Whether you’re headed out for burgers or Italian, dining out (and losing weight) can be a breeze with this low carb restaurant guide.
(Yes, you can eat more than rabbit food!) We’ll show you how…
Low Carb Restaurant Tips a From a Personal Trainer
Have you ever wondered if Personal Trainers have a social life– or do they just gnaw on plain chicken breasts all day? It turns out they do have some wickedly smart strategies to stay lean even while eating out.
Shane Allen, our very own Personal Trainer Food Sports Nutrtionist who also works as a consultant with the restaurant industry has some excellent low carb restaurant menu tips to share with you.
Watch his interview on KPRC News, NBC Houston to learn more…
We’ve listed every kind of restaurant you can imagine below. Here’s exactly what you should order off their menus, including some hidden menu options you probably don’t know about.
First: order your non-caloric beverage right away so you aren’t tempted when the chips are set on your table. The best option on the menu will be sizzlin’ fajitas, chicken, beef, or even shrimp! Skip the tortilla and load on the salsa and guacamole.
Ceviche is also another great option, it’s seafood that has been marinated in a delicious lemon or lime sauce. Totally approved, and totally tasty!
Start off with a warming bowl of miso soup. While tofu is something we generally avoid, the small serving in the soup is nothing to worry too much about. Starting with miso soup will help to fill you up. Order sashimi instead of sushi. Sashimi is just slices of raw fish that don’t come with rice.
Many Japanese restaurants also offer veggie and meat stir fry. Look for ones that are made of mostly non-starchy vegetables like Beef with Broccoli. Avoid stir frys that feature sweet or starchy sauces. Ask your server to bring your meal without any rice. Love soy sauce and wasabi? Go for it!
BONUS: Sip on fat-burning green tea during or after your meal.
Yes, you can go to your favorite steak house and eat the biggest steak you can handle. Meat is unlimited on our program. The trick is to avoid the bread basket, baked potato, french fries, and other starchy sides.
Look for green beans, broccoli, asparagus, mushrooms, Brussels sprouts, tomatoes, and side salads on the menu. You can ask your server to double your veggies. Steak is so filling you won’t be tempted by the dessert menu!
There is more to Italian fare than pizza, lasagna, and spaghetti! Granted, American-Italian joints aren’t typically great low carb restaurant choices. Their menus are dominated with starchy items, you might have to scour the menu to find sides and salads that will fit your needs. A Caesar salad is a good choice, just kick the croutons to the side.
Thankfully, modern Italian restaurants are making more authentic Italian fare. When it comes to obesity rates, Italy has one of the lowest because of dishes like an elegant Caprese salad of tomatoes and cheese. Try a beautiful antipasto platter of Italian meats, cheeses, and olives. And check out the grilled or roasted veggies and meats!
One Italian dish with American roots that is worth mentioning is Cioppino soup– a delicious and visually extravagant fish stew.
Greasy Spoon Breakfast
Don’t want eggs? Try a steak instead. It’s not as strange as you think! You’ll feel full and energetic all day when you eat steak for breakfast.
Ask your server to leave off the fruit bowl, toast, biscuits, hash browns, grits, and gravy. Those are too starchy! Stick with coffee, tea, and water instead of OJ for your beverage.
Eat ALL the seafood! Fish, oysters, clams, mussels, crab, lobster, eel, salmon, scallops, shrimp, mudbugs, calamari… you name it. Seafood restaurants are one of our favoirte low carb restaurant choices. A light breading is fine. Just avoid heavily breaded seafood such as beer-battered fish that is normally served with chips. Tip: if beer-battered seafood is your only option, you can peel it off and eat the fish inside.
It goes without saying to avoid the bread basket, french fries, and hush puppies. You should also pass on dishes that feature fruit such as mango salsa. And be sure to check out the salad menu– you can always ask to have one topped with a serving of your favorite seafood.
All-American Burger Joint
As a fan of our very own Personal Trainer Food 100% Angus burger, you know just how enjoyable a burger is without a bun. Buns just get in the way of all the good stuff! And fries? They just fill you up with fattening, starchy calories.
Almost every burger joint– low carb restaurant or not, will offer their burgers wrapped in or on a bed of lettuce today. If not, just improvise by sliding your burger and fixin’s off the bun. (You’ll need a knife and fork to eat it so be sure to ask for those utensils when you order.)
Speaking of fixin’s, avocado, bacon, mushrooms, swiss cheese, blue cheese, aioli, even eggs are all good when you eat the PTF way! Ask your server to hold the ketchup, relish, sweet pickles, BBQ sauce, teriyaki sauce, or any other sweet sauces.
In fact, watch as Shane Allen, Sports Nutritionist for Personal Trainer Food explains to CW33’s Eye Opener crew how to lose weight eating fast food…
Chicken restaurants vary from deep-fried everything to more well-rounded menus. Yes, you can have lightly breaded chicken, so that’s the easy part when it comes to the simpler fried chicken places.
Avoid mashed potatoes, gravy (too much starch), coleslaw (too much sugar in the sauce), fries, and sweet dipping sauces. Better chicken stops will offer grilled chicken breasts, tenders or bites, and even salads. Leave off or pick off croutons, tortilla strips, granola, fruit, or any other topping that is not PTF-friendly.
As for wings, YES! Wings win as one of our low carb restaurant faves. You can eat them, skin and all. Just beware of wings that have sweet sauces. Full fat ranch, blue cheese, or hot sauces are usually the safest.
Bistros and Wine Bars
For a chic night out, wine bars can offer some tasty tidbits that are program-friendly. An artisan cheese flight or charcuterie plate is a terrific option, and offers a way to sample cheeses and meats you don’t normally find at your supermarket.
Menus at these establishments can be very creative, featuring everything from seared ahi to zoodles (zucchini noodles) and delightful salads. Don’t be afraid to explore the menu using Personal Trainer Food Guidelines, and ask your server about the selections.
Wine bars are all about sharing conversation and good times, so another strategy is to share your plate with someone. Let them eat the off-plan bread sticks, crostinis, hummus, dates, or fruits. Order classy sparkling waters to sip on instead of wine.
The tricky thing about Thai restaurants are the sweet sauces. But that is easily worked around. The food is so aromatic and enjoyable on its own that you really don’t need all the sweet stuff.
Satay skewers are a great pick for Thai, and you don’t need the sweetened peanut sauce to enjoy. Heavy noodle dishes should be avoided as well. Curry sauces can vary greatly in their sugar content. If you are trying to lose weight, it’s best to avoid them until you get to your goal. Scan your menu for delicious garlic and vegetable stir fries with beef, chicken, and seafood instead.
Like Thai restaurants, Vietnamese menus can be loaded with starchy noodles and sweet stuff. The way to get around that is to look for this low carb restaurant menu darling: Pho.
Pho is a clear-broth soup that is a popular street food in Vietnam. It is usually served with a PILE of starchy noodles. You don’t want those. Ask for no noodles and have them double the veggies and/or the meat instead.
Pho is usually served with a PTF-friendly heap of fresh bean sprouts, basil, lime wedges and jalapeno rounds on the side. The bean sprouts make a great noodle substitute, so add those to your soup.
German food is frequently thought of as meat and potatoes dishes. But it doesn’t have to be that hard on your waistline. Yes, you will have to skip the beer. And the noodles, spaetzle, dumplings, potato salad and bread.
But the selection of delicious meat entrees will keep you happy. Choose any sausage, a lightly breaded schnitzel cutlet, richly marinated sauerbraten, or braised rouladen beef rolls. Ask your sever instead for sauerkraut, red cabbage and/or double up on non-starchy vegetables such as asparagus for the perfect accompaniment.
Salads and dark leafy greens are awesome at helping you eat healthier and are always a low carb restaurant go-to. But the salad bar is riddled with foods that will pile on pounds. In addition to croutons, they feature candied nuts, sugar-coated dried fruits, granola, potato salad, pasta, Asian noodles, tortilla strips, fruit parfaits, and sugary-sweet dressings.
When you get to the salad bar, LOAD your plate with leafy greens, then start selecting non-starchy veggies, meats, eggs and cheese. Leave NO room on your plate for the junk food.
Gas Station/Convenience Store
While not technically a restaurant, many people eat out at convenience stores to save time when they are on the road. So it makes sense to know your options!
For protein, look for cheese, deli meat, pepperoni sticks, jerky, and hard-boiled eggs.
Snack on dill pickles, bags of almonds or sunflower seeds, and apples. Many convenience stores also offer pre-packaged salads and chopped vegetables with dip as well.
At this point we shouldn’t have to remind you to avoid alcohol in order to lose weight. But what if you want to join your buddies to watch the game or play a round of pool? To avoid getting pressured to drink, pull your server aside and discreetly ask them to serve you non-alcoholic drinks only. That way your friends won’t get tipped off when you ask for another virgin drink or diet soda.
Bar menus can be very limited, not exactly our first low carb restaurant choice– but you can use the tips from the different menus above to find something to snack on. Look for wings, shrimp cocktail, sliders without the bun, and even sandwiches can be eaten without the bread.
In an effort to look more like a low carb restaurant choice, many sub shops have started to offer wraps instead of the traditional foot-long bun. But this is no solution! Flour wraps are very dense in carbohydrates. Jimmy John’s has a great solution for that.
Order any of their subs as an Unwich and they will wrap your sub up in two lettuce leaves instead of bread. At other sub shops, ask if your sandwich can be wrapped that way or, have it served on a bed of greens. Most will oblige. It’s hard to go wrong with sub sandwich fixin’s, so pile it on!
Dining In With Personal Trainer Food
With Personal Trainer Food, you get perfectly balanced, pre-cooked meals that contain only delicious meats, eggs, cheeses, and vegetables. No fillers, hidden sugars, bad carbs, or trans fats.
So there’s no more guessing which health foods make fat and no more wasted time when you could be losing weight.
All you get are good-for-you, “ready in 3 minutes” meals that chase away hunger… crank up your metabolism… and help you burn away those excess pounds for good.
So, you could lose as much as 20 pounds in as little as 4 weeks — and that’s just for starters!
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About the Writer: 100 pounds ago, Jan knew what it is like to be obese, unhappy, and stuck. She has spent the last 17 years as a fitness writer, trainer, yoga teacher, and Weight Loss Coach. Today, she’s proud to be a part of the Personal Trainer Food team so she can continue her goal to help others live their fullest lives possible. Email Jan@PersonalTrainerFood.com if you have any questions!
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Any hints specific to Indian food? I love butter chicken, lamb vindaloo, and palak panner, but worry about what diet destroying ingredients lurk under the surface.
Oh Indian food is wonderful. I love it. But you are right, there are many ways to go off plan with the naan, roti, rice, chickpeas, lentils, and samosas. All yummy, but best reserved for when your primary goal is maintenance.
Kebabs, tandoori-cooked meats, and kachumber salad make good choices. If necessary, butter chicken and lamb vindaloo can be eaten, but they are usually served with an abundance of sauce which could exceed the 2g of carbs per serving in our recommendation. So focus on the meat and leave the sauce on your plate. Paneer is a soft cheese (cottage-style cheese) which should be avoided. At Indian dinners, I have sometimes been able to find sauteed or grilled veggies that aren’t drenched in sauce.
But the most difficult part of eating Indian food? You are probably already aware: being able to graciously refuse food or discreetly set the sauce and breads aside if your host is Indian. So take care with that. (:
I know alcohol is off limits, but occasionally I want a drink. What is the least harmful? Dry white wine? Scotch? Please help.
Janis Hauser says
Hi Sandra, a dry white wine is a good call. More of the sugars have been consumed during the longer fermentation process so it is lower in carbs and calories. Scotch and other spirits that are 0-carb are the best choices to avoid too much weight gain when you choose to indulge in a drink. Like you said however, avoiding alcohol will get you the best weight loss results– so avoid alcohol as much as you possibly can. (:
Thanks for the suggestions with Indian food are you there three times a week at least
Would chickens Saagwala be a good meal ?
Janis Hauser says
I’m glad I could help with the Indian food! I’d say that Chicken Saagwala would be an ok choice; go easy on the sauce and skip the rice. Now I’m drooling, I think I need some curry stat…!
Alex Dean says
As most of the people I know, I seem to always be trying to lose weight. But it is hard when your not a cook, and want to eat out a lot. It’s good to know that when I go to a sandwich shop, I can still eat there. All I have to do is instead of ordering bread, have them make a lettuce wrap instead. That is something that I remember to do.
Janis Hauser says
You got it, Alex! Spot on strategy! Thanks for sharing. (: