It is possible to eat out and still live low-carb. You just need to plan for it in advance.
To help with some low-carb meal inspiration, we have put together a list of tips and food swaps that allow you to still indulge in your favourites while being healthy.
General Eating Out Guidelines
- No refined carbs, sugar nor processed foods
- No fried foods soaked in omega-6 oils, like corn or soybean oil
- Focus on nutrient density (think fibre, phytonutrients, antioxidants)
- Hold off on pre-made salad dressings and sauces
10 Take-Out Meal Swap Ideas
There is a large variety of low-carb food swaps you can turn to as substitutes for popular carb-dense meals:
- PAD THAI
Instead of: Stir-fried rice noodle (≈ 45 g of carbs)
Try this: Carrot noodle-like strands (< 20 g of carbs)
Instead of: Carb-dense pasta ( ≈ 50 g of carbs)
Try this: Spirulised spaghetti squash (< 10 g of carbs)
3. HASH BROWN
Instead of: Mashed potato (≈ 60 g of carbs)
Try this: Cauliflower rice (< 5 g of carbs)
4. TACOS & WRAPS
Instead of: Wheat-based tortilla (≈ 15 g of carbs)
Try this: Uncooked swiss chard leaf (< 5 g of carbs)
5. HAMBURGER BUNS & PIZZA CRUST
Instead of: Whole wheat hamburger bun (≈ 20-30 g of carbs)
Try this: Large and meaty portobello mushroom cap (< 5 g of carbs)
6. CLASSIC FISH DISH
Instead of: Breaded baked fish and chips (≈ 45 g of carbs)
Try this: Grilled salmon & sauteed spinach (< 10 g of carbs)
7. TRADITIONAL MAC’N’CHEESE
Instead of: Macaroni-based mac’n’cheese (≈ 50 g of carbs)
Try this: Baked “cheesy” cauliflower (< 10 g of carbs)
8. SNACKS & CRISPS
Instead of: Crackers, saltines (≈ 30 g of carbs)
Try this: Celery sticks with nut butter or hummus (< 5 g of carbs)
Instead of: Scottish oats-based mix (≈ 30 g of carbs)
Try this: Mixed nuts, seeds and berries cereal (≈ 10 g of carbs)
Instead of: Flour-based pancake batter (≈ 13 g of carbs)
Try this: Grated zucchini or cononut flour pancake (< 5 g of carbs)
Low-Carb Options At Restaurants
It’s always good to look up various food places beforehand, but here are some commonly available low-carb options that will make cuisines you enjoy more conducive to a low-carb lifestyle:
If you go to a hamburger place or steakhouse, you can ask for no bun and a side of extra vegetables instead of fries.
Sushi places usually have a selection of nigiri and sashimi, which are thin slices of either raw fish or meat. You can also request any dish minus the rice or try wakame, their seaweed salad.
Mexican restaurants serve tender ribeye steaks and taco salad with healthy fats, like avocado.
When eating at a Spanish restaurant, ask the waiters for non-breaded tapas.
Finally, if you are ordering Chinese, go for steamed vegetables-based dishes with shrimps or chicken.
Know your carbs
When ordering veggies on the side at a restaurant, you have to be mindful of a few things.
Most non-starchy vegetables are very low in carbs, less than 5 net carbs in 1/2 cup. However, some are unassumingly higher in carbs.
Here’s how to estimate the carb count based on what the vegetable looks like:
- Leaves (almost zero carb)
Leaves, such as lettuce, spinach, swiss chard and herbs contain so much fibre that there is little carbs in them and won’t impact on blood sugar.
- Stems and Flowers (very low carb)
Stem and flower vegetables include things like asparagus, cauliflower, broccoli and mushrooms.
- Seedy plants (moderate carbs)
Examples of plants that contain seeds include peppers, squashes of all types, green beans, tomatoes, okra, and eggplant.
- Roots (very high carb)
Many roots, such as parsnips, water chestnuts, potatoes, sweet potatoes and yams are high in carbs.
The following table sums up quite nicely what makes a good meal when eating out: