Common Mistakes When Eating Out on the Ketogenic Diet

Restaurants are a bit of a minefield when it comes to eating keto.  Because someone else is making your food out of your sight, it can be difficult to really know what is going into your dish.  Having eaten this way for a few years now, I can tell you that there are definitely dome things you need to be aware of before you take your seat at a restaurant but before I go into the things you need to know, I just want to repeat something I say every time I talk about this subject.

Restaurants should be forced to provide an ingredient list for their food.  It doesn’t need to be on the menu but if there is a website, I should be able to see exactly what is going into a sauce or any dish that is more complicated than 3 ingredients.  I’m not sure why Nabisco has to put a detailed list of everything in a cookie but Olive Garden isn’t required to tell me how much added sugar is in their Marinara sauce.

However, having had that little rant, here are the most common mistakes made when eating out on a Ketogenic diet.

The Omelettes are Made with Pancake Batter

Learning this tip was what made me realize that even when I thought I knew what was going into a dish, I really didn’t know what was going into a dish.  Many restaurants will put a dash of pancake batter into their eggs when whisking them in order to make them fluffier.  Ever wonder why a Waffle House omelette is 3 times as thick as one you can make at home?  Well, their’s their secret.

Fortunately, this one has an easy fix.  Just ask the waitress if they do that and request that they give you just eggs, no batter.  They will usually do it with no problem.

The Olive Oil isn’t Olive Oil

So once upon a time I go to a very fancy steak restaurant here in the DFW Metroplex.  I decide on the salad before the meal because every single soup option had carbs.  I knew that the chances of them having a salad dressing without PUFAs or sugar were pretty slim so I just asked for olive oil and vinegar which is usually a pretty safe and widely available option.

When they brought my salad out with the bottles of oil and vinegar, I noticed the oil looked very weird.  Just not the right color for olive oil so I asked the waitress if this was olive oil or if she had brought me maybe 2 different kinds of vinegar.  She told me that they didn’t have olive oil, but they used cottonseed oil.  Gross!

I ended up just asking her to bring me a lemon wedge I squeezed over the salad and ate it with salt and pepper.  Be careful with your oils!  Speaking of which…

Everything is Cooked in PUFAs

This is probably the biggest issue I’ve run into while eating out.  If there is a dish that needs oil when cooking, that oil will be a cheap PUFA like cottonseed or corn oil.  I realize that restaurants need to be concerned with their bottom line and seed oils are cheap but the real problem with PUFAs are how unstable they become when heated and how badly they oxidize in your body when you consume them.

The fix for this is a bit more complicated because you typically can’t just ask that they leave it out because there aren’t other options available so you will have to think through the dish.  Stay away from dishes that need to be fried and try to get a roasted option.  If something is pan or griddle fried, ask that they use butter instead of oil, just be sure they know the difference between butter and margarine.

Sugar Shows Up in Weird Places

Sugar is tough to stay away from when eating out as it is added to almost every sauce or cream or dressing.  You can try asking the waitress but your best bet is to order dishes that are very simple.  This is why when I eat out, it is typically just meat with roasted veggies if I can get it.  I tend to stay away from sauces unless I feel comfortable that there are no added sugars.  For instance, if I am eating at a small restaurant that prepares their food from scratch, I feel much better about their Alfredo Sauce as it is probably just cheese and cream but still won’t eat the red sauce because it probably has added sugar.

Those Portion Sizes are Out of Control

Just because they bring you enough steak for 3 people, doesn’t mean you have to eat it.  Remember that just stretching your stomach can trigger the release of Insulin even if it’s the most ketogenic meal imaginable.  Eat slowly and stop when you are full.  Sometimes I decide how much I’m going to eat before I start and cut that much of my meal out and separate it or just split one meal with my wife.

If you are interested, I cover tips for eating Sugar Free at Restaurants here.

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Common Mistakes When Eating Out on the Ketogenic Diet

10 Tips For Eating Keto When You Are Eating Out!

10 Tips For Eating Keto When You Are Eating Out!

10 Tips For Eating Keto When You Are Eating Out!

There is probably nothing trickier than eating out on a Ketogenic diet.  Ok, there are probably lots of things trickier but nothing I have to deal with in my day to day life.  Here are a few tricks I’ve learned to try to navigate these difficult waters.

Don’t let them put that bread/chip basket on the table – There is nothing in the world more tempting to me than a big basket of chips and salsa, I can tear through multiple baskets of chips in one meal.  The only way I could get past that was to just stop letting the waiters bring it to the table.  If you are sitting with other people that want to eat it, just ask them to push it over closer to them.  Your health isn’t worth a little cheating.

Get your eggs whole – This one was VERY shocking to me when I found out.  My brother used to be a cook at Denny’s and he told me that in order to make their scrambled eggs and omelettes fluffier, they add pancake batter to them.  No wonder I stopped losing weight after I would eat breakfast out!  Turns out this is common practice with most big chains like Denny’s, IHOP and Waffle House.  You can do handle this one of 2 ways, either request they don’t do that or just order whole fried eggs.  I would also request the eggs be cooked in butter or bacon grease because I’m not sure if they use any kind of seed oils to cook with.

Always order vegetables for the side – Restaurants would prefer you get one of their carb filled options as a side because it’s cheaper.  Be sure to replace the rice or beans with some sauteed or steamed veggies, then ask for extra butter.

Check the online menu – If you will Google the restaurant you are about to eat at, they will usually have an online menu with dietary information and possibly even ingredients.  Then just look through that until you find something with no added sugars or grain fillers

Call ahead to ask about anything you are unsure about – If you still aren’t sure, call ahead and ask a few questions.  As long as you don’t time your call with a super busy time for them, they are usually eager to help.

Stick with the “big piece of meat” dishes on the menu – I tend to stay away from the fancier dishes and just order the dish that consists mainly of a big piece of meat.  I’m usually going with the steak or a chicken breast or a pork chop.  A restaurant around here does a chicken breast covered in Mozzarella cheese with green chiles sauteed and poured over it and it is amazing or if I’m at a Mexican restaurant the steak fajitas are usually a safe bet.  I try to stay away from anything with a sauce (like pot roast or enchiladas) or some crazy seasoning blend that’s difficult to see if it contains sugar.

Remind yourself that one meal isn’t worth undoing your progress – This was had for me at first.  I really liked to cheat when I ate out and then it would take me a week to undo the damage to my weight loss.  No chips and salsa are worth all that.

Order Oil and Vinegar for your dressing – Ordering a salad?  Try to get olive oil and vinegar as a dressing. (not a vinaigrette) Most other dressings use seed oils as a base or contain sugars.  No bueno.  If you can’t do that, my emergency salad dressing is a few squeezed lemon wedges and salt.

Order extra meat, cheese and bacon – Sometimes the thought gets into your head that if you aren’t eating the bread then there is no way you will not be hungry before your next meal.  While one of the strengths of a ketogenic diet is you don’t really get hungry too often, I know that the psychology of having less food on your plate can be difficult to deal with, especially in the beginning.  Just order extra meat and cheese.  When I’m at a burger place, I get the biggest burger I can order with multiple meat patties, bacon, cheese, avocados if I can get it and plenty of veggies.  It tastes awesome and I’m not hungry afterwards.

Don’t be afraid to order individual ingredients – Sometimes you just have to order weird to stay on your diet.  I met me son at Taco Bell once and had to basically construct a taco salad out of individual ingredients.  I ordered a double helping of beef with veggies and sour cream.  Not bad and kept me in ketosis.

I hope you enjoyed these 10 tips for staying in ketosis when you are eating out.  Please feel free to follow me on Instagram or join us in the 28 Day Weight Loss Challenge Facebook group!

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