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What to Order at Different Restaurants

April 9, 2020

What to Order at Different Restaurants

How to Navigate & What To Order in Cafeterias

If you’re ordering in and/ or supporting local businesses right now, you can absolutely still make good choices.

Here are some of my general, and more specific recommendations!

What to Order at Different Restaurants When You’re Eating Low Carb:

General Recommendations

  • Foods we order in are typically higher calorie than meals we make at home – so if possible, try to not order a starchy food at this meal to make room for those extra calories

  • I always recommend following #thatformula – 2 cups of veggies + 100-200 calories of fats + 4-5 oz of proteins. But, food prepared by a restaurant typically has extra oil or butter cooked into it – therefore, you don’t need to worry so much about the fat component – focus on choosing meals high in veggies and protein!

  • There are no rules! If there’s not an entree on the menu you want, can you order multiple side dishes instead? Also, restaurants are used to getting requests from customers – do NOT feel bad for asking for alterations!

Pro Tip: Think About Your Day & Plan Ahead

If you’re following along with me and sticking with 1 starch and 1 fruit per day, think about what type of meal you’d like this to be, in relation to the other meals and snacks of your day.

For example: If you know you’re going to order pizza or pasta tonight, can you stick with a meal of protein, vegetable, and fat for lunch?

What to Order: Breakfast

When possible, stick with low-sugar options like:

  • 2 hard boiled eggs + side of guacamole + 1 cup chopped fruit

  • An omelet with cheese, broccoli (or other non-starchy vegetables) and a side of fruit instead of potatoes

  • 2 fried eggs with cheese + 3 pieces of bacon + side of fruit

  • 1/2 whole wheat bagel toasted with 2 Tbsp peanut butter

What to Order: Salads

Here’s my go-to formula for lunch & dinners:

  • 2 cups non-starchy vegetables (about 50 calories)

  • 1 “regular” serving of protein (about 120 calories) – e.g. 1 chicken breast, 1 can of tuna

  • 100-200 calories of fats – e.g. nuts, cheese, avocado, olives, bacon, etc.

Before we move on:

1 note about veggies in salads. I will say that 2 cups of greens = 1 cup of veggies because there’s so much air in there. Therefore, for salads, it’s really 3 cups of veggies, because you have the 2 cups of greens, and then you have 1 cup of additional vegetables.

For the base of a salad, choose 2 cups of any green you like – mixed greens, romaine, butter lettuce, arugula, etc. Change it up week to week so you get a variety of benefits, but other than that, choose what you like!

Now, add 1 more cup of non-starchy veggies. The good news is that for many veggies, just choose 1 veggie and chop it up – that’s about a cup! No more “half a tomato here, half a bell pepper there”. Come on, who has time for that??

Now for the protein! Here are some easy options:

  • 2 hard boiled eggs, cut in halves or quarters

  • 1 grilled or baked chicken breast

  • 4oz grilled or baked steak

  • 1 tofu “steak”

  • 1 4oz grilled or baked salmon filet (or other fish)

  • 4oz ground, stir-fried beef or turkey

And now for adding delicious fats!

  • 1/8-1/4 cup nuts

  • 1/3 cup shredded cheese (like cheddar, mozzarella, etc.)

  • 1/3 cup cheese crumbles (like blue cheese, feta, etc.)

  • 1 single-serving packet guacamole

  • 1/2 avocado

  • 1/3 cup bacon bits (or about 3 bacon strips)

A note on salad dressings:

I recommend sticking with 1 Tbsp of regular salad dressing (any type – oil or creamy), or 2 Tbsp of light dressing like fat free Italian. I love the taste of dressings, but they’re often not worth the calories.

What to Order: Soups

I recommend choosing a soup that’s low carb. The types of soups that I like therefore don’t have pasta or rice in them, and are typically more filling and satisfying. Here are some good examples:

  • Chicken & vegetable, broth-based soup

  • Broccoli cheddar

  • Cream of mushroom

  • French onion soup

What to Order: Grills

I actually find the grill to be one of the easiest places to make a good choice!

  • Get a grilled chicken breast & a side of fajita vegetables if available

  • Order a burger topped with melted cheese and lettuce and tomatoes on the side

  • Need a side? Try sweet potato fries or grilled vegetables – typically the grill
    has vegetables they’ve grilled such as fajita vegetables

  • Ask for a lettuce wrap – many places have these now!

  • Get lots o’ yummy toppings like bacon, cheese, lettuce, tomato, avocado, and sprouts.

  • Choose regular or spicy mustard instead of ketchup

  • If you are really hungry, get more than one patty!

  • If ordering fast food – try to get meat & poultry chicken, not fried, if possible – the fried has a lot of batter

  • A lot of fast food grill-type restaurants offer salads now – they can be a good option!

  • Many places now too have great sides – like green beans, broccoli, or Brussels sprouts

  • For sauces, try sticking with hot sauces, salsas, and (not honey) mustards

What to Order: Sandwiches

Make an open-faced sandwich with one piece of toasted, whole grain bread. Here are some ideas!

  • Tuna salad with tomatoes and melted cheese

  • Turkey slices + 1/2 avocado + tomato

  • Ruben: Roast beef + sauerkraut

What to Order: Asian Cuisines

  • Try to not choose something that’s battered – a lot of extra refined carbs there

  • Order a veggie & protein dish made with brown sauce

  • If you’re ok with going without the rice or any kind of bread or cracker, I’d skip it! Ask for it to NOT be included in your order

  • Get a side of sautéed veggies like green beans or cabbage – you can also use this as an extra volume base instead of rice!

  • Lettuce wraps are sometimes available

  • When ordering sushi, get 1 or 2 rolls with rice, and order the rest as sashimi or “naruto” (wrapped in cucumber!)

What to Order: Indian

  • Choose protein & veggie options like kebabs, curries, tikka masala, or butter chicken

  • Ask for you meal to NOT come with rice, potatoes, or naan if that’s alright with you

  • Want a side? Try raita (a yogurt dip) and ask for veggies to dip (like carrots, cucumbers)

What to Order: Mexican

  • Order a burrito bowl instead of a burrito or tacos – load up on proteins & veggies like carnitas, steak, chicken, shrimp, and fajita vegetables. I often as for extra fajita veggies and they’ll usually give them to you for no extra charge!

  • When getting a bowl, have lettuce as your base, or ask for 1/2 the amount of rice if you want rice

  • No bowls? No problem 🙂 Unwrap your burrito and eat it with a fork!

  • For toppings, stick with guac, sour cream and/or salsa – ask for extra salsa!

  • Fajitas are another great protein & veggie option – ask for lettuce wraps instead of tortillas, or have 1-2 tortillas, and eat the rest of the filling as is!


Make a complete plate with:

  • Protein: 4oz pulled pork, 1 chicken breast, 4oz beef brisket

  • Veggies: 2 cups (typically scoops!) of collard greens, spinach salad, roasted broccoli, etc.

  • If a starchy side like mac & cheese looks very appetizing, ask for half a scoop

In terms of fats from my formula, fats are typically cooked into meals that are already prepared (like butter, oils), so you don’t generally need to worry about adding them in.

What to Order: Italian

  • Get a personal pizza (or 1 or 2 slices if your location allows it) but have it for 2+ meals –

  • Also order a side salad with protein (like chicken) or meatballs as a filling, protein side

  • You could also order the meatballs and side salad together as a complete meal!

  • Some restaurants serve cauliflower crust pizzas now – how cool!

  • If possible, choose a thin crust pizza over thicker crusts


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What to Order at Different Restaurants

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