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Some of the best meals we’ve ever had have come from quaint little “mom & and pop” restaurants, many of them offering a variety of ethnic foods. They may not be big chain franchises but they make up for it with nostalgia and good food. One of the negatives of these dining establishments is that nutrition details will probably be much harder to come by. There are still plenty of options for making meals low-carb, they just won’t be as easily accessible on the menu. If you find you are having trouble putting together a low-carb meal, it’s never wrong to politely ask an establishment how some of their menu items are prepared. Here are some tips of how to make some of these ethnic and generic restaurant foods more Keto friendly.
Whenever we think “Italian food”, we immediately imagine pasta, bread, pizza, cheese, more bread…so, essentially, carb heaven! Italian food is easily a favorite for many people, and initially, it may seem that low-carb choices will be impossible to find. Thankfully, that is not the case.
Pasta and pizza are very much staples in Italian food restaurants here in America and a big part of these dishes are the toppings, which usually consist of good meats and healthy veggies. Try ordering a pasta or pizza meal but ask for the topping to go over lettuce. If you can, make sure the vegetables are cooked in olive oil, or even butter, if it’s full fat. Grass fed is preferable but not always attainable. Opt for straight olive oil and vinegar for the dressing, unless you’ve confirmed that their ranch or Caesar does not have excess amounts of sugar, especially if it’s house-made.
Grilled chicken, beef, or fish will also most likely be on the menu, you’ll just have to forgo carb-loaded sides and sauces. Pesto is an option to spread over chicken, but use sparingly because of the pine nuts.
Antipasto (“before meal”) platters are often available for appetizers. These plates usually consist of meats, vegetables, and sometimes seafood, all of which are excellent low-carb options.
Soups can be a good Keto meal as well, as long as they are made with thinner broths rather than thicker “chowder” bases. Chowders often need starch and/or flour to make them thicken which will knock you out of ketosis very quickly. Steer clear of soups with pasta, beans, or gnocchi in them as well.
Mexican cuisine is delicious and exciting, but much of it includes beans and rice in a variety of forms witch is not conducive to staying in ketosis. Requesting meals without the rice and beans will immediately lower the carb count.
You can get just about any meal that comes in a tortilla either on the side or over a bed of shredded lettuce. Cheese, full fat sour cream, red salsas, and avocado are all Keto approved. Watch out for the additives in guacamole. If you would rather have that over plain avocado slices, be sure to ask what the ingredients are.
Any meat that is grilled is fine and you can even request it over fajita-grilled vegetables rather than inside a tortilla. Sides such as ceviche and pico de gallo are also options for spicing up your modified meal.
A lot of Japanese and sushi dishes already cater to low-carb diets with little to no modification. Granted, sushi does come with rice so sashimi is a better choice. Avoid edamame as well; ½ a cup of those little guys easily reaches 9-10g net carbs!
Miso soup is a good low-carb choice. It is a good Keto friendly starter and will help fill you up if you find you have limited Keto options. Some Japanese restaurants have a dish called Konjac Ramen, which is one of the few noodle-type dishes that will be low-carb enough for your diet. The noodles are made out of the root of the elephant yam and the single serving size only comes to about 2-3g net carbs. Granted, there are other toppings on ramen bowls, so you will have to be conscientious about the other ingredients to keep it low carb.
As with the other restaurants, grilled meats are always a good choice provided they are not covered in any kind of sauce. Non-seafood options at sushi restaurants often consist of either beef or chicken teriyaki bowls. You could modify these by getting the sauce on the side and forgoing the rice.
Indian cuisine might be a bit more difficult to get low-carb options for. While the spices are very good, many of the dishes come with sauces and unless you’re making it yourself, it could be difficult to find any without sugars or flours used to thicken them. Try to order meat dishes, with little to no sauce if possible, and always skip the naan and rice.
Tandoori chicken can be a good choice; just keep in mind tandoori marinade usually contains yogurt, a lot of which is not very low-carb. Also, any kind of kabobs with meat and veggies are good as long as the meat is dry.
Once of the biggest carb hang-ups you’ll come across at a BBQ joint is the sauces. Asking for your baby back ribs with no sauce does seem like it defeats the purpose. But BBQ restaurants are all about the smoking and the seasoning as well. A well-seasoned dry rubbed steak or rack of ribs will be just as enjoyable without the sauce. If asking for no sauce seems like a big deal you can always request it on the side. Sadly, just about every version of a BBQ sauce will off limits due to the high amount of sugar, even in house-made sauces.
Also try to avoid pre-sauced dishes like pulled pork, barbecoa, or other shredded meats that are prepared in the sauce. Some southern BBQ places might use a sauce made with vinegar and mustard, which will be Keto friendly.
If you’re ordering wings, ask if there is a dry rub version (like they offer at Buffalo Wild Wings) or simply get them dry with buffalo sauce on the side. Pair them with ranch or blue cheese and celery sticks (try to avoid starchy carrots).
The same salad and side rules apply here as any other restaurant; steer clear of sweet, fruity dressings, hold the croutons, no breads or fried sides!
Sports bars will probably have similar choices to chains like Applebee’s, Chili’s, and Buffalo Wild Wings, with the exception of limited nutrition facts and few low carb choices on the menus. Still, the same concepts work for these non-chain restaurants.
If you’re hanging with friends watching the big game, it’s easy to just start munching whatever lands on the table while you watch. Order all of your own appetizers and entrees rather than sharing orders with others who don’t have the same diet requirements.
Steak is always a win, which will mostly likely be one of the options on the menu at a sports bar. The same goes for chicken, as long as it’s not breaded. Grilled fish, pork chops, and bunless burger are wise choices as well. Again, be mindful of sides and swap out dippable veggies like cucumbers and celery for the fries or potatoes.
Let’s face it…we all need vacations in our lives! Figuring out what to eat once you’re at your destination is one problem. What to eat along the way is another. Any long road trip or even time spent in an airport is going to require a pit stop of some kind. These stops are usually at stores with nothing but chips and candy…or so it seems. Even if there is no road trip involved, a quick trip to a 7/11 store to satisfy the “munchies” could be dangerous ground. Here are some quick, easy, and Keto friendly finds.
Yes, cheese is our friend; and a very low-carb, fulfilling snack for on the go. You can get mozzarella string cheese or even jack or cheddar cheeses that come in a similar form. Make sure they are full fat and limit yourself to one or two to keep carbs down.
Many convenience and gas station stores have small refrigerated sections where you can find great Keto options, like raw veggies. Try to pick celery or broccoli over carrots and get a ranch dressing packet to go with it. Steer clear of peanut butter and hummus.
Hard Boiled Eggs
Perhaps not every convenience store will have these, but bigger ones like Walgreens or 7/11 might. These are literally the perfect Keto snack and if the egg isn’t enough you could even pair it with the veggies.
You might also find some cold cuts in the refrigerated section. Take care to read the ingredients, however. Some may be packed with sugary or really high sodium extras. These would also go well with the veggies and boiled eggs.
Jerky is definitely an American staple! It is a great source of protein, and you can find it literally anywhere. Poultry jerkies will have less fat than beef, so go with the beef it you need to up your fat intake. Look at the ingredients before you buy it to make sure there aren’t any added sugars and get original rather than flavored, like teriyaki.
These suckers have been around forever and have taken the Keto world by storm! These are an excellent choice if you just need something to munch and you can even dip them in ranch or blue cheese if you need to.
Kale chips are a fairly new addition to the convenience store roster and not every establishment will have them. If you find a store along the way that sells them, you might want to stock up for the rest of your trip. They are also an excellent substitute for chips or pretzels and can effectively satisfy the need to munch.
Any convenience store and most gas station stores will have a hot food section, with items like burritos, burgers, and hot dogs. The burgers will probably come already in the bun but the dogs are usually kept hot on their own. Grab one or two, skip the bun, add some mustard or ranch, and you have a Keto snack to go along with your veggies or kale chips.
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