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Travel and Eating Out on Low-Carb Lifestyle

Travel and Eating Out on Low-Carb Lifestyle

Traveling and socializing can be a difficult challenge on a low-carb lifestyle.  It is fortunately getting easier to find tasty food options in restaurants, although it is sometimes embarrassing (or just a hassle) to have conversations with your server about substitutions, etc.

Then of course there is the inconvenience of airport foods and the myriad of temptations on the table when eating out with friends who are not living a low-carb lifestyle.  Here are a few tips on what to order when eating out and how to navigate some of the restaurant or socializing issues.

low carb lifestyle
SCD lunch in Valencia, Spain

Tips for Restaurant Options on a Low-Carb Lifestyle:

  • Indian Food: This cuisine usually includes a lot of protein and legumes. Avoid the rice, ditch the Naan, and go easy on light-colored things since they tend towards heavy butter and cream (some butter and cream are allowed but you need to not overdo it). Vindaloo without potatoes, Dal, and Gobi dishes, again without potatoes, make excellent choices. Tandoori chicken is usually safe. Lentils are great and will help fill you up instead of rice.  Avoid the deserts, as they are usually loaded with sugar and not compliant with a low-carb lifestyle.
  • Thai Food: Tim Ferriss talks about Thai food a lot in his book “The 4-Hour Body”. The Thai curries are great in a bowl sans rice.  My favorite Thai restaurant (Thai Basil in Denver),  makes a peanut curry dish with chicken or pork and I ask them to add mussels on top.  It is wonderful.  Thai restaurants also offer good salads with fish sauce dressings.  Just skip the rice, even though the servers will think you’re a little odd when you tell them that.
  • Mexican Food: Most Mexican restaurants offer a range of lean proteins and beans.  Again, skip the rice, the burrito shells, and the corn salsas and you will be fine.  Mexican food often offers tomatoes, peppers, guacamole, and lots of spice, which are all great.  Skip the corn and the tamales.
  • Steakhouses and other restaurants: The default strategy is to replace carbs with vegetables and beans.  This is probably the easiest restaurant option for a low-carb lifestyle.
  • Pancake houses: Many of the pancake houses offer egg dishes 24-7.  Omelets, eggs and bacon, etc. are all great for dinner also.  Make sure and skip the toast, hash browns, pancakes, and cheese though!

Tips for Sticking to a Low-Carb Lifestyle when Socializing

  1. Have some tried and true standby places in mind. When friends suggest going out, you can offer these up as suggestions so you aren’t just saying “no” to all of their suggestions.
  2. Another tip along this line is…don’t talk to friends about being on a diet (unless they are also). Just tell them you’re doing a “healthy eating challenge with rules” or that your doctor said you have to decrease your insulin spikes.  It goes over a lot better and they’re less likely to be annoyed or talk you out of it.
  3. Find meals you like and repeat them. Alternate days if it’s too boring.
  4. Stick with wine instead of high-calorie cocktails or beer
  5. If you are in a business situation and don’t want to talk about your substitutions at the table, excuse yourself at a convenient time and talk to the server privately about making substitutions.
  6. If you are going out to eat at a new restaurant, look at the menu online ahead of time and make your plan.

Tip: Eat a small snack before you go out to eat so you are not starving. Bad decisions (like the bread basket) are much easier to fall into when you are starving.

Fast Food Alternatives on Low Carb Lifestyle:

  • Jimmy Johns has very good lettuce wraps – just hold the cheese.
  • Chipotle’s burrito bowl with meat, veggies, pico, beans, and guac is really good and fast.
  • Wendy’s has a triple burger. No bun, no ketchup, no cheese.  They have a secret menu that servers are not always aware of. Ask the manager. Add pickles, mustard, onions, tomato, etc.
  • If you are at Starbucks and ask for real cream for your coffee they bring out a gallon jug and pour off a cup for you!
  • When you’re in a hurry for breakfast and not home, McDonald’s has scrambled eggs and bacon.
  • Red Robin offers all of their burger options as a lettuce wrap with veggies instead of the fries
  • Most fast-food places have some sort of salad – just get the dressing on the side.  Ask if they have hard-boiled eggs to add.

Tips for living the Low Carb Lifestyle While on Vacation or Traveling:

  1. Before any higher-carb meals or before “imbibing” get some citrus in you. A grapefruit or grapefruit juice is the best, but lemon juice from a couple of wedges of lemon in your water works second best.
  2. If at all possible, try and get in a lot of protein in your first meal of the day. Breakfast buffets are great for this because they typically have a lot of eggs and meat.
  3. If you are flying, it’s doubly important to pack your own snacks.  You can absolutely forget getting compliant food on planes these days. On most US flights the only food available once you’re boarded is primarily carbs. If the trip is short, you can just eat before you go, but most of the time you will need to take something with you. It’s safest to bring it from home, but most airports now have meal salads and other selections to take on the plane with you.
  4. Tip: A soft-sided, 12-pack drink cooler can fit in a carry-on bag.  If you are following a low-carb lifestyle fairly strictly, you are going to want to pack something in it to carry on.  It should contain nonperishable low-carb foods such as:
  • Protein bars (but watch for suspicious ingredients such as maltitol, and watch the carb count on the bars)
  • Nuts or nut butters
  • Jerky
  • Snack sausages
  • Protein powder and blender bottle (mix with water)
  • Tuna or smoked oysters in small tins (but beware, your seatmate may not appreciate it!)
  • Small packets of peanut butter
  • Sturdy vegetables like celery will be fine without refrigeration for a day or so
  • Olives, pickels, kimchi
  • Pork cracklings
low carb lifestyle
Olive selection in Mercado in Spain
Slow Carb Snack Option of Pork Cracklins (chicharonnes)
Slow Carb Snack Option of Pork Cracklins (chicharrones)

Online Coaching Available:

I have followed the slow carb diet for 3 years and the keto diet for 2 years now, and I have put my “been there done that” knowledge to work helping people figure it out.  I am currently an online diet coach (info can be found here if you’re interested), and have just hit the 250-client mark.  Come and visit me and see if online coaching might be for you!

If not for diet, there are other coaches on the site that coach anything from writing a blog, to getting up early, to getting rid of that pesky procrastination.  Explore the site while you are there.  There are some wonderful coaches and the testimonials will tell you what you need to know.  Click here to get to my profile and then explore others from there.

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  1. can you recommend a specific protein bar?

    • There really aren’t any protein bars that are recommended for the slow carb diet. The best of any of them is the Quest bar. Better to snack on pepperoni slices, nuts, or chicharrones.

  2. Beth says:

    Good article, Dorothy. I struggle with the eating out with friends problem a lot. Also, I got that smoked tomato beverage/bush bottle. That stuff tastes so good it ought to be illegal!

  3. Cindy Jurgensen says:

    Nice ideas here, love your blog and recipes!

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