Eating Out on Keto: The Ultimate Restaurant Guide

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With all the delicious keto recipes and snacks at your fingertips at home, you’ve found that you can stick to a keto and low carb diet pretty easily. But what about when you go out to eat? Here is my Eating Out on Keto: The Ultimate Restaurant Guide to help you stay on track where ever you go!

Angela of Grassfed Mama shares healthy tips for busy moms.
Angela of Grassfed Mama shares healthy tips for busy moms.

What is Keto?

The ketogenic diet, often referred to simply as “keto,” is a high-fat, low-carbohydrate eating plan designed to induce a metabolic state known as ketosis. In ketosis, the body shifts from primarily using glucose (sugar) as its main source of fuel to burning fat for energy. This metabolic switch can have various effects on the body, including weight loss, improved blood sugar control, and increased energy levels.

The basic principles of the ketogenic diet include:

  1. Low Carbohydrate Intake: The ketogenic diet restricts carbohydrate intake to typically 20-50 grams per day, or about 5-10% of total daily calories. This reduction in carbs forces the body to rely on fat for fuel instead of glucose.
  2. Moderate Protein Intake: Protein intake is moderate on the ketogenic diet, typically making up about 15-30% of total daily calories. Consuming too much protein can potentially interfere with ketosis, as excess protein can be converted into glucose through a process called gluconeogenesis.
  3. High Fat Intake: The majority of calories on the ketogenic diet come from fats, making up about 70-80% of total daily calories. Healthy fats such as avocados, nuts, seeds, olive oil, and fatty fish are staples of the ketogenic diet.
  4. Ketosis: By significantly reducing carbohydrate intake, the body enters a state of ketosis, where it produces ketones as an alternative fuel source. Ketones are produced by the liver from fatty acids when glucose levels are low, and they can be used by the body, including the brain, for energy.
  5. Health Benefits: The ketogenic diet has been studied for its potential benefits in weight loss, blood sugar control, insulin sensitivity, epilepsy management (particularly in children with epilepsy), and neurological conditions like Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. However, it may not be suitable for everyone, and long-term effects are still being researched.

While the ketogenic diet can be effective for weight loss and certain health conditions, it’s essential to approach it with caution and consult with a healthcare professional, especially if you have underlying health conditions or concerns. Additionally, maintaining a balanced and varied diet, even within the constraints of a ketogenic approach, is important for overall health and well-being.

Tips for Dining Out on Keto

Dining out on a ketogenic diet can seem daunting at first, but with a little planning and know-how, you can enjoy delicious meals while staying true to your low-carb lifestyle. Here are some tips to help you navigate restaurants and make keto-friendly choices:

1. Plan Ahead:

Before heading to a restaurant, take some time to research the menu online. Many restaurants now provide nutritional information on their websites, allowing you to identify keto-friendly options in advance. Look for dishes that are naturally low in carbohydrates and high in healthy fats and protein.

2. Review Menus Online:

Familiarize yourself with the menu offerings and look for dishes that can be easily modified to fit your keto diet. Focus on protein-rich options like grilled meats, fish, and poultry, as well as non-starchy vegetables and salads. Be cautious of menu items that may contain hidden carbs, such as sauces, dressings, and marinades.

3. Ask for Substitutions:

Don’t be afraid to ask for substitutions or modifications to make dishes more keto-friendly. Requesting a salad instead of fries or a side of steamed vegetables instead of rice can help reduce carb intake while still enjoying a satisfying meal. Most restaurants are willing to accommodate dietary preferences, so don’t hesitate to communicate your needs to your server.

4. Navigate Common Menu Items:

When scanning the menu, be mindful of common high-carb culprits like bread, pasta, rice, and potatoes. Look for creative ways to enjoy your favorite dishes without the carbs, such as opting for lettuce wraps instead of buns or choosing zoodles (zucchini noodles) instead of traditional pasta. Keep an eye out for hidden carbs in dishes like soups, sauces, and condiments.

5. Stay Mindful of Portion Sizes:

While many keto-friendly foods are nutritious and satisfying, it’s still essential to be mindful of portion sizes to avoid overeating. Aim to fill your plate with a balance of protein, healthy fats, and non-starchy vegetables, and listen to your body’s hunger cues. If portions seem large, consider sharing an entrée with a dining companion or saving leftovers for another meal.

By following these tips for dining out on keto, you can enjoy delicious meals while staying on track with your low-carb lifestyle. With a little planning and awareness, you can make dining out a stress-free and enjoyable experience, whether you’re dining at your favorite restaurant or exploring new culinary adventures.

Tips to Navigate the Menu with Eating out on Keto

Navigating restaurant menus while following a ketogenic diet requires a bit of strategy and awareness. Here’s a guide to help you decipher menus and make keto-friendly choices:

Deciphering Menus:

When scanning a menu for keto-friendly options, focus on dishes that are naturally low in carbohydrates and high in protein and healthy fats. Look for these types of dishes:

  • Grilled Meats: Options like steak, chicken, salmon, and shrimp are excellent choices, as they’re rich in protein and healthy fats.
  • Non-Starchy Vegetables: Choose side dishes or entrees that feature vegetables like spinach, broccoli, asparagus, cauliflower, and zucchini, which are low in carbs and high in fiber.
  • Salads: Opt for salads with protein-rich toppings like grilled chicken, salmon, or avocado, and choose dressings made with olive oil or vinegar-based options.
  • Eggs and Breakfast Meats: Breakfast options like omelets, scrambled eggs, and bacon or sausage can be keto-friendly choices, as long as they’re not served with high-carb sides like toast or potatoes.

Identifying Keto-Friendly Options:

Avoid menu items that are heavy in carbohydrates, such as pasta, rice, bread, and sugary sauces. Be cautious of hidden carbs in dishes like soups, sauces, and marinades. Look out for words like “breaded,” “fried,” or “sauce,” as these may indicate hidden sources of carbohydrates.

Modifying Menu Items:

Don’t hesitate to ask for modifications to make dishes more keto-friendly. Some common modifications include:

  • No Buns or Bread: Request sandwiches or burgers without the bun, or ask for lettuce wraps instead.
  • Substitutions: Swap high-carb sides like fries or mashed potatoes for extra vegetables or a side salad.
  • Sauces on the Side: Ask for sauces and dressings to be served on the side, so you can control the amount and avoid unnecessary carbs.

With a little menu navigation savvy and some strategic modifications, you can enjoy delicious and satisfying meals while sticking to your ketogenic diet. By choosing wisely and making simple adjustments, you can dine out with confidence and stay on track with your low-carb lifestyle.

Finding Low Carb and Keto Friendly Restaurants

Finding restaurants that cater to keto or low-carb diets can be a bit challenging, but there are many options available. Here are some types of restaurants and specific chains that often have keto-friendly or low-carb options:


Steakhouse restaurants typically offer a variety of grilled meats and seafood options, often served with vegetables or salads. Look for options like steak, grilled chicken, salmon, and shrimp, and ask for substitutions like extra vegetables instead of carb-heavy sides like mashed potatoes or fries.

Seafood Restaurants:

Seafood restaurants are great for keto and low-carb diets, as they offer plenty of protein-rich options like grilled fish, shrimp, scallops, and lobster. Avoid breaded or fried seafood and opt for grilled or broiled dishes instead.

Mexican Restaurants:

While Mexican cuisine is known for its rice and beans, many Mexican restaurants offer keto-friendly options like fajitas (without tortillas), grilled meats with avocado, and salads with protein-rich toppings like grilled chicken or shrimp. You can also ask for lettuce wraps instead of tortillas for tacos or burritos.

Italian Restaurants:

Italian restaurants can be challenging for keto and low-carb diets due to pasta and bread-heavy menus, but many offer salads, grilled meats, and seafood dishes that can be adapted to fit your dietary needs. Look for options like grilled chicken or shrimp with vegetables, antipasto platters, and salads with protein-rich toppings.

Asian Restaurants:

Asian cuisine offers many keto-friendly options like stir-fries with meat and vegetables, sashimi, sushi rolls without rice (such as sashimi rolls or cucumber rolls), and grilled or steamed seafood dishes. Just be mindful of sauces, as many can be high in sugar and carbs.

Buffet Restaurants:

Buffet-style restaurants can be a good option for keto and low-carb diets, as they typically offer a wide variety of protein-rich options like grilled meats, seafood, salads, and vegetables. Just be careful to avoid carb-heavy dishes like pasta, breaded meats, and desserts.

Fast Food Chains:

While fast food is generally not the healthiest option, many fast food chains offer keto-friendly or low-carb options like grilled chicken sandwiches without the bun, lettuce-wrapped burgers, salads with grilled chicken or steak, and grilled chicken nuggets.

Remember, it’s always a good idea to check the menu online beforehand or call ahead to inquire about keto or low-carb options, and don’t be afraid to ask for substitutions or modifications to fit your dietary needs.

What to order Low Carb and Keto Friendly at Popular Fast Food Chains

Navigating fast food chains while following a low-carb diet can be challenging, but many places offer options that can fit into a low-carb eating plan. Here’s a general guide to what you can order at some popular fast food chains:

  1. McDonald’s:
  • Grilled Chicken Sandwich (without the bun)
  • Bacon Ranch Grilled Chicken Salad (without the dressing or with a low-carb dressing)
  • Egg McMuffin (without the English muffin)
  • Sausage, Egg, and Cheese Breakfast Burrito (without the tortilla)
  • Side Salad (with grilled chicken for added protein)
  1. Subway:
  • Any sub as a salad (choose a protein like grilled chicken or turkey, and load up on veggies)
  • Rotisserie-Style Chicken Salad
  • Oven Roasted Chicken Salad
  • Cold Cut Combo Salad
  • Tuna Salad
  1. Chipotle:
  • Salad Bowl with lettuce, protein (such as chicken, steak, or carnitas), fajita vegetables, guacamole, and salsa
  • Burrito Bowl (without rice or beans) with similar toppings as above
  • Keto Salad Bowl (offered at select locations), which includes romaine lettuce, carnitas, red salsa, cheese, and guacamole
  1. Burger King:
  • Grilled Chicken Sandwich (without the bun)
  • Bacon King Jr. Sandwich (without the bun)
  • Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad (without croutons or with low-carb dressing)
  • Egg and Cheese Croissan’wich (without the croissant)
  1. Wendy’s:
  • Grilled Chicken Sandwich (without the bun)
  • Baconator (without the bun)
  • Caesar Side Salad (without croutons or with low-carb dressing)
  • Southwest Avocado Chicken Salad (without tortilla strips or with low-carb dressing)
  1. Taco Bell:
  • Power Menu Bowl (choose chicken or steak, and omit rice, beans, and potatoes)
  • Chicken Soft Taco (without the tortilla)
  • Steak Power Bowl (without rice and beans)
  • Grilled Breakfast Burrito (without the tortilla)

It’s always a good practice to double-check nutritional information and ingredient lists, as offerings may vary by location and menus are subject to change. Additionally, be cautious of hidden sugars and high-carb toppings like sauces, dressings, and condiments.

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