Keto experiences at restaurants

(Carl Keller) #3

It’s hard to go wrong at a steakhouse. Just skip the baked potato and get a good salad. If you prefer fish instead of steak, it’s freshest Friday to Sunday. Most restaurants order for the weekend and the rest of the week, you are eating the old stuff.

(Laurie) #4

Hamburger salad (a salad with a hamburger patty on top). Or just the burger patty.

At fast food outlets, order “just a burger patty please” (or two or three).

Order sandwiches without the bread. Order wraps without the chapati, tortilla, etc. Or throw the bread away.

Pizza, just the toppings (no crust).

Bacon and eggs, no toast, no potatoes. Order fried, poached, or boiled eggs so you’re not served some scrambled premix that contains carbs.

Any meat (roast, chops, etc.), with no potato, rice, or noodles. Ask what the vegetable is (broccoli or cauliflower OK; carrots or corn not OK).

Order just a salad, oil and vinegar on the side. If no oil and vinegar is available, Italian dressing is probably safest.

Bring your own meat, fish, or cheese and discretely put it on your salad.

Chicken Caesar, no croutons.

In some restaurants, cooked vegetables might be your best bet. Even vegan restaurants should have something like this.

If everything is breaded (e.g., KFC), you can scrape off the breading.

Ask for extra butter if you want it. Ask if it’s real butter (not margarine).

Don’t worry, most food servers and cooks have heard it all and will accommodate you if they can. But don’t expect them to understand what a carb is; it’s up to you to tell them exactly what items you want or don’t want.

Buffets are good if you can control yourself around all the desserts. Most have some plain protein foods (roast beef, baked salmon), although I did stop at a buffet restaurant in the Midwest that had just meatloaf, etc. Some (not all) Chinese buffets are also problematic because everything is mixed together.

(Janelle) #5

I’ve only been keto for two months. We go out every other week or so - especially if we’re exploring nearby towns and whatnot on the weekend. We’re not fasting yet so we do look for places to eat. Here’s what I’ve found.

Best experience - Fogo de Chao Brazilian steakhouse. What’s not to like? Good variety of meat. Build your own salad, cheese choices. Real butter if you ask.

Mexican - big challenge of skipping chips. Ordered fajitas, no tortillas, no beans and rice. Of course, this does not cost less. Husband got the seemingly huge burrito sans tortilla. Ended up being keto but too little food.

Marietta Fish Market. I got a broiled platter (shrimp, salmon, whitefish) with broccoli side and a salad. No butter in sight. Server had no idea what type of oil was used. Husband got a huge piece of salmon with a cheese sauce with a salad and broccoli.

Worst experience - could have been worse. BBQ place. Brisket was the only unsauced meat they had. Not a single keto side. Sad meal of a bagged salad and a piece of brisket.

My husband eats lunch out. Jersey Mike’s has a “sub in a tub” - kind of a miserable salad with sub topping on it. Five Guys will sell a burger without the bun but with extra toppings (like bacon) for free. No keto sides though.

(Ken) #6

It’s pretty easy. Just skip the obvious things like breads, potatoes and desserts. A few extra hidden carbs won’t be an issue. Being anal about the trace ones just makes you a PITA and if you’re that concerned you’re better off eating at home.


I can order a piece of meat with a side of veggies just about anywhere. It hasn’t really been challenging for me to eat out since I went keto over a year ago.

(Art Swenson) #8

Great responses. What about getting to satiety vs the cost of your meal? Does anyone ever load up on something keto before the restaurant? I like to eat a big hunk of brie or other fatty cheese before going so I won’t be as hungry.

(Art Swenson) #9

Ditto on the buffets! We have a place called Mountain Mike’s with all you can eat pizza and salad for $9. I just eat a ton of pizza toppings and toss the dough, plus uber amounts of oil on my salads…

(John) #10

I love eating out. Means I don’t have to cook or clean the kitchen!

Sure, you have to skip a number of the main courses that contain carbs built in - potatoes, rice, noodles and pastas. This is more likely at specific “ethnic-themed” restaurants like Mexican, Italian, Chinese.

But you can always find some variation of a “meat + side + salad” and pick a “healthy” side - they will always have broccoli or asparagus or green beans as an option.

Only challenge for me is that eating out a lot is expensive so I just don’t do it that much.

(Bunny) #11

Has that steak been glazed in soybean oil (or some kind of plant oil?) and is that why it tastes so goooood?

Question #1: When you go out to eat, do you know what oils are being used in the food?

Question #2: Why does this matter?


The reason I’m asking this is because one of the great things about the conference was the complete lack of restaurant cooking oils in the food. And when you’re cooking for 1500 people this is nothing short of a remarkable accomplishment. Let me explain why.

Traditionally, cultures used animal fats in their cooking – tallow (beef fat), lard (pig fat), chicken fat, bacon grease, duck fat, etc. Other fats and oils traditionally used in cooking included palm and coconut oils and good old fashioned butter.

Those fats are saturated and when you’re cooking, contrary to popular belief, this is not only a good thing, it’s vitally important . The reason is because saturated fats are very stable at high heat, meaning they hold their chemical structure. Without getting too technical this basically means they don’t form free radicals which are unstable molecules that promote disease and aging in your body.

Unsaturated fats from plant sources also have health benefits, but not when heated. Their chemical bonds are not stable at high heat. …” …More

See also: Dr. Michael Eades

Nina Teicholz on Vegetable Oils and the US Dietary Guidelines - The Untold Story
Source for rendered fats resulting in increased triglycerides
The Entire Ketogenic Diet in One Sentence
Interesting article on The Personal Fat Threshold Concept (by Amy Berger)
Eating fried foods increase death in women
Jimmy Moore goes carnivore, eats much higher protein
The heck with eating KFC, FAST FOOD CHICKEN, ETC?
Keto Without Coconut & Avocado
(Omar) #12

Not very good

I will always eat something that cause me harm such as salad dressing or some unknown steak gravy or someadditives in a seafood soup. or even plant oils to make the eggs or the steak.

There is always hidden stuff to enhance taste.


It is possible to eat keto at the majority of restaurants, if not all. I’ve yet to be hungry but seriously perplexed – and I’ve often been eating somewhere that wasn’t my choice, and wouldn’t have been my choice – yet still been okay.

I would say the one place I would genuinely find it hard to eat is Panda Express. It’s one of my four-year-old’s favourite fast food meals and the menu is basically carbs, carbs, carbs. Even with modifications you won’t get a satisfying and filling meal there. The last time I ate there (just using their table, not actually consuming their stuff) and my daughter absolutely wanted to eat in and not takeout, I brought along some sardines and other things from home and it was fine. Might be weird doing that with friends or colleagues, though, depends how much you care.

For fast food it’s almost always possible to change a menu item in some way to make it work. McDonald’s you can request a menu item to be cooked however you like, including no bun, no sauces, etc, add bacon. Chipotle you can order a burrito bowl without rice and beans, avoiding carbs. There’s a lot of great resources for what you can eat that’s low carb at a bunch of those places.

At restaurants, at least in the US, you have the same room usually to make modifications to your order. Steak houses are good because I’ve often asked how the steaks are prepared and been able to cook them in just butter, for example, if they’d typically do a bunch of nonsense with sweet things. Even in the carbiest of restaurants – e.g. recently I found myself at a pizza and biscuit (as in American biscuits) restaurant, I was still able to order a satisfying meal by basically constructing my own biscuit without… a biscuit.

Example meals I’ve eaten out where I had to play around with the order a bit:

Omelette (just today), asked them to take some high carb veggies out:


The Habit Burger Grill:

Eating at a wedding reception with few choices:

The aforementioned biscuit place (biscuit without a biscuit):


That is definitely a big downside of eating out keto style at a bunch of restaurants. Many of the ingredients you ask not to be used are included in the cost of the item and not exactly seen as a bonus (for example, imagine paying extra for a bun in most burger places). Thus they are more than happy to remove the item because it takes them less time to prepare, they use less ingredients to serve your order, it costs them less, and they still get to charge you the same.

It’s hugely frustrating when it ends up being pretty expensive for what you get and it’s a case of removing things rather than substituting them.

(less is more, more or less) #15

I have a blog post on this very question:

(Art Swenson) #16

Thanks Kyle. Very interesting article you’ve written. Personally, I don’t find it a huge problem if a restaurant uses only vegetable oil as long as I can find stuff on the menu that’s low-carb and satiating. This is because I eat out maybe only once every two weeks, so a little vegetable oil isn’t a deal breaker for me. What are your specific experiences that have made you go to only restaurants that have butter or extra virgin olive oil in the kitchen?

(Natasha) #17

Yep, I always eat something before going out for a meal! Usually a couple of eggs scrambled with some chorizo. I think of it as an appetiser! Best for me not to go to a restaurant feeling really hungry plus I’m unlikely to feel full after eating a modified keto-friendly meal… recipe for disaster!

(Carl Keller) #18

Restaurants are shady. You really don’t know what you are getting unless you make it yourself. Sometimes whipped butter really means butter streched with margarine or EVOO is stretched with cheaper vegetable oil so the restaurant makes more money. Sure a little bit of vegetable oil or trans fat won’t kill you but neither will a little arsenic. Take it from someone who has worked in restaurants for decades, the staff gets annoyed by people who want healthy food. Sad but true.

(less is more, more or less) #19

Oh, yea, that. My youth was spent working in restaurants. Oh what I’ve seen and served!

It’s really simple. A restaurant that loves food loves customers that love food. Vegetable oil doesn’t fit in. I eat less food now, and I make darn sure its worth my mastication.

(Cynthia Anderson) #20

I’m bad about buying friend chicken but sometimes it’s the least carbie I see.

I’ll buy grilled if I can.
No buns. No tortillas. I carry my own tortillas that are low carb.

(Cynthia Anderson) #21

I carry my own butter too.

(Bob M) #22

I personally find it quite difficult to eat out. Can’t really order fish, as you’ll get maybe 6 ounces if you’re lucky. Last time I was on vacation, I ordered an all meat appetizer (mussels) and fish for dinner, and went home and ate more meat. I rarely get enough to eat if I order fish.

That leaves me ordering steak a lot. If they have chili, I’ll order that, but then you may or may not get beans. I try not to eat much food that’s fried, because it’s been fried in some high-PUFA oil.

And if you can find a nice place that has, say, a charcuterie plate, it’s usually tiny. I often find I’m spending $30, $40 or more for dinner…and I’m still hungry.