how to eat a keto diet at restaurants

Eating at Restaurants on a Travel Keto Diet

As full time travelers we have become very good at ordering keto diet friendly food in restaurants.

Even in countries like Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia where the rice and noodles are staples, we have found ways to stick to a keto diet while eating at restaurants all over the world.

The key to ordering at a restaurant on a travel keto diet is to focus on the amazing foods you can enjoy on a keto diet rather than the things you can’t.

7 Tips and Hacks for Eating at Restaurants on the Keto Diet Anywhere in the World

Here are our tips for eating keto at restaurants around the world as well as an explanation of each.

Bonus Tip: Skip dessert at restaurants. Go home and have a little bit of a keto diet friendly chocolate bar made with Stevia or some Lindt 90% chocolate instead!

travel keto diet
Keto Diet Dessert

More Details on Each of These Tips

We are often surprised when people ask us what how we eat at restaurants on a travel keto diet. We’re just so used to eating a keto diet that we barely think about it anymore.

But many people tell us they fall back on carb-rich staples when they travel, especially at restaurants. Pizza, pasta, rice and sandwiches seem to be common travel food traps when people travel on a keto diet.

They are easy, convenient and widely available. And many people consider them to be comfort food.

Of course, none of those are keto diet friendly foods.

So despite the fact that we eat out for lunch and dinner 99% of the time in our full time affordable luxury lifestyle we never even consider those foods.

So….how DO we order and eat at restaurants on a travel keto diet for lunch and dinner (we talk about our travel keto diet breakfast here)?

Read on!

Avoid Breading – The Keto diet SUPERVILLAIN

The first and most important travel keto diet restaurant hack is to figure out what ‘breading’ is called locally…especially when translation is involved.

Determine how they say ‘breading’ and avoid dishes that have it. Use the Google Translate app to ask your waiter if necessary.

Sometimes ‘fried’ means meat or veggies are fried in a pan with oil. That’s keto friendly. But sometimes it means they are breaded and then fried in oil. That’s a keto diet disaster!

Other times ‘deep fried’ is the phrased used to mean the dish will have breading. Other times you have to ask ‘is there flour on the meat.’

Because whatever they call it, breading is a keto supervillain.

Find out what they call it and avoid it!

Breading: Keto Supervillain

And don’t assume that saying ‘gluten free’ will mean keto diet friendly! Rice is a great example of a food that is gluten free but not keto friendly. And there are breadings made from rice!

Again, be careful here: sometimes the menu says ‘Chicken Filet’ but what you actually get is a chicken schnitzel! This happened to me and I spent 5 minutes trying to peel and scrape the breading off of my lunch.

We have gone so far as to pull up a photo of breaded chicken and unbreaded chicken to show the waiter to find out if a dish is breaded or not!

Breading: Take the Keto Diet Chicken Wing Challenge

Chicken wings are my favorite keto diet food. Strike that. They are my favorite food full stop!

Knowing that chicken wings are keto diet friendly helped convince me to adopt this way of eating in the first place!

In my opinion, it should be illegal to put breading or batter on chicken wings without the express consent of the customer.

It turns them from a keto diet superfood into a carby, sugary keto disaster.

So my keto diet Chicken Wing Challenge is this:

Figure out how to order chicken wings that are fried in oil WITHOUT breading OR sauce! When you do you have cracked the code to avoid breaded food in that country.

chicken wings chiang mai
Chicken Wing Challenge Winner!

Avoid Sauces and ‘Hidden Sugar’

Speaking of sauces in restaurants, you just have to assume they have some sugar. Or more likely a LOT of sugar.

Especially in the US and western Europe, when you order a dish with a sauce you can be pretty certain that the sauce includes a large helping of sugar.

But even in Asia you’ll find between a teaspoon to a cup of sugar in most restaurant sauces.

In keto diet speak it’s called secret or hidden sugar: sugar that you didn’t know you were eating but that makes you fat anyway.

Restaurants on a Travel Keto Diet
Beware of Hidden Sugar in Sauces

You can ask that they not use sugar and hope they comply. But don’t count on it.

Best bet: order dishes with no sauces or with sauces on the side so you can taste it to see how sweet it is before eating it.

PRO KETO DIET TIP: Olive Oil! We have yet to find a dish that wasn’t improved with olive oil. Use olive oil instead of a sauce on meats, fish, vegetables and salads. We carry olive oil travel packets in case the restaurant doesn’t have it

Appetizers Can be Keto Diet Friendly

Many restaurant appetizers are breaded. And what did we say about breading? Yep: keto diet supervillain. Avoid them.

Same with the bread basket. Whenever a waiter tries to put a bread basket on our table we politely but firmly decline it. These days servers are never surprised by the request. After all, whether you eating a keto diet nor not turning away the bread basket is always a healthy idea.

Salads are the obvious go to for appetizers/starters, particularly if you are not fussy about net carbs (we are not – no one ever got fat eating green vegetables!). Again, a generous helping of olive oil improves any salad.

Cheese plates and charcuterie (sliced deli meats) also make for a fantastic keto diet starter in restaurants. We also love provoleta (melted cheese in a hot skillet) – forget about the bread and just eat it with a fork!

where to eat da nang
Keto Diet Friendly Provoleta

Another easy go-to keto starter is seafood: boiled shrimp/prawns, clams with butter, mussels. Again, just be careful about the sauce: some cocktail sauces are chock-a-block with sugar!

Soups are a whole other quagmire. They can be full of sugar or thickeners that are keto diet unfriendly. Best avoided unless the ingredients are clearly stated.

Or you can order the best food in the world as your appetizer: chicken wings! Just make sure they pass the Chicken Wing Challenge!

Grilled Food is the Superhero of the Keto Diet

Before we started eating a keto diet I had no idea there were so many ways to grill so many foods!

And after traveling to over 50 countries we have yet to find a country where grilled meat, fish and/or vegetables wasn’t somewhere on the menu.

Grilled on a fire, in a pan or in a bar-b-que. Seared, browned, or burned. Shish or hot skillet. It’s all good!

Again, beware of sauces on your grilled dishes. But other than that, go for it!

By the way, grilled chicken wings DEFINITELY pass the Chicken Wing Challenge!

Don’t Even Look at the Pizza and Pasta Selections

Why torture yourself?

Ok, so there is tagliatelle with truffles on the menu. There is thin crust pizza with sausage. And I used to love that stuff.

That’s none of my concern anymore! It may as well be rocks and sticks and bugs and mud. I’m not eating them so why waste my time on them?

And even if they are advertised as gluten free dishes there is bound to be sugar or other keto diet unfriendly ingredients in that pizza or pasta dish. So just don’t even look at ’em!

There are ways to enjoy both pasta and pizza on a keto diet while traveling. Just not in restaurant. We talk about those in our article about A Travel Keto Diet Kitchen.

Eating on a keto diet in restaurants while traveling means simply skipping the pizza and pasta sections altogether. Don’t even look at them.

Be Aggressive About the Side Dishes

In some countries (like Thailand and Vietnam) you have to insist that you don’t want rice with your food.

In others (Poland, Bulgaria) it’s potatoes.

There is no shame in being firm in requesting no rice, noodles or potato side dishes.

Ask for some salad or grilled vegetables instead.

Priority Pass Lounge Penang

Thailand has one of the most polite societies in the world (they are the Land of Smiles, after all!). And there were so many times that we had to insist on no rice – but in a very nice way.

In Penang we ate at an Indian restaurant and had to decline naan (Indian bread) over 10 times. But when it’s not on the table there is no temptation. So we kept saying no….but in a very nice way.

Taking control of your side dishes on a keto diet is not being fussy. It’s taking care of yourself.

Do it!

Work with Your Waiter for a Keto Diet Meal at Restaurants

The ultimate key to maintaining a travel keto diet at restaurants is clear communication (well…as clear as possible!) with waitstaff.

Pern's restaurant chiang mai
Make your waiter your keto diet accomplice!

One approach is to simply tell your waiter upfront that you are eating a keto diet and that you would appreciate his or her help in identifying keto friendly dishes.

Sometimes this works.

But in our experience most of the time it leads to a discussion about whether you actually mean you want gluten free dishes. Which, as mentioned above, is not entirely helpful.

If that doesn’t work you’ll have to fall back on the Chicken Wing Challenge: communicate that you don’t want that is breaded/fried/deep fried/fried with flour or whatever they call it.

And sauce on the side or olive oil instead of sauce.

This is not a foolproof approach, of course.

For example, in Da Nang Vietnam I asked for pho (Vietnamese soup) without noodles and was basically openly mocked and laughed at!

Of course, even that was a learning experience: after that I would just order a regular pho and take the noodles out after it was delivered.

In any case, if you can turn your waiters into your travel keto diet accomplices you will have a much easier time at restaurants on a travel keto diet!

Bottom Line – Eating at Restaurants on a Travel Keto Diet

Eating a keto diet at restaurants around the world has become second nature to us.

We hope that these 7 tips and hacks for eating at restaurants on a keto diet anywhere in the world help you live your best keto life!

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How to eat a travel keto diet at restaurants

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