Eating Out on Keto: Top 10 Tips and Strategies

By Liam McAuliffe Published on — Medically Reviewed and Certified by Dr. Robert Kiltz

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Eating Out on Keto

Whether you’re an experienced low-carb high-fat eater, or just getting started, eating out on keto can be challenging.  

These 10 tips are here to relieve stress and help you stay true to your keto lifestyle without sacrificing the pleasures of enjoying meals with the people you care about. 

1. Make a game plan

When eating out on keto, planning ahead is the most important and stress-relieving thing you can do. 

Make a game plan by looking up the restaurant online to see if the menu is available.  Search for dishes that offer high-fat options like ribeye, fish, and pork. 

Think of ways to customize the dish. For instance, are there dishes where you can substitute low starch veggies for grains? 

If there are no substitutions, or you’re eliminating veggies to reduce exposure to plant toxins and anti-nutrients, simply ask for the grains, buns, potatoes, and pasta to be removed. 

2. Save up on Carbs

On days where you know you’re going to be eating out, completely restrict carbs until it’s time to dine. 

This strategy will give you some wiggle room when you don’t have total control over the food on your plate. 

And remember keto is a lifestyle, not simply a metabolic state. Ketosis is only one component of what makes high-fat low-carb eating so beneficial. 

Many of the benefits of keto come from swapping processed, sugar-loaded junk for whole animal foods. If you’re doing this most of the time you’re on the right path. 

3. Get creative with Appetizers

You’ll often find the fattiest options with the least amount of carb-heavy additions in the appetizer section. 

Instead of an entre loaded with starches, and veggies, choose three of the fattiest starters. 

Common keto-friendly starters include: 

  • Cheese and charcuterie plates
  • Fish and meat skewers
  • Oysters 
  • Shrimp cocktails 
  • Tinned fish
  • Pork belly 

A typical charcuterie plate that includes capocollo, salami, prosciutto, triple cream brie, maytag blue, gouda, and garnished with nuts, a few grapes, and crackers (ditch’em) offers the following nutrient breakdown:

Typical 13 oz Charcuterie Plate 
Total fat 14g
Saturated fat 6g
Cholesterol 37mg
Sodium 660mg
Total Carbohydrates 3.5g
Dietary Fiber 1g
Sugar 2g
Protein 12.5g

4. Add more fat!

At restaurants, boosting your fat intake can be easier than you might think. 

Ask for melted butter and olive oil to drizzle over both proteins and veggies. 

Some restaurants even offer a “loaded” option where your veggies are served with sour cream, bacon, and cheese. 

Mayonnaise, slices of avocado, and guacamole are all common restaurant staples that will help you hit your high-fat macronutrient targets. 

You can also be uber prepared and carry along a small jar of olive or coconut oil, or even an avocado! 

5. Sauces: Friend or Foe?

When it comes to sauces, choose the fattiest. The French are masters of fat, the Americans and Asians, not so much. 

Sauces like Béarnaise and Beurre Blanc are almost pure butterfat–ask for extra! 

Steer clear of ketchup, teriyaki, and soy glazes which are just corn syrup thickened with starch. 

When you see a ketchup bottle try to imagine a biohazard symbol stamped on the label. 

If you must eat salad, ask for extra EVOO. And if you need dressing, go for fat-rich options like blue cheese and ranch, and add parmesan. 

6. Add Cream to your Caffeine

If you drink tea or coffee, ask for heavy cream or add some butter. 

Take it a step further and ask for a cup of heavy cream to enjoy on its own! 

Heavy-cream matcha or coffee lattes are like milkshakes for adults. If you’re intolerant to dairy, ask for some coconut cream, (or bring along some of your own). 

Amount per 80 ml (⅓ cup) Trader Joe’s Coconut Cream Heavy Cream
Calories 160 266
Fat 16g 26g
Carbs 4g 0g
Protein 2g 0g

If cold drinks are your thing, go for sparkling water or iced teas and coffees. 

7. When in Doubt, Ask Questions

We get it, you don’t want to be the person holding up the whole table by asking questions about what’s in each dish. But you know what? That’s what the waiter is there for. Your server is paid to be the liaison between you and the kitchen. Traditionally, tipping is the way to show your server how much you appreciate the job their doing for you! It’s not just an assumed tax. 

And of course, be polite. The friendlier you are, the more patient and accommodating everyone will be–including your friends and family. You win more bees with honey, right? 

If you just can’t stomach being the center of food restriction attention, simply tell your server you have a gluten and sugar allergy. This way you’ll avoid all the groans you might get by admitting to the un-initiated that you’re on a keto diet. 

8. Choose Brunch

If you’re given a choice between joining friends or family for brunch or dinner, choose brunch. 

Brunch is probably the most traditionally keto-friendly meal of the day. Bacon, eggs, sausage, steak, and cheesy omelets are all well within your keto macronutrient targets. 

Just remember to hold off on the toast, and steer clear of baked goods, pancakes, and juices. 

9. Alcohol when Eating Out on Keto: How to Choose your Booze

For many people, the pleasure of eating out with friends and family is part and parcel to enjoying a glass of wine or a cocktail. Yet alcohol is made almost exclusively from grapes and grains–foods you’d never find on a keto diet list. 

The good news is that if you’re in good shape and you have a healthy liver, it is possible to enjoy moderate alcohol on keto. One drink for women, or two for men, might even be beneficial for heart health.

Studies show that for women, moderate alcohol consumption can lower fasting insulin and glycemic levels, especially if consumed in the evening.  These same studies also show that moderate alcohol consumption shows no increase in blood sugar for both men and women. 

In another study, women who drank red wine at least once per week were 16% less likely to get diabetes than women who didn’t drink as regularly.

However, the alcohol-diabetes link comes with an important caveat. A 2009 study found that consuming more than 4 glasses of wine or beer per day for women, or 4.5 for men doubles the risk of type 2 diabetes.

Alcohol, mainly in red wine, is also a key part of the Mediterranean keto diet. In countries like Italy and Greece, alcohol accounts for around 10% of daily calories. 

When drinking alcohol on a keto diet here are a few key points to remember: 

  • After absorbed into the bloodstream, alcohol is metabolized in the liver which can temporarily put a halt to ketosis.
  • If you are keto dieting for weight loss, and you notice that your weight loss stalls, stop drinking alcohol completely. 
  • Drinking alcohol can stimulate the same reward circuits in your brain as carbs and sugar. Therefore drinking alcohol can make it more difficult to resist carb-heavy temptations
  • Drinking on keto can lead to worse hangovers

The increased severity of hangovers is likely a result of dehydration due to electrolyte imbalances. When you’re in ketosis you flush more fluids, so be sure to alternate your alcohol with more water consumption. You may also want to supplement with magnesium and potassium. 

Alcohol to avoid when eating out on keto: 

  • Anything with tonic water. 12oz of tonic water contains a whopping 32g of sugars. 
  • Stay away from beer
  • When drinking wine, avoid Moscato, Port, and Riesling 
  • Avoid fancy cocktails

Keto-friendly alcohol choices include: 

  • Dry red wines like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Pinto Noir 
  • Dry white wines such as Champagne, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, and Sauvignon Blanc 
  • Clear liquors like mezcal, gin, vodka, and tequila

10. If you Cheat, Chillout

Sometimes eating out on keto, especially with friends and family, simply overwhelms our ability to resist overindulging in carbs. 

The key is not to beat yourself up. Most people are addicted to carbs, and it has been established that relapse is part of the recovery process to any addiction.

Research into the neuroscience of addiction shows that the reward system in your brain is activated in the same way whether responding to sugar, alcohol, nicotine, cocaine and pretty much any other substance.

We have to face the fact that we are going to have temptations, and most of us will succumb to them from time to time. 

One way to get back on track and into ketosis when (not if) this happens, is to have a fast day. 

A word of warning about overindulging: If your body is keto-adapted, indulging in lots of sugar can result in you being physically ill the day after. Just as your body took time to adapt to using ketones for fuel, it can take time for it to switch back to metabolizing loads of carbs. 

If you find yourself eating carbs, take a moment to check in with the body, notice if your body actually wants the carbs, or if it’s just your old dopamine circuits lighting up. Listening to your body can be a powerful technique for staying the course. 

Eating out on Keto: The Bottom Line

Socializing with people you care about is at least as important to your well-being as a keto diet. And for people the world over, socializing often takes around meals. In the Western world, these meals are often the opposite of keto-friendly. 

But this doesn’t mean you have to choose between keeping company and staying in ketosis. 

Following these 10 tips will help you enjoy eating out on keto: 

  1. Make a game plan
  2. Save up on carbs
  3. Get creative with appetizers
  4. Add more fat
  5. Choose your sauces carefully
  6. Add cream to your caffeine
  7. Ask your waiter questions
  8. If given the choice, chose brunch
  9. Choose your booze wisely
  10. If you cheat, go easy on yourself, and use fasting to kick back into ketosis

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