"Would you like to come for dinner?" — here's a question that can fill a "low-carber" with dread and anxiety.
Eating out of the comfort of your own home can lend some challenges. A), you run the risk of exposing yourself to tempting foods that you've successfully restricted, and B), someone else is in charge of the menu, so you have less control over what's available.
This can feel overwhelming, and you may even consider cancelling plans to see friends, in case it ruins your progress in reversing insulin resistance.
A night off cooking is bliss, and having dietary requirements shouldn't stop you from dining in the hands of someone else.
With a few tips and tricks up your sleeve, you can eat low-carb at a restaurant, a friends house or on the go, just like everyone else, and without it derailing your health goals.
At a restaurant
Most restaurants have menus online. Take a look before you go to see if they have low-carb dishes or if a meal could be tweaked to suit your needs. This is good practice anyway, so you can spend more time chatting, and less time perusing the menu!
Let them know
Eat out with confidence, and don’t be afraid to tell the restaurant you have a dietary requirement. This is worth mentioning when booking or upon arrival. They often appreciate the effort you’ve made to let them know so that they can give you the best option from the food available.
If in doubt, ask
Some menus are less transparent than others, so don’t hesitate to enquire further about a particular dish —what are the ingredients, how is it cooked etc. Most importantly, don’t feel embarrassed about having a dietary requirement. If in doubt about anything, just ask. You never know, your dining experience might inspire the restaurant with a new meal or combination of foods!
Tricks & Tips
Here are some subtle tricks and tips to easily reduce the carb load when eating out :
- Ask for no bread, or keep it out of arms reach if possible
- Ask for more vegetables, salad or avocado instead of starchy food
- Use olive oil and vinegar for your salad
- Ask for butter with your meal (melt over vegetables, meat and fish)
- For dessert, have berries and cream, or opt for the cheese board (make sure you ask without the crackers, grapes and chutney, and you may even get more cheese instead! You could also ask if they have any nuts to accompany.)
- Pick a selection of starters or small plates for your main meal— an array of tapas is sure to get some heads turning with envy!
- Pick and mix from the menu, i.e. salmon from one dish, and creamed spinach from another.
- Stick to water—sparkling water with ice and lemon feels refreshing like a G&T. Or, choose low-carb alcohol from our guide.
Let them know
If you’ve been invited for dinner, always mention that you have dietary requirements in your response — the earlier you say it, the better!
You can simply say “Yes, I would love to join you for dinner. I eat certain things for my health, so I will bring along a dish.” Bring enough of a dish that will cater for others as well — you have a back up plan and more to go around as most people will be interested in what you're eating.
No matter how well you know your host, it's always worth reminding them about your dietary requirements — sometimes it just slips their mind that you no longer eat certain foods.
Let people cook for you
More often than not, people are intrigued by what you’re doing and happy to cater to you. If they ask for further information about what you eat, then send them a copy of The Food to Include list.
If in doubt, always have an avocado in your bag for 'just in cases'. You can have this with meat, fish, eggs, cheese and possibly some of the veg.
Most importantly, relax and enjoy yourself with friends and family — spending time with people is more meaningful than the meal itself.
Eating on the go
If possible, plan ahead and pack some low-carb snacks for ‘just in cases’. Foods like nuts, chia pudding, cheese, olives, avocado, pork crackling, beef jerky and nut butter travel well. An avocado can be peeled like an orange and eaten like an apple — be resourceful!
Caught off guard
If you're out and about without a stash of snacks, there's plenty you can purchase from the shops. Here is a list of food items you will find in most places
- Plain nuts and seeds
- Caned fish
- Unsweetened natural yoghurt
- Beef jerky
- Cold meats
- Smoked salmon
- Pork scratchings
- Coffee with cream
Don't feel embarrassed
No matter the occasion, never feel embarrassed about having dietary requirements and don’t feel obliged to eat something out of politeness — your health is the most important thing and everyone should respect that. Wanting to conform (painfully) to societal norm, just to keep the peace is a natural reaction, but you MUST put your health first.
From time to time, you may have to deal with a raised eyebrow or someone saying ‘go on, have a bite and live a little’, but please realise that people project their own food issues onto others — they want you to eat the piece of cake so that they feel better about their own food choices.
You’ve stepped outside of the societal norm, and this can make people feel uneasy — don’t feel compelled to succumb to pressure or judgment just to reassure others about their health.
You're a walking testament to how food can positively effect health, which will influence everyone around you. Don't be tempted to keep your health and wellness secrets under wraps. Use 'eating out' as an opportunity to spread the word, making 'low carb' mainstream and helping everyone improve their health.
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Take care 👋