standard low carb eater. However, if you are out with your friends or family and they opt for the local fish and chip shop for dinner, there are sometimes some reasonable options for you.
Check the menu board and see if they have an option for grilled fish rather than battered or crumbed. If not, I recommend selecting the battered fish because it is relatively easy to pick the batter off a cooked piece of fish whereas breadcrumbs tend to stick on the fillets a bit too well.
Skip the fries, chips and wedges. Sorry, but these just won’t work on a low carb diet. Instead, see if they sell salads. Some will and some won’t.
In New Zealand, many of the fish and chip shops also sell Chinese meals. You can try asking them for stir-fried vegetables but see if they will leave out the sauce if possible. They may think you’re crazy, but if it’s not peak busy time, they probably won’t mind customizing this for you. You may not get it quite without saucy carbs, but it’s worth a shot.
When it comes to condiments, opt for mayonnaise or aioli if they have it. Tartare sauce may be a reasonable option but they do often have hidden carbs, especially when you are not able to select a brand that you have been able to check the nutrition on. Another good option is vinegar, which is often provided at fish and chip stores. Tomato sauce or brown sauce (HP) should probably be avoided unless you’ve had the forethought to bring some of your own with you from home.
Hamburger (Sandwich) Fast Food Outlets
Hamburgers, burgers, sandwiches or whatever you know them as, they are usually found at places like Burger King, McDonalds, Carls Jr, Burger Fuel, and so on. Usually it involves various fillings such as salad, cheese, egg, meat pattie and sauces being sandwiched between two halves of a burger bun. Unfortunately for New Zealanders, there are not as many low carb options as places like America where it it much easier to get “protein style” burgers where they leave off the bun. In some McDonalds outlets you can use the “build your own burger” system where you can select lettuce instead of a bun for your hamburger. Hopefully other hamburger outlets will start providing this option too.
One good thing to note though is that if your friends and family want to go to a burger joint, there are usually options other than hamburgers on the menu.
Check the menu board to see if they do a lettuce wrap (bunless) burger. If not, ask if they would do this for you as a one off.
Skip the fries, chips, wedges, onion rings, chicken nuggets, fruit pies, ice-cream, etc. You know the drill…all the items with starchy carbs such as potato, breadcrumbs or batter are off the menu.
Ask for them to use only mayonnaise, no other sauces such as BBQ or tomato sauce. Or, if in doubt, leave it out.
Go online and check the nutritional information before heading out.
Look for other items on the menu board that are low carb friendly such as salads, grilled chicken strips, etc. However, be a little cautious and make sure you check what goes into any salad choice you make as sometimes they use sweet dressings or add crispy noodles or croutons.
Fried Chicken Places
The main fried chicken outlets that spring to mind for New Zealander’s are KFC and Country Fried Chicken. They are also often provided at fish and chip shops and food courts or other fast food outlets as a secondary option but usually if at these places, you can choose something else to eat.
Look for items on the menu board that are low carb friendly such as grilled chicken garden salads that have the dressing in a sachet or on the side or chicken strips with no carb-covered coatings.
As above, skip the fries, chips, wedges, onion rings, chicken nuggets etc. You know the drill…all the items with starchy carbs such as potato, breadcrumbs or batter are off the menu. That also includes sides like bean salad, coleslaw, chocolate mousse, potato and gravy and the shaker side salads.
The chicken burgers and wraps are off the low carb menu due to the bun/wrap, the crispy coated chicken and sauces. Even the “Double Down” is higher in carbs than desired for the average low carber due to the coated chicken and sauces.
Go online and check the nutritional information before heading out. At KFC in particular, the lowest carb chicken items are original chicken pieces and the crispy strips. You can always peel the coating off the chicken if you don’t mind doing that in a public place. By the way, hot and spicy chicken is higher in carbs than original chicken due to the extra carbs that make up the super crispy spicy coating.
I’m afraid to give you the bad news here. Pizza when bought and not homemade is highly unlikely to make the cut when it comes to staying low carb due to the bread bases that are used. If you are lucky enough to have a specialty pizza bar near you, you may be able to order a cauliflower base pizza but your best bet catering for this would probably be a café or restaurant.
Once again, look for items on the menu board that are low carb friendly such as garden salads that have the dressing in a sachet or on the side. It might be boring, but at least it’s low carb.
As above, skip the fries, chips, wedges, onion rings, etc. You know the drill…all the items with starchy carbs such as potato, breadcrumbs or batter are off the menu. That also includes sides like coleslaw, desserts, mozzarella sticks and garlic bread.
Go online and check the nutritional information before heading out. You may be able to fit in a single slice of a thin crust pizza or perhaps chicken wings, depending on the particular pizza bar you go to.
It may seem like a real waste, but as a final resort, you can always just eat the toppings off your pizza (making sure that it s not a pizza drizzled in sugary sauces like BBQ or sweet chili).
Cafés and Restaurants
Cafés and restaurants are usually one of the easier places to eat low carb with friends and family as there is almost always some kind of salad or vegetable option. These establishments are also usually very amenable to omitting or replacing different ingredients on your meal choice if you ask nicely. For example, if I order eggs benedict, I will usually ask them to leave out the English muffin and replace it with some kind of green vegetable. So far, my wishes have been pleasantly granted. Low carb eating is gaining popularity these days so there are sometimes low carb options already on the menu at many eateries.
If you are planning in advance and know the café or restaurant you will be going to, then see if they have their menu online so that you know what you can choose before you get there. This also means that if there is nothing that you think you can eat and enjoy, you can suggest to your friends or family that you go somewhere else.
As above, skip the fries, chips, wedges, onion rings, etc. I will usually ask to not have fries or potatoes served on my plate even if it comes standard with the meal because even if I have the best of intentions to push them to the side and not eat them, my will power can waver when they are in front of me looking and smelling delicious.
Easy “go to” choices when eating out are bacon and eggs, steak and salad, sometimes chicken wings and ribs if they are seasoned with a spice rub rather than a sauce. Dishes where the proteins are grilled or poached are also usually a safe low carb bet, just watch the sides and condiments that come with it.
Skip the dessert and order cheese, no crackers. If you’re lucky, they may be willing to serve the cheese with celery sticks or cucumber slices if they have any.
buy take-a-ways for dinner on a Friday night"