A Low-Carb diet isn’t just a fad, it’s a lifestyle change. With any serious commitment, you want to make sure that you aren’t overwhelming yourself. On a low-carb diet, you can still enjoy a meal out with a friend or in a restaurant. You don’t need to hole up in your house and eat grilled chicken and salad for the rest of your life. You can finally leave the lunchbox at home. There are so many choices and resources to help aid in your commitment to living healthy. With a few helpful tips, you won’t feel trapped or tempted when dining out.
Choosing the Restaurant:
Many restaurants have recently increased the healthy food options on their menus. These changes reflect the diet and health concerns of their patrons. Even fast food franchises have public records of the nutritional information on the menu. Many have the nutritional info on the menu beside the food, while others have a database on the website. A few popular symbols are V to express the item is vegan, GF for gluten-free, and U for under 600 calories. Low-carb is a little harder find, but chefs always accommodate for their diners.
The staff is especially understanding in restaurants where you find symbols on the menu. Stick with the places that recognize special restrictions. There are restrictions in many diets so restaurants always accept substitutions in an order. Don’t feel awkward or embarrassed about mentioning your dietary restrictions to your server. Usually, they will make some helpful suggestions. Choose a restaurant that has a reputation for food accommodations. These are the first steps in having a successful and pleasant meal out.
Some cuisines are more carb heavy than others. Seafood, steakhouses, and grills are the best for a low-carb or no-carb diet. Cuisines like Italian and Chinese are a little tougher because of the pasta, rice, and bread on the plate. If you go to these places, ordering a dinner plate is a better choice than a combo meal. Load up on the vegetables and reduce the rice and pasta. Ask the waiter to point out the proteins without any breading or batter. There are always options on the menu, you just need to look.
Starters and Sides:
It’s best to steer clear of the bread basket, but ordering a soup or salad can help fill you up with the right types of food. Don’t be afraid to get your salad with a dressing. Most oil based dressings are completely fine on a low-carb diet as long as they aren’t loaded up with sugar. Some good choices are Caesar or olive oil and vinegar. If you are in the mood for a dressing that doesn’t fall within your diet, get the dressing on the side. A nice trick is to dip your fork into the dressing and then collect some salad to eat. You don’t want to deprive yourself, but you are reducing the amount of dressing that you end up eating. Salads with cheese and protein are an even better choice. You can increase the protein and cut the temptation for French fries on the side or ice cream for dessert. Order some veggies with cheese or an Alfredo dipping sauce.
Go for a soup with a tomato or chicken broth base. Try to limit the pasta and beans in the soups by going for a blended basic soup or a broth based veggie soup. You don’t want any hidden unexpected carbs in your dish so try to order items that you are familiar with.
Protein, Fats, and Above-Ground Vegetables:
Fill up your plate with the right kind of foods. Protein, fats, and vegetables grown above the ground are a good guide for ordering from a menu. Broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus and peppers are great for the plate. Instead of a starchy side of potatoes or rice, ask the waiter to double up on your vegetables. If you are leaning towards a salad, that’s another great option. Cabbage, lettuce, and spinach are low in carbs and pair well with meat, chicken, and fish. Be smart while ordering. On a low-carb diet, the goal is to take in the kinds of foods that keep you full for real and leave the fillers out. This means protein, protein, and more protein! Restaurants serve a bunch of protein choices so you never get stuck order the same thing. Feel free to choose a steak, seafood platter or piece of salmon. Chicken and bun-less burgers are amazing options that are available at most restaurants. Condiments and sauces are an important factor in a low-carb diet as well. If the dish has a particularly sugary sauce, stick with the oil, butter, and grilled choices.
Drinks and Desserts:
Eating out becomes a little tricky with desserts and drinks. Many mixed drinks are full of sugar and loaded with carbs. It’s best to stick with water or a glass of wine with your meal. Keep in mind that on a low-carb diet alcohol can seem especially strong so don’t overdo it. The dessert menu is especially tempting but ask if you can order a bowl of berries and some full fat whipped cream. This is a great option for something decadent at the end of a nice meal while staying away from sugars. Order a cup of coffee with whole milk or cream to round off your meal too. Indulging in a hot cup of rich coffee at the end of your meal is a good habit to avoid the no-dessert blues. Every restaurant is different but some places with a bar might be happy to bring a bowl of nuts to the table.
Calculating the nutritional value of your food doesn’t need to be a time-consuming job. There is an app called MyFitnessPal that has a widespread database. The database includes take-out foods and dine-in foods. It also has a recipe calculator to figure out what you are eating. The app has a simple search engine where you type in the food and restaurant. This feature tells you the nutritional information and breakdown of the food you searched. If the specific restaurant isn’t listed, search a similar meal to match your order. This gives you the nutritional breakdown of those items. The app keeps a log of your goals and you can tailor the diet to meet your specific needs. There is even an option to receive an alert if you go over the recommended amount in any of the categories.
It is important to know what you can eat and what you are avoiding. At home or in a restaurant, the rules are the same. Take a little more notice in the food prep and sauces while eating out. Usually, if it is okay at home, you can go for it out of the home as well.