Many people love to eat out. It means they don’t have to dirty up their kitchen, clean up afterward, or take the time to prepare a meal after a long day. It also means that you get to catch up with friends and family, or even enjoy a date night.
But if you’re on the ketogenic diet, then you know that walking into a restaurant and finding something keto-friendly to eat is not always guaranteed.
This is because many restaurants cater to an audience that wants cheap food that tastes good. If you’re concerned about getting a meal that contains high-quality meats, cheeses, oils, and low-carb vegetables, then you might have to do your homework first.
Luckily, we’ve prepared some tips to help you order a ketogenic or at least a low-carb meal at just about any restaurant you go to.
This article covers some of the most popular restaurants in the United States and how to order a low-carb meal there so you won’t be kicked out of ketosis.
Before you decide to eat out, you should at least know what to eat on a keto diet.
Warnings: Just because something is low carb doesn’t mean it’s keto-compliant. If you’re on a strict keto diet, you should try to stick to your keto plan and macros and avoid eating out for optimal results.
Most of low carb restaurant dishes and fast food options are not strictly keto, even though they are low in carbohydrates, they might still contain non-keto ingredients.
Tips When Ordering Low Carb Dishes in Restaurants
If you go to a mom and pop shop or a restaurant that’s privately owned, you might find better ingredients than a chain restaurant.
Many restaurant owners pride themselves on giving you a unique and personal experience complete with home-cooked meals from locally sourced ingredients.
But most franchise or chain restaurants don’t share this same mentality. Their primary concern is to feed as many people as they can for as cheap as possible. They hope you fill up on bottomless breadsticks and alcohol and pay less attention to the fact that many of the ingredients in your meal came from a can or highly processed.
It’s especially challenging to eat low-carb or ketogenic at a chain restaurant because you don’t always know what’s in your food.
Your meats are probably cooked in vegetable oil and marinated with sugar to make them taste better. They might be fried or come from low quality meats to keep the cost down.
Your choice of a side dish may consist of something starchy and heavy that came premade from a big supplier, such as potato salad, coleslaw, chips, or French fries. You can see how it would be hard to get the nutrients your ketogenic diet requires from most restaurants.
The good news is that most restaurants offer something that can get you by for a meal, even if it’s not listed on the menu.
Does the restaurant you’re eating at have lettuce and cheese? How about grilled meat or bacon?
If so, then that’s your low-carb meal for the time being. It’s not fancy, and you might have to do some custom ordering, but you can make it work at just about any restaurant you eat at.
Here are some other tips for ordering low-carb.
#1. Order breakfast if you can
Some restaurants stop serving breakfast around 11 AM or so, but then again some places serve breakfast all day. This is especially true for many coney islands, which are very popular anywhere you go.
If it’s available, try to order a breakfast dish that consists of an omelet, bacon, meat, cheese, and low-carb vegetables such as spinach, onions, and mushrooms.
If you order scrambled eggs from a restaurant, there is a good chance that they added milk to them to make the eggs fluffier. It’s always a good idea to ask before you order. Or have your eggs prepared over-easy or in an omelet. Hold the toast and hash browns and ask for a side of sausage or bacon instead.
Some places offer tomato slices in place of toast for no additional charge. You can also get a side of fruit if you’re following a low-carb diet, but most fruit cups come with melons and grapes, which are not keto-friendly fruits.
#2. Hold the sauce and bun
If you’re out for lunch or dinner, then you might want to grab a sandwich or a burger. Order one with lots of meat, cheese, bacon, and avocado (if it’s offered), and ask them to hold the bread and any sauce that comes on it.
The only safe sauce is mustard, but even that might contain artificial food coloring that you may want to avoid.
Most of the mayonnaise that’s offered at restaurants contains sugar and vegetable oils, so it’s a good idea to stay away from that, too.
Try a steak and cheese sandwich or a cheeseburger minus the bread and any sauce that comes on it.
Get a plain side salad with oil and vinegar dressing instead of the chips or French fries that usually accompany a sandwich. Or have them wrap your sandwich in a lettuce wrap.
Finally, make sure your sandwich isn’t breaded and fried. Grilled meat is always best because it contains the fewest carbs.
#3. Go with a salad
If there is nothing else on the menu you can order, you can always get a dinner salad and have them add lots of meat and cheese to it.
Just be sure to stick with low-carb vegetables like lettuce and watch out for any added ingredients that aren’t keto-friendly, such as croutons.
What Are The Best Restaurants for Low-Carb Dieters?
When we say that you can order low-carb at just about any restaurant, we mean it! As long as you know how to customize your order and how to say it, you can easily get a low carb meal.
Here are some of the most popular restaurants in the US and how to order low-carb at each.
With more than 1,700 Applebee’s locations across the United States so far, it’s safe to say that most Americans like to eat good in the neighborhood.
Although you’ll want to stay away from the pasta dishes that they just added to their menu, Applebee’s has a lot of steak and sandwich options that are perfectly acceptable on a low-carb diet if you know how to order them.
We recommend getting the eight-ounce top sirloin steak for 280 calories. It comes with your choice of two sides, so you’ll want to go with a side of steamed broccoli and a plain side salad with olive oil and vinegar dressing to keep it low-carb.
You can also try their bacon cheddar grilled chicken sandwich and have them hold the bun and BBQ ranch sauce. Instead of French fries, get a side of steamed broccoli or a side salad with oil and vinegar dressing.
You can also keep it simple by getting a grilled chicken salad. It comes with cheddar cheese and a hard boiled egg. If you want to make it extra tasty, then ask for some bacon to go with it. As always, be sure you stick with olive oil and vinegar or lemon as your dressing.
Related: How To Order Low Carb at Applebee’s
#2. Domino’s Pizza
It’s a lot harder to eat low-carb at a pizza place than it is at other restaurants. But because there are so many pizza places like Domino’s in the US, it’s a good idea to know how to eat at one if you’re ever in a pinch.
In addition to pizza, Domino’s also offers salads and sandwiches. The kicker is that they are often premade, so you won’t be able to customize them much. But at least you can pick off what you don’t need. You can take a look at Domino’s sandwich collection here.
We recommend getting the Philly cheese steak and eating the insides of the sandwich. It comes with steak, American and provolone cheeses, onions, green peppers, and mushrooms. If you order online, they have an option to get additional cheese and meat to help keep you full.
Stay away from their chicken bites or tenders as these are breaded and contain too many carbohydrates to be considered keto. If push comes to shove, you might have to scrap the toppings off a slice of pizza and avoid the bread. Grab a fork because it could get messy!
Domino’s has a MeatZZA pizza that comes with pepperoni, ham, Italian sausage, beef, and cheese. They also offer a side garden salad that you can get minus the croutons and dressing.
Scrape your pizza toppings off and add them to your salad. Your friends might look at you like you’re crazy, but at least you figured out how to eat low-carb at Domino’s!
#3. Chili’s Grill and Bar
Chili’s is a Texas-inspired restaurant that features lots of spicy dishes that tend to be covered in sauce and served with sides that most ketogenic dieters can’t eat, such as French fries, beans, and rice.
They have a great collection of burgers, steaks, and fajitas that we suggest you focus on instead.
They even offer a guiltless grill section of the menu where you can get a meal for under 630 calories, but you’ll still need to customize it to make sure it fits your low-carb needs.
We recommend getting the six-ounce classic sirloin with grilled avocado. It comes with spicy citrus-chile sauce, which you’ll want to have them hold. Other items in the dish include grilled avocado, garlic-roasted tomatoes, and a fresco salad. Make sure the salad doesn’t have any dressing on it or ask for oil and vinegar instead.
You can also get chicken or steak fajitas and ask for double vegetables instead of rice. Most of the vegetables that come with fajitas are low-carb, such as peppers and onions. Be sure to avoid eating the tortillas and salsa that comes with the dish as it looks like the salsa might contain beans (it’s a good idea to ask your server what’s in it).
If neither of those dishes strike your fancy, then try a Boss Burger minus the bun, French fries, and BBQ and ranch sauces. It comes with smoked brisket, rib meat, jalapeno-cheddar smoked sausage, bacon and cheddar cheeses, and lettuce and tomato. We bet you won’t be hungry after eating that!
#4. Cracker Barrel
Cracker Barrel is a difficult place to eat low-carb at, which is why we wanted to cover it on this list. Everything there seems to be fried and covered in gravy.
It’s not exactly a place you want to go if you’re on the ketogenic diet. But if your next family gathering is being held there, then you’ll need to know what to eat.
According to their website, Cracker Barrel offers breakfast all day (morning, noon and night). This is great news for low-carbers because you can get fresh eggs, bacon, sausage and cheese.
Try their double meat breakfast, which comes with three eggs and a full order each of bacon and sausage. The dish also comes with biscuits and jam, which you’ll want to avoid. Ask to have your eggs over-easy because most scrambled eggs have milk in them.
For lunch or dinner, you can get a country chef salad that comes with oven roasted turkey breast, ham, bacon, and cheese. It also comes with deviled eggs, which you might want to swap out for a plain hard-boiled egg to avoid any unwanted sugar in the filling. Also, ask to hold the croutons and get oil and vinegar dressing if they have it. If not, eat the salad dry or ask for a few slices of lemon.
Also try their signature burger, which features two beef patties, Colby cheese, and lettuce and tomatoes. Ask to hold the mayo, coleslaw, and French fries that come with it, and get a plain side salad instead (minus the croutons).
Denny’s is a classic American restaurant that we bet most people have visited at least once in their lifetime. It’s similar to a Big Boy restaurant and is a good place to go when you need a cheap meal.
Their menu has come a long way over the years, but there is still a lot of junk that you’ll want to avoid on a low-carb diet, such as their cinnamon roll pancake breakfast. Because most locations are open 24 hours, you can always find something to eat there.
We recommend building your own grand-slam breakfast that comes with your choice of four sides. Choose eggs, bacon, sausage links, and ham, and stay away from the pancakes, oatmeal, and other starchy carbs.
An omelet is also a good choice because you can add whatever you want to it, such as cheese, meat, bacon, and even avocado.
Don’t forget the low-carb veggies such as spinach, onions, and mushrooms for more antioxidants and fiber. Ask for no toast or hash browns, or get an additional side of meat or avocado instead.
For lunch or dinner, go with a bacon avocado cheeseburger and ask to hold the bun and mayo. Denny’s also offers an eight-ounce garlic peppercorn steak served with garlic peppercorn butter or a wild Alaskan salmon dish that you can get with a plain side salad with oil and vinegar dressing and steamed broccoli.
Related: How To Order Low Carb at Denny’s
You’ll be hard-pressed to find a seat at IHOP on a Saturday or Sunday morning, but because they are a restaurant that specializes in pancakes, eating here can be a low-carb dieters worst nightmare.
Luckily, most IHOPs are open 24 hours, so they offer things on the menu other than pancakes, such as omelets, salads, and sandwiches.
We recommend skipping right over their extensive pancake and waffle offerings and going for the big steak omelet.
Important note: For strict keto diet, you need to be careful as we heard that IHOP puts pancake batter in all scrambled eggs and omelettes to make them look fluffy! So ask them if they can skip the pancake batter. Otherwise, just order fried, over, or poached eggs instead.
It looks like it might come with hash browns rolled right into the omelet, so make sure you ask to hold this. In place of toast or hash browns, get a side of avocado, bacon, or low-carb veggies.
For lunch or dinner, try a mega monster burger which comes with two steak burger patties, American and white cheddar cheeses, and lettuce, tomato, and onion. You’ll want to ask them to hold the sauce and bun. For your side, pick a plain house salad without dressing.
IHOP also has a chicken cobb salad that comes with grilled or crispy chicken (be sure to get grilled chicken), bacon, a hard-boiled egg, tomatoes, and crumbled Blue cheese on a bed of mixed greens. Ask to hold the ranch dressing and get oil and vinegar instead.
Related: How To Order Low Carb at IHOP
#7. Outback Steakhouse
Outback Steakhouse is a great place to get a low-carb meal as long as you stay away from their famous bloomin’ onion and baked potatoes.
They also offer a lot of fried meat, so be sure your steak or chicken is grilled. They aren’t open for breakfast, but that’s OK because they offer plenty of meat dishes on their lunch and dinner menus.
We recommend ordering their grass-fed burger with aged cheddar. Eating grass-fed meat means you’ll be getting more healthy omega 3 fatty acids into your diet. The sandwich comes with garlic aioli, so be sure to hold this.
Instead of French fries, get a plain house salad with oil and vinegar dressing or try their grilled asparagus. You can also choose any one of their steak options and get it with a side salad or grilled asparagus in place of the French fries or baked potato.
If salads are your thing, then go with an Aussie cobb salad. It comes with hard boiled eggs, bacon, tomatoes, American and cheddar cheeses, and croutons (ask to hold these).
You can always ask to top your salad with grilled chicken or get a side of steak for more meat. As always, ask for oil and vinegar instead of the house dressing.
#8. Texas Roadhouse
Texas is famous all across the US for their bold and plentiful food selections. That’s why you’ll probably find a Texas Roadhouse near you no matter what state you live in. They specialize in steaks, which is good news for most low-carb eaters.
We recommend trying their road kill steak, which comes with a ten-ounce chop steak smothered in onions, mushrooms, and cheese. Get it with a side salad with oil and vinegar dressing in place of a baked potato or starchy veggies.
You can also get a half-slab or a full-slab of ribs, but you’ll want to order it dry and without the BBQ sauce to keep it low-carb. Again, make sure you stick with a house salad and avoid the rice, potato, and bean side dishes. They have plenty of chicken and burger dishes to choose from, but make sure your meat isn’t fried or coated in BBQ sauce.
Texas Roadhouse also has a gluten-free menu that’s worth checking out. You can get any kind of meat you want (steak, chicken, salmon, or pork) minus the sauce that it usually comes with.
It’s a good idea to tell your server that you’re sensitive to gluten even if you’re not to make sure they don’t put anything that has gluten in it on your food. Or try a grilled chicken or a steakhouse filet salad minus the dressing and croutons.
#9. The Cheesecake Factory
Surprisingly, the Cheesecake Factory has one of the most extensive menus around, which makes it a great place to eat no matter what diet you follow.
For low-carb eaters, we recommend getting the grilled pork chop with a side house salad in place of the applesauce, mashed potatoes, and green beans.
You can also get fresh grilled salmon or pick from one of six different steak options and get it with a side salad in place of all the starchy extras.
If chicken is your go-to dish, then try a grilled chicken and avocado club sandwich and ask for a side of bacon and a green salad in place of the French fries. You’ll also want to hold the bun and herb mayonnaise.
#10. TGI Friday’s
TGI Friday’s is similar to Applebee’s. It offers traditional American fare with pasta, steak, chicken, burger, and sandwich dishes galore.
We suggest getting the New York strip steak, which comes with a 14-ounce steak marinated and lemon butter broccoli. You’ll want to hold the mashed potatoes or ask for a side house salad with oil and vinegar instead.
They also have a bacon cheeseburger that you can get without the bun or sauce.
We noticed that a lot of their meats are covered in sauces and their chicken is fried, so be sure to order grilled chicken and ask for it dry or with a side of butter.
The only low-carb side dish we see on the menu is a side salad or lemon-butter broccoli, so swap your starchy carbs out for one of these.
Coffee and sweet treats seem to go hand-in-hand, and Starbucks has lots of both. This makes it hard to grab something low-carb along with your caffeine.
In addition to making sure you don’t accidentally sabotage your ketogenic diet with a sugary coffee drink, you’ll also want to make sure the snack you get along with it is low-carb.
We recommend sticking with black coffee and cream when you order at Starbucks. You can also choose from one of their many teas, but stick with hot tea and stay away from anything sweetened.
If you can get a latte or cappuccino made with espresso and heavy cream only, then go for it!
You can also add a bit of stevia to sweeten it up. Otherwise, you’ll want to stay away from all mochas, frappuccinos, and sweetened drinks.
If you’re hungry, grab a double-smoked bacon, cheddar, and egg sandwich and toss the bread.
For a quick snack, you can get an eggs and cheese protein box. Just be sure not to eat the bread or honey peanut butter spread that comes with it. The box also comes with grapes and apples, which you’ll want to avoid if you’re on a strict keto diet.
Related: How To Order Low Carb at Starbucks
As you can see above, we’ve outlined 11 popular restaurants in the United States and how to eat low-carb at each. Below is a full list of all the restaurants that you can go to and customize your order for low carb options.
How Do I Find Low Carb Restaurants Near Me?
Here are all the famous restaurants available in the United States and some other countries. You can pretty much find at least one or a few of these near your location.
This list consists of all different types of restaurants such as fast food, fast casual, casual dining, premium casual, fine dining, barbecue, bistro, cafe and coffeehouse.
Just follow our tips in the beginning of this guide when ordering your meals at these restaurants. Click/tap on each name to read the full detailed guide:
- 99 Restaurant & Pub
- Atlanta Bakery Company
- BJ’s Restaurants & Bar
- Bahama Breeze
- Bob Evans Restaurants
- Boston Pizza
- Buckhorn Grill
- Buffalo Wild Wings
- California Pizza Kitchen
- Carl’s Jr.
- Carrabba’s Italian Grill
- Chevys Fresh Mex
- Church’s Chicken
- Claim Jumper
- Corner Bakery Cafe
- Dairy Queen
- Del Taco
- Dickey’s Barbecue Pit
- Dunkin Donuts
- Einstein Brothers Bagels
- El Pollo Loco
- Famous Dave’s
- Five Guys
- Golden Corral
- Hometown Buffet
- Jack In The Box
- Jamba Juice
- Joe’s Crab Shack
- Jimmy John’s
- Little Caesars
- Long John Silver’s
- Longhorn Steakhouse
- Manhattan Bagel
- McAlister’s Deli
- Mod Pizza
- Olive Garden
- P. F. Chang’s China Bistro
- Panda Express
- Papa Murphy
- Papa John’s Pizza
- Pei Wei Asian Diner
- Pizza Hut
- Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen
- Portillo’s Restaurants
- Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers
- Red Lobster
- Red Robin
- Rubio’s Coastal Grill
- Seasons 52
- Shake Shack
- Smoothie King
- Sonic Drive-In
- Steak ‘n Shake
- Taco Bueno
- The Habit Burger Grill
- The Halal Guys
- The Old Spaghetti Factory
- Tijuana Flats
- Waffle House
- White Castle
- Yard House
Eating out is great for most people because they don’t have to cook and they get to catch up with friends or family. But for ketogenic and low-carb dieters, eating at a restaurant isn’t always easy.
This is because most restaurants use a lot of crummy ingredients in their dishes, such as low-quality meats, vegetable oils, starchy and sugary sauces, and side dishes such as French fries.
No matter where you go, you should at least be able to get a salad with grilled meat. It’s even better if you can visit a steakhouse for a higher quality meat. If you’re stuck at a pizza place, then we recommend scrapping the toppings off your pizza and adding them to a bed of lettuce.
All other places should at least offer a chicken sandwich or salad that you can eat minus the dressing, sauce, and bun. The bottom line is you can always find something to meet your low-carb needs even if it’s just for one meal.
Finally, if you’re a very busy person and you don’t have time to cook or meal prep, you might be interested in these low-carb meal delivery services that deliver to your door. The cost might be higher but it will save you a lot of time from shopping and cooking.
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