How to Maintain The Keto Diet While Dining Out

Jun 28, 2021
dining out on keto nutrail blog

With some states having re-opened restaurants, many are eager to get out, socialize, and of course, eat something other than whatever casserole you have managed to scrounge up for yourself and your family at home.

In other states, we are seeing a second wave of closings and lockdowns, but for the most part, all restaurants are still allowed to serve take-out. In either case, when you don’t feel like cooking, it is nice to have that handled for you.

For those who are die-hard and committed to keto, restaurants may seem like a naughty, must-avoid social debacle. We are here to tell you that you can stay in keto while dining out!

Read on to learn more about how to eat keto at restaurants.

Restrictive diets and restaurants do not have to be mutually exclusive. If you are on the keto diet, you can absolutely enjoy dinner out with friends (or, in the case of a pandemic with lockdowns, opt for take-out on nights that you don’t feel like prepping and cooking!).

In this article, you will learn how to eat keto at popular chain restaurants. While we have kept our list of best keto restaurants limited to popular chains, most of these modifications can be applied to any restaurant within the same genre.

If you aren’t aware, the keto diet (short for ketogenic diet) involves restricting your macros so that you are eating roughly 75% fat, 20% protein, and a mere 5% carbohydrates.

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When you do this, your body essentially switches gears. You go from metabolizing glucose (derived from sugar and carbohydrates) for energy to utilizing fat instead. Fat keeps you feeling fuller for longer.

When you throw in some intermittent fasting, your body will feed off its own excess fat supply for energy, which induces some incredible health benefits, such as cell regeneration, and of course, a smaller waistline.

Related: The Definitive Guide to Tracking Macros on Keto

Before this miraculous “shifting of gears” occurs, you may find yourself dry-heaving or bed-ridden for a few days.

Say what?!?

Sorry friends, it is true. The keto flu is real, and it is especially brutal to those who are new to the keto game. Until your body is used to an extremely limited carb intake, you may end up feeling not so great until the transition to ketosis is complete. But hey, if that is not incentive to stay in it to win it, we aren’t sure what is! Therefore, when you are on keto, restaurant outings must be carefully calculated.

Related: How to Survive the Keto Flu

Below we have compiled a list of our favorite keto-friendly restaurants. Of course, now more than ever, it is important to shop local, shop small, and support the mom and pop businesses whenever you can. Luckily these menu selections and modifications can be applied to basically any restaurant within the same genre. You don’t have to bail on keto when dining out!

Best Keto-Friendly Restaurants

Chipotle (or any Mexican restaurant)

The staples for basically any Mexican dinner are rice, beans, and meat, right? Two out of three of those are on the keto no-no list.

Luckily, Mexican restaurants are usually equipped with romaine lettuce, even if only typically used as a garnish.

So, when you are ordering at Chipotle, you can skip the rice and beans and use romaine lettuce as your base for any bowl.

Sorry to say, but burritos of any kind are just not going to fly. Tortillas, although freaking delicious, are loaded with carbs.

If you are not at Chipotle (or Qdoba or any build-a-bowl fast-food chain), you can order fajitas! Who doesn’t love a sizzling skillet full of meat and peppers? Again, you will have to skip the tortillas.

The good news is, avocados are mostly fat, so you can go ahead and load up on the guacamole. Oh, and don’t forget the sour cream!

Jimmy Johns (or any sandwich shop)

We get it; sandwiches are delicious! It is hard not to love meat, cheese, and veggies smothered in mustard and mayo and squeezed between two slices of toasted (and oh, so delicious) sourdough.

dining out on keto nutrail blog

But hey, you know what’s more awesome than bread? (We mean, besides pizza and pasta…) How about being a few pants sizes smaller than you were just a month ago?!

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Enter the Jimmy John’s unwich. They have decided to cater to the carb-cutting keto fanatics and un-bread the traditional sandwich.

So, what is it? The unwich is basically all of your favorite fix-ins wrapped in lettuce instead of bread. Okay, we admit it. This option may not be quite as delicious as the real thing.

But in a pinch, it is a keto-friendly fast-food restaurant option.

In-N-Out Burger (or any burger joint)

dining out on keto in and out burger nutrail blog

Speaking of fast-food, west coasters LOVE their in-N-out burgers! If you are on the east coast or have never been to an in-N-out, it is basically a burger joint with a mere five-item menu.

What’s so great about that?

Well, there are many “secret” items on their menu that are not advertised. Ordering at In-N-Out kind of has the same appeal as knowing the location of an underground rave in the 90s… like, if you know, you know. And that makes you cool. So, what are some of these secrets?

Well, there is the double-double, the 3x3, the 4x4, animal style, and let’s not leave out keto heaven, protein style! You can combine any of these for funsies, too!

“I’d like a double-double, protein style, animal style, please!”

See how cool you can sound at the drive-through??

So, anyway, a protein style burger is basically just a burger with no bun and a lettuce wrap instead. With keto, you can have all the cheese your heart desires because fat is good! So, why not make it a double-double? (Double meat and double cheese.) YUM!

If you live across the country from the nearest in-N-out, you can order a burger with no bun from just about any American restaurant. Sorry, but you just aren’t going to sound as cool.

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P.F. Chang’s (or any Chinese restaurant)

Like Mexican food, a main staple for Chinese food is rice. Many of their sauces used in cooking are high in carbs, too, because they call for sugar (or at chain restaurants, high fructose corn syrup — YUCK!).

Luckily, there is still a solid handful of choices that are under 25g net carbs.

If you are at P.F. Chang’s, opt for

  • the steamed shrimp with lobster sauce,
  • Northern style spare-ribs, Singapore black pepper chicken (steamed),
  • Kung Pao shrimp or chicken (steamed),
  • ginger chicken with broccoli,
  • or the pepper steak.

Of course, with all of the above, hold the rice!

dining out on keto nutrail blog meat wings ribs

Red Lobster (or any seafood restaurant)

All in all, seafood is actually one of the best foods you can eat on keto while dining out.

It is completely free of carbs and has a good amount of healthy fats (hello, omegas!) and the perfect amount of protein. Seafood is basically nature’s gift to the keto committers.

So, ordering dinner at Red Lobster should be easy peasy, right? Wrong.

dining out on keto nutrail blog red lobster

If you have ever tasted their cheddar biscuits, of which two come with every entrée, you will begin to understand how easy it is to fall off the wagon.

They are basically flakey, cheddar-y, buttery, blasphemy! Ooof! Not to mention that most of the side dishes (i.e., baked, mashed, fried potatoes, and pasta) are NOT what you need to be eating.

Our advice is to save your appetite for the main attraction and skip the sides and the biscuits. Go ahead and substitute steamed broccoli or salad. Get your fill of lobster and crab. You deserve it!

Olive Garden (or any Italian restaurant)

Perhaps the best (and worst) part about eating at Olive Garden is the bottomless breadsticks and salad that comes with every entrée. Let’s face it. Olive Garden is known neither for its olives (which are one of the best keto snacks, by the way), nor the garden.

No, no. Olive Garden is basically carb heaven, known for the self-loathing food coma that transpires within about ten minutes of your departure.

Thankfully, that can be avoided. The first step is to avoid temptation altogether. With your entrée, go ahead and tell the server to hold off on those unlimited breadsticks. Have them bring only the salad (with no croutons, of course.)

Then, for your main course, you can take your pick from chicken margherita (which comes with breaded zucchini but has only 5g net carbs), herb grilled salmon, or Italian sausage links.

You can also modify some favorites, such as shrimp scampi. Simply ask the server to hold the pasta. A worthy alternative is steamed broccoli. Whenever possible, opt for a cream-based sauce, like alfredo.

Tomato sauces often have added sugars, which are sneaky carbohydrates. Plus, creamy sauces will add more to your fat macro count for the day.

What’s your favorite keto friendly restaurant?

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