If you’re on a Keto Diet, you’ve probably felt the stress of eating out. Not every restaurant is Keto-friendly, and not every dining companion understands your health goals.
It’s a common scenario. The bread basket arrives and the pressure goes up a notch. Take one. It won’t kill ya.
Unless you have problems with gluten, it won’t. And if you’re comfortable taking a mini-break from Keto, that’s fine. But social pressure isn’t a great reason to make a decision you’ll regret later.
Along with social pressure, poor planning can also make sticking to Keto harder. Poor planning is how you find yourself marooned at a pizza place with a raging appetite at 6 PM. Fortunately, you can prevent that scenario fairly easily.
Think of this article as a practical guide to dining out on Keto. Maybe you’ll find one or two takeaways to ease your Keto journey.
Do You Have to Stay Keto When You Eat Out?
Before covering tactics, it’s important to decide how strict you want to be about carbs.
Some people have no problem keeping net carbs (total carbs - fiber - sugar alcohols) below 20 or 30 grams per day. They adapt to the Keto diet like Michael Phelps adapted to a lap pool. They don’t even miss carbs.
If you’re one of these people, you’re lucky. If not, you’re not alone.
For those struggling to relinquish carbs, there are a few options:
- Abandon the Keto diet
- Incorporate occasional carby “cheat meals”
The final bullet is also called carb cycling. When you carb cycle, you eat high-carb once or twice a week, and the rest of the week you eat low-carb. This is called the Cyclical Keto Diet.
Another form of carb cycling is to eat one high-carb meal per day. Dinner tends to work best.
Carb cycling is best known as an exercise-enhancement strategy, but it can also be a Keto compliance strategy. It’s worked for a lot of people.
If carb cycling works for you, it makes dining out on Keto easier. It really opens up the menu.
Before carb cycling, it’s a good idea to spend 4 to 6 weeks on the Standard Keto Diet. This helps you fat-adapt (access stored body fat for energy) and return to ketosis faster after eating carbs.
Tips for Dining Out on Keto
To keep things simple, let’s say you’re not carb cycling. Maybe you’re still adapting to regular Keto, or maybe you’ve found additional carbs don’t work best for your health goals.
The upshot is: You’re avoiding carbs and trying to eat whole food sources of fat and protein.
Now you’re supposed to grab dinner with friends. How should you handle it? These tips should help.
#1: Research first
If you wanted to check a menu before the internet, you either called the restaurant or asked a friend. Both methods were unreliable and inefficient.
Those days are gone. Even if a friend recommends a place, chances are you’ll research it on Google or Yelp anyway. If it’s anywhere south of four stars, it’s time to explore other options.
Be sure to apply your research skills when locating Keto-friendly fare. Just find a few restaurants in your desired radius and check out their menus.
Places with big salads are good. Steak and seafood places are good. And Mongolian barbecue, if you can find it, is made for Keto.
#2: Be the place picker
Now that you have your list of Keto-approved restaurants, don’t keep it to yourself. Be the one to suggest a place.
It might seem polite to go with the flow, but the truth is, your friends will appreciate your decisiveness. Plans often flounder because nobody offers a firm suggestion. Everyone’s “okay with whatever”.
Simply lead and they will follow. Not only will your suggestion get people moving, but it will also keep you in control of your diet. It’s a win-win. If your first suggestion is rejected, cheerfully offer one or two others.
#3: Consider eating beforehand
Despite your best efforts, you can’t always pick the place. If your friend’s favorite restaurant serves only pizza, pasta, and breadsticks—you may be dragged there occasionally.
You want to be social, but you don’t want pasta. The solution? Eat a Keto snack beforehand.
The restaurant won’t mind. As long as your friends order something, it’s perfectly acceptable to stick with water or tea.
Your friends shouldn’t mind either. You’re allowed to have no appetite. You ate a late lunch. Oops.
#4: Mention your Keto diet
Keto is not a fringe diet. Katie Couric, Halle Berry, and Lebron James have all done versions of it.
Many servers snap to attention the moment you say “Keto”. Don’t be surprised if they rush off to find you a Keto menu.
The Keto diet shouldn’t be taboo, but it probably is in some circles. You might get some eye rolls.
Who cares? You’re making health a priority. If they don’t understand, too bad for them.
#5: Make it clean Keto
Low-carb isn’t synonymous with being healthy. If you’re eating foods cooked in soybean oil, for instance, you’re not doing your long-term health any favors. Cooking and consuming vegetable oils (like soybean oil) has been linked to obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.[*]
Whenever possible, stick to whole foods and healthy fats like meat, fish, nuts, eggs, avocados, olive oil, butter, coconut oil, and low-carb veggies. There’s enough health-consciousness in the world to make this happen in most locations.
Don’t Try To Be Perfect
“The perfect is the enemy of the good”
If you strive for perfection on Keto, you’ll probably fall short. You’re human. Humans aren’t perfect.
A better plan is to have a system with a margin for error. You eat Keto 95% of the time, but once a week you loosen the reins and have pizza or sugar or whatever. As long as you minimize these departures, they won’t derail your health goals.
As a bonus, your stress will go down during group meals out. And when your stress goes down, you’ll be better company.