Even for seasoned Atkins followers, dining out can be a minefield and typically where many of us slip up and give into high carb food. Although many restaurants are getting more ‘with it’ in terms of offering healthier fayre, you don’t have to avoid eating out just because you’re following Atkins.
It’s unrealistic (and not fun!) to expect that you never eat out again and it’s good to know that you can eat low carb quite easily, even when you’re out, so here’s a basic guideline of the best choices; based on the most popular type of restaurants.
The best choice would be a stir-fry such as chicken, beef, tofu or prawn; however check that the meat/fish isn’t breaded. It’s better to avoid sauce on your stir-fry as these will typically be loaded with sugar or cornstarch. Or get a sauce on the side so you can control how much you have as, typically, you get way too much anyway! Crispy duck and Moo shu (chicken/pork or prawn) but avoid the sauce and pancakes. Obviously noodles and rice are out so ask for extra veggies, if needed. For the duck & Moo Shu, you can get lots of tasty vegetables and it tastes great mixed with the meat. Beef & mushrooms is a popular dish too and a fairly low carb choice.
Skip past the pasta, rice (such as risotto) and pizza sections as they are all sky-high in carbs. There are so many tastier options anyway such as porchetta (pork belly), usually stuffed with garlic and Italian herbs. For a starter, antipasto is a great choice consisting of assorted meats, cheese & vegetables such as olives. Some main courses such as Chicken Piccata or Scaloppini are fine but ensure they aren’t breaded. Most ‘fresh’ tomato sauces don’t contain a lot of sugar, if made true Italian-style; however check with your waiter if the sauce contains added sugar. Instead of garlic bread, opt for a tasty salad such as rocket & goat’s cheese, for example.
Most pub-style meals focus on a protein source, like chicken, beef or fish with a starchy side, such as chips or mash with a small portion of vegetables. Steak, fish, poultry or other seafood are all fine as long as not breaded or marinated in sugary sauces. Instead of the chips or other carby side, ask for extra veggies or an extra side salad. You can dress it up with butter on your veg or full fat mayo, or olive oil, on your salad. Burger & cheeseburgers are fine as long as you ditch the bun and have along with a salad instead of chips. Also chicken Caesar salad is a good choice as long as you ask for no croutons
Avoid rice as a side when choosing a curry, it tends to ‘stodge’ the meal anyway and dilute the taste of the fresh Indian spices used. Good choices include meat or fish tandooris which are marinated in yoghurt, or sometimes cream, to tenderise the meat but then fired in a clay oven. Meat/chicken kebabs or lamb chops are fine too and usually just marinated in spices & oil. Avoid naan or chapatti bread but ask for veggie sides such as Saag Panir (spinach & cheese), aubergine or okra
Remember, restaurants love repeat customers so don’t hesitate to ask what’s in a dish – say you have an allergy if you’re embarrassed! Checking the online menu before you go out is a good strategy too, this way you aren’t tempted by your old favourites when you’re handed the menu, you’ll have already made your choice and more easily stick to it. Do you eat out on a low carb diet and what strategies do you use? I’d love to hear your thoughts on our forum!