Let’s be real, low carb restaurants are hard to come by, which can make dining out a whole affair for those of us on a low carb eating plan!
Group dinners, happy hours, communal meals continue — which are supposed to be fun, but can cause stress if you’re worried about what you’ll be eating.
FYI — You shouldn’t go through life worried that your eating plan will ruin your social life. So, I put together this low carb restaurants guide to help you navigate any menu, at any restaurant.
Use the table of contents to skip to whatever section you’re looking for:
Your Guide to Low Carb Restaurants
The menus at most restaurants we love are typically centered around carbohydrates — but, even if you don’t live near a bunch of low carb restaurants, every place you go will have low carb foods if you get creative!
Let’s dive in…
Every Kind of Keto Restaurants + What to Order
Here are some tips and tricks for ordering at various restaurants — your eating out keto restaurants guide:
Low Carb Delis + Subs
The sandwich counter isn’t the most expected for low carb meals, but it’s surprisingly easy to turn into one of your new, favorite low carb restaurants, especially if you know which items you need to look out for!
Best Choice: Ask for your sandwich in a bowl or to-go container. Grab a fork, and voila! Way tastier than a salad.
Some delis will even wrap your sandwich in lettuce for that handheld quality.
Generally speaking, most meats and cheeses are in the clear, as are veggies like lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and cucumbers. As far as sauces go, mustard is a great choice (my personal fav) as is plain mayo, oil and vinegar.
Avoid: Bread and Chips (sorry). Steer clear of sauces like BBQ, Ketchup, Teriyaki, Honey Mustard—these are usually packed with sugar.
Low Carb Burger Joints
The classic burger joint is rife with hard food decisions.
That said, if you can say no to temptations (such as buns, fries and onion rings), it’s one of the easiest low carb restaurants to order a decent and decadent meal from!
Best Choice: Your best bet here is a lettuce wrapped bunless burger or grilled chicken patty. Most places will do this, but if they don’t, skip the bun and ask for extra veggies.
Enjoy low carb vegetable toppings like pickles, onions, grilled onions, lettuce and tomatoes. Top with mustard. Mayonnaise, guac and bacon are also low in carbs, and there’s hardly any carbs in cheese. Just because you can’t do the bun, doesn’t mean you’re skipping out on flavor!
Avoid: While the breads, fries, and onion rings are pretty self-explanatory, you’ll want to make a point of avoiding items like BBQ sauce, pineapple, honey mustard, ketchup, and teriyaki.
These toppings are surprising sources of carbs and a whole lot of sugar. On top of that, sweet pickles and relish aren’t great choices either.
Low Carb Steakhouse
The steakhouse might feel decadent, but it’s actually one of the easier places dine at when it comes to low carb restaurants.
Best Choice: It’s a steakhouse, you’ll want to dive right in and order the best thing on the menu, steak!
Most of the proteins should be a good choice, make sure to avoid breaded items, and ask your server about the sauces served with or on your order. Pair it with a side of steamed keto vegetables or a salad with some keto dressing (olive oil and vinegar are always there for you!) on the side and you’re in the clear.
Avoid: While the mains aren’t generally OK, the steakhouse experience comes with a vast array of high-carb sides such as bread, potatoes and fries (sorry guys).
Low Carb Fried Chicken
Unlike the steakhouse, you’re probably better off skipping the signature fried bird and opting a non-breaded alternative!
Best Choice: Your best bet will be grilled chicken breast, but in a pinch, you can try to ditch the breading and eat the meat inside for makeshift low carb fried chicken!
As far as side dishes go, fried chicken joints aren’t abound with low carb options — check out their veggie options. Steamed, lightly sautéed (in oil) or a salad would be your best options.
Green beans are an OK choice, depending on your daily carb goals. As a frame of reference, 1 cup has 7 grams of carbs, 3.6 net carbs.
Avoid: Fried or breaded chicken, biscuits, mashed potatoes, mac and cheese, coleslaw (sorry guys, traditionally recipes are loaded with sugar! Make some low carb coleslaw at home instead)
You’ll also want to avoid a number of sauces — honey mustard, BBQ, gravy, ketchup, etc.
Better Choice: Keto fried chicken is much more enjoyable when you can make a low carb version at home! Dip it in some keto ranch dressing, low carb bbq sauce or low carb ketchup, so you don’t have to miss a beat!
Low Carb Bar Food
If you can avoid eating at the bar, this is probably for the best, as bars won’t be on many low carb restaurants lists.
But, sometimes hunger strikes at inopportune times, or more likely, you don’t want to skip happy hour with your buds. That said, there’s a few things you can do:
Wings: if you’re craving wings, make sure they’re not breaded. Also sauces such as teriyaki, bbq, sweet and sour tend to be high in carbs, so see if you can order wings without the sauce for a protein packed alternative!
Charcuterie plates: Think cheese plates, meats, olives, and the like. Of course, skip the bread, crostini, hummus, and dried fruits.
At nicer drinking establishments, you might find seafood items like oysters, ceviche, or shrimp cocktails.
Avoid: This ranges with varying bar menus — but fries, buns, anything starchy. And again, sauces can be an unsuspecting source of carbohydrates.
Low Carb Italian Food
At first glance, Italian restaurant don’t seem especially accommodating for low carb eaters — but, you’d be surprised at the multitude of low carb Italian food options:
Best Choice: Caprese salad is a great choice to start, as are those tasty Italian meat, cheese, and olives apps.
Antipasto salad with dressing on the side is loaded with meats, cheeses and olives – yum.
Check out their grilled protein dishes — seafood, chicken, veal etc. Make sure your protein isn’t breaded, even lightly.
Accompany these with some grilled or roasted veggies and you’ve got a pretty good selection as far as low carb restaurants go!
Avoid: (Fair warning, this will sound like a lot) You’ll want to steer clear of risotto, pizza, calzone, bread, breaded meats, pasta, lasagna, croutons, calamari, fried mozzarella sticks.
Low Carb Mexican Food
Forget tacos and burritos, there’s so much more to Mexican food than food that comes in wrapped form! Low carb Mexican food is my favorite option as far as low carb restaurants go:
Best Choice: Salad or burrito bowl (minus the rice/beans). Sometimes called a “bare burrito”. If they don’t make it this way, order a burrito, unwrap it, and eat the inside with a fork. Fajitas (no tortillas). Ceviche. If you’re looking for a lighter dish, order a taco and eat the inside only.
Don’t forget to top your dishes with salsas, cheese, guacamole and sour cream!
Avoid: Tortillas, tortilla chips, rice, beans, corn, fried or breaded fish/meat.
Low Carb Japanese Food
Sure, sushi has far too much rice for a low carb diet, but most low carb Japanese restaurants have plenty of other options!
Best Choice: Sashimi with soy sauce (unless you’re gluten free), wasabi and ginger makes for an incredibly delicious main course, if you like fish that is.
Some sushi restaurants will wrap sushi rolls in cucumber or seaweed instead of rice. You can also order hand rolls sans rice. If you’re not a fish person, order a stir fry without or cornstarch.
Avoid: Sushi rice, rice, tempura, sweet sauces, and teriyaki sauce.
Low Carb Vietnamese
Your best option when ordering low carb Vietnamese is to order some brothy low carb soups, sans the noodles.
Best Choice: Pho, without the noodles. I usually order double meat and veggies, then load up on tons of lime and herbs. Yum!
Avoid: Sandwiches, sweet sauces, rice, noodles — all the stuff you know to avoid.
Low Carb Thai
Thai is a tough option for those on a low carb meal plan. Between the sweet sauces, rice and noodles everywhere you look! Staying on the right track at low carb Thai restaurants is no small feat.
Best Choice: Satay skewers, which are typically served as an app (minus the peanut sauce) and larb, which is minced meat (typically pork) served in a lettuce cup — there’s usually a bit of brown sugar in the sauce so ask your server.
You’ll more than likely be able to order steamed meat and veggies. If there’s a stir-fry without sweet sauces or breading, even better (in terms of flavor — just ask for no cornstarch to be used!). Load up on lime and cilantro toppings to add flavor.
Avoid: Many Thai sauces are loaded with sugar, such as my personal favorite: peanut sauce. Curries, are also pretty hit or miss, so it’s usually best to avoid them. And then there’s the noodles, rice, and anything fried.
Better Choice: Thai is another one of those low carb restaurants that’s easiest to satisfy your cravings for at home, where you can make your own keto pad thai, low carb curry and low carb peanut sauces!
Low Carb Chinese Food
Like Thai food, Chinese cuisine can be a high carb minefield! Stick to the basics for stress free low carb Chinese food, you can still eat pretty well:
Best Choice: Steamed veggies and meat is your best choice for low carb take out Chinese.
Stir fries can be a good choice, if made without cornstarch (ask your server) and without any sweet sauce.
Avoid: Tempura, rice, noodles, fried, breading, sweet sauces and cornstarch.
Low Carb Indian Food
Indian food is full of starchy foods and unpredictable sauces, which can prove to be tricky for us low-carbers!
Best Choices: Your best low carb Indian food options will be kebabs or tandoori meat dishes. Sauce situations will vary from restaurant to restaurant, so always ask your server before settling on an order.
Avoid: Unfortunately, the myriad sauces and stewed veggies aren’t exactly the picture of a low carb paradise — avoid rice, potatoes, dal, saag, naan, chickpeas, lentils, and samosas.
BEST Keto Friendly Restaurants
As you can see, all these restaurants above could be considered keto friendly restaurants — so the best low carb restaurants really depends on you and your cravings.
In my opinion, the best restaurants for ketogenic diet are restaurants that are open and available to answer questions about ingredients, and that can help accommodate your order. If you have trouble getting the answers you need, don’t go back!
Low Carb Fast Food Restaurants
The beauty of trying to navigate fast food restaurants on any meal plan lies in the fact that menus, and the ingredients that make them, are public knowledge — making your job of eating at one of these low carb fast food restaurants WAY easier!
From low carb Applebees to low carb KFC, it’s all online for you…
One of my favorite low carb restaurants is keto chipotle. You can make you own salad bowl and skip all the high carb ingredients — The Chipotle low carb options are awesome!
Low Carb McDonalds
Not exactly a beacon of healthy eating, low carb McDonalds is more of a last resort than a frequented spot.
Still, sometimes hunger strikes and the only place for miles is framed by a set of golden arches, and the bunless burger, bunless grilled chicken sandwiches and bunless McMuffins are always there for you!
Low Carb Starbucks
Starbucks is easy to order low carb from — if you’re cool with drip coffee, cold brews, and an iced or hot tea. Things get tricky when you’re going for anything that resembles a milkshake more than a basic cup of joe.
Low Carb Taco Bell
Compared to its other fast food counterparts, low carb Taco Bell actually has some solid options — check out the Power Bowl without rice and beans. Salads, no rice and beans. Tacos without the shell. When it comes to low carb fast food Taco Bell has some great choices!
Making Your Own Keto Fast Food
Ok, I know this isn’t exactly keto fast food, but I like my home cooking WAY more than what I’m able to order from restaurants, so I’ve created a freezer full of “fast food” options.
Basically, whenever I cook low carb recipes, I freeze into individual serving sizes labeled with the date and recipe name. Whenever we’re hungry, we defrost one of those low carb meals, instead of heading to a restaurant!
Keto Delivery Services
More and more keto delivery services are popping up. Have you guys tried any of them? Let me know in the comments below!
As you can see, there are plenty of low carb restaurants and options for you if you know where to look! Be sure to check out my low carb alcohol guide as well.
Or you may find sticking to low carb recipes is more your thing — whatever you fancy, let me know in the comments below! What’re your favorite low carb restaurants, and why?