Low Carb Tips
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Tips and Hacks to Eat Low-Carb at Any Restaurant

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Low Carb Tips
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Diet Right

It has never been easier to dine out with a restrictive diet. Especially with the most popular these days — going gluten-free or keeping to a keto (low-carbohydrate, high-fat plan) diet — restaurants are tuned in and will usually accommodate customer requests. Still, when you go out to eat you'll want to consult this list of expert advice and ingenious hacks.

Note: Be sure to consult your healthcare professional before making any major changes to your diet.

Related: 15 Tips To Eat Cheap and Stay Healthy With These Popular Diets

Eat a Healthy Snack Before Arriving
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Eat a Healthy Snack Before Arriving

Maybe you shouldn't snack between meals, but you might want to consider snacking before a meal — especially if you are easily tempted, says Rachel Fiske, who serves on the advisory board for Smart Healthy Living. "For the same reason that it's a bad idea to go grocery shopping on an empty stomach, try to not arrive at a restaurant starving, as this will make self control significantly harder. Opt for a low-calorie, high protein snack such as whole, plain yogurt or organic, nitrate-free deli meat with a couple of avocado slices," Fiske says. "This can greatly prevent overeating."

Related: With These Healthy Recipes, You Won't Miss Packaged Snacks

Banish Bread Baskets
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Banish Bread Baskets

This is the easiest and most effective way to remove carb temptations at a restaurant. "Certainly, one of the hardest parts to resist is the warm breadbasket that comes before the meal is served. You could easily eat an entire meal's worth of empty calories in bread before the actual food arrives. Bread is a carbohydrate, and high-carb diets are top contributors to weight gain and an array of other health problems over time," Fiske says.

You Didn't Check the Menu
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Ask for the Right Menu

Always ask upon arriving at a restaurant if there is a light menu. "A lot of chain restaurants have light or low-carb option menus popping up that can really help you stick to your diet without making you do a ton of guesswork," says Beverly Friedmann, an expert in nutrition science at My Food Subscriptions. "Light menus may also come with all of the nutritional information as well, which can help you make a more informed decision prior to ordering."

Related: 20 Highest Calorie Counts at Fast Food Chains (And How to Lower Them)

Know Exactly What You Can Eat
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Know Exactly What You Can Eat

Diets can be confusing when you get to some smaller differences between paleo, keto, and Atkins. Sofia Norton, a diet expert at Kiss My Keto, says to know what you can have ahead of time. "Before you consider eating out, learn [about] keto-friendly foods or foods that are lower in carbs — whether these are vegetables, fruits, or meat that you can have. When it comes to food, the best types of restaurants for keto-ers are steakhouses; just skip the fries or ask the waiter not to serve them with your steak. If you're at an Asian restaurant, skip anything that includes rice and noodles."

Fill Up On Protein and Salad
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Fill up on Protein and Salad

Help yourself to extra servings of salad and eat protein with your meal. "When you're out to eat, try to look for options that are still rich in protein but save on carbs, like salad with avocado or healthy meat options to top," Friedmann says. Most restaurants have a variety of salad options, and adding the right toppings can make a meal satisfying and protein-dense.

Related: 22 Quick and Easy Cold Salads for People Who Hate Lettuce

Feel Good About Your Special Requests …
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Feel Good About Your Special Requests …

Many people feel uncomfortable asking for substitutions, but it is completely acceptable to ask a restaurant to accommodate diners' needs. If a dish is served over rice, ask if it can be served over steamed vegetables; ask for salad dressing on the side; and instead of bread, ask for a side of fruit or veggies. "Most restaurants can easily provide these alternatives," Fiske says.

… But Be Nice About Your Special Requests
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… But Be Nice About Your Special Requests

It's pretty common knowledge that waiters get irritated by people with too many requests, but Norton says a smile and short explanation about diet restrictions can usually offset any issues. "You really can't tell whether a restaurant will be happy to modify your dish unless you try to ask. But when you do, ask politely," Norton says. If the restaurant won't change a dish around your restrictions, "you can put aside the non-keto foods like potatoes and bread and simply consume what your diet allows."

Research Restaurants Beforehand …
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Research Restaurants Beforehand …

Do a little research online to see which restaurants have the widest variety of flexible options. "Before you go out to eat, have a game plan in mind and research the restaurant you're going to. By looking at the menu before you actually dine at any establishment, you can make a more informed choice. You might get a better sense of how many carbs dishes have in them, and what you're going to order, before you even walk in. This can take a lot of the pressure off of dining out on a diet," Friedmann says.

Related: 15 Mistakes You're Making When Going Out to Eat

… and Read the Menu Before Ordering
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… And Read the Menu Before Ordering

Sometimes waitstaff look for orders before a full menu can really be absorbed — but that's less of a risk if you peek at a menu online before even arriving. "This might sound obsessive, but studies show that when we are hungry and/or distracted, we consistently make poor(er) food choices. If we familiarize ourselves with the menu online before arriving at the restaurant, we've already chosen the option we know to be the healthiest, and therefore can relax and know we are not ordering impulsively," Fiske says.

Watch What You Drink
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Watch What You Drink

A diet can be undone by the sugars in all sorts of drinks, from colas and sweet teas to alcohol-based cocktails. "The easiest [menu items] to modify are the drinks. If you're craving something sweet, make a polite request to reduce the sweetness to 25%. You can also ask the waiter to skip the sugar so you can sweeten the drink with stevia," Norton says. "Just be sure to bring a sachet with you."

Related: I Banned Sugar From My Diet for a Week and Here's What Happened

Go for Leaner Proteins
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Go for Leaner Proteins

The meat and veggie option appeals to Fiske, but she offers a caveat: Watch out for fatty meats. "Stick to orders that are made up of real foods, such as meat and vegetables, whenever possible. The restaurant might boast organic and grass-fed meats. If this is the case, don't be afraid to order red meats such as beef or pork. However, if the meat quality is questionable, stick for leaner options, as all animals store toxins in fat cells, such as fish, chicken, and turkey," Fiske says.

Related: 10 Cheap, Healthy Alternatives to Red and Processed Meat

1989
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Opt for Two Appetizers Instead of an Entree

The top of the menu often has a surprisingly range of diet-friendly, low-carb offerings. "If portions are big at the restaurant you are at, order two appetizers," Fiske says. "This might be a salad or veggie dish, along with a meat option such as chicken skewers. If ordering soup, inquire as to what ingredients have been used, as many soups that sound healthy are actually loaded with flour and other high carbohydrate ingredients."

Related: Eat These Gut-Busting Appetizers at Your Own Risk

Order Takeout Instead
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Take Half Your Meal To Go

Divide and conquer, and stretch your food dollars while you do it. Fiske says: "This is a great habit to get into, as it will save you both calories and money. Especially if you know that a particular restaurant serves big portions, ask that half of your meal be put in a to-go box from the get-go. This will eliminate the temptation to overeat, and you'll have tomorrow's lunch ready to go," Fiske says.

Related: 50 Ways to Spend Less When Eating Out

Go Where Keto and Low Carb Is Easier
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Go Where Keto and Low Carb Is Easier

Avoid the tempting carbs found in cuisines such as Mexican and Italian by opting for better choices, such as Japanese and Korean. "Japanese and Korean cuisine offer some great healthy options: Seaweed salad, grilled meats, miso soup, and sashimi are at the top of the list and contain the lowest carb count. If you are avoiding rice, stick to the sashimi, which is raw fish. This is also an excellent way to get a big boost of heart-healthy omega 3 fatty acids," Fiske says.

Related: The Best Sushi Restaurant in All 50 States

Some Restaurants Are on Your Side …
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Some Restaurants Are on Your Side …

"When dining out, choose places that have a flexible menu, like Bonefish Grill," Lauren Harris-Pincus, founder of Nutrition Starring You and author of "The Protein-Packed Breakfast Club," is a registered dietitian and watches her carbs too. "Choose any fish with a sauce on the side and two vegetable sides like broccoli and spinach instead of rice or potatoes. You can even add a side salad for an incremental cost," Harris-Pincus says.

… But Not All
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… But Not All

Avoiding restaurants that specialize in basket meals and mostly fried options is helpful, says Gabrielle Desmarais, a nutritional therapy practitioner for Forevergreen All-Natural Care & Healing. "Finding low-carb options will be easiest at a restaurant that offers fresher ingredients with less focus on fried food. Salads are options that require few modifications — just watch out for the dressings that are often loaded with unhealthy fats and sugars. My personal approach is to bring my own dressing that I know is safe; I just politely ask the staff to leave the dressing off."

Know What to Order Wherever You Are
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Know What to Order Wherever You Are

Know the culinary tricks of certain cuisines, in case you don't wind up a restaurant that already makes sticking with a diet easy. Examples: "While Mexican food is not the lowest-carbohydrate option, opt for the 'bowls' instead of the more carb-dense burrito or quesadilla. Stick with meat, beans, avocado and salsa, and skip tortillas," Fiske says. "Thai chefs use sugar in many dishes, so ask. Try a papaya salad with chicken skewers, fresh (not fried) spring rolls with coconut-milk based Tom Kha soup, or a sauteed vegetable and meat dish."

Swap Out Foods as Needed
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Swap Out Foods as Needed

Keep in mind low-carb trades. DitchTheCarbs.com has handy swap hacks to memorize: Drink water or unsweetened tea. Go bunless for burgers, and eat sandwiches with lettuce wraps subbing for bread. Ask servers if they have veggie noodles such as zucchini instead of pasta, and travel with a single-serving square of high cocoa content pure dark chocolate candy to have with coffee when everyone tucks into a dessert.

Watch Out for Sauces
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Watch Out for Sauces

Sugar is a culprit in many condiments and sauces, so be forewarned, says Caleb Backe, the health and wellness expert for Maple Holistics. "You can choose a beautiful grilled chicken salad or bunless burger with salad, but don't forget to ask about the dressing. Condiments such as ketchup, barbecue sauce, and honey mustard tend to be high in carbs, so to add flavor try yellow mustard, hot sauce, or butter. And ask your server for low/no carb options — they're asked every day, so they'll know."

Related: Celebrate National Sauce Month With 10 Cheap, Easy Recipes

Skip Dessert and Have Coffee Instead
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Skip Dessert and Have Coffee Instead

Waitstaff love to tempt everyone with a dessert menu at the end of the meal. Stay on course and consider getting a cup of coffee instead. "It can be tough to skip dessert if you're surrounded by dessert eaters, but this can truly derail a low-carb diet if you are eating out. If this is the case, order a coffee and ask use stevia as a sweetener. This will seriously cut high-carbohydrate calories," Fiske says. "Plus, coffee alone can boost weight loss, if that is your goal."