Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Rule Eight: Keep it Real

A low-carb dietary approach is easy to maintain almost anywhere you can eat - at home, on the road or in a restaurant. The key is to carefully consider your options available and understand where carbs are most likely to be found in things "allowed" when they're prepared by others. When you're cooking at home, you know what ingredients you're using; on the road or in a restaurant, odds are high that the chef is using ingredients you won't be including in a controlled-carb diet.

Rule 8:
  • Eat out as often as you wish but be on guard for hidden carbs in gravies, sauces and dressings. Gravy is often made with flour or cornstarch, and sugar is sometimes an ingredient in salad dressing.

In an effort to keep it real, rule eight establishes that it's perfectly reasonable to eat out, with a caution to be aware of ingredients used in food preparation. As one more rule, it again repeats an underlying theme within all the rules - take responsibility for what you do eat.

Simply put, do not assume anything in a restaurant is acceptable unless you ask or ingredients are clearly stated on the menu! Where ingredients are not disclosed on a menu, learning how to ask and actually taking the time to ask about ingredients and food preparation is something you'll become accustomed to over time - and in the long-term will be an invaluable asset in your tool-box of strategies to insure you're eating controlled-carb for life!

When you eat out, in addition to the food you get, you're paying for a service - to have your food prepared - so be fully prepared to expect to be served acceptable food for your diet. Start by asking that things be prepared in a way that is acceptable for you or ask for guidance as to what else is acceptable if the chef cannot prepare something without particular ingredients. The basic ingredients, at minimum, you must insist are not included in your meal because of carbohydrate content are sugar, corn starch, arrowroot, potato starch and flour. The standard food ingredients to not be included are bread crumbs, breading, rice, pasta and potatoes, sugar based marinades, high carbohydrate salad dressings, etc.

In addition, you also want to be careful to avoid dishes prepared with shortening, margarine and other fats high in trans-fats. This isn't explicit to the rule above, but given our current knowledge, it's something to avoid when eating out.

If a restaurant is having a difficult time accomodating you, choose a simple salad wth oil and vinegar for your dressing, have a basic protein grilled (no marinade) baked or broiled, and some steamed vegetables.

In all the years I've restricted carbohydrate in my diet, I've never been unable to find something on a menu that's acceptable. Sometimes it means being a bit creative, but as long as a restaurant has basic foods, you can find something to eat as a meal while you're there.


  1. For me, these last two rules are the most critical for long term success. It's unrealistic to think that you will never eat out (or away from home). Taking responsibility for what we choose to eat is a big deal because if not me, then who?

  2. Anonymous1:35 PM

    Hey Bevis, she said "eating out"...huhhh, huhh, huhh....

  3. Obviously you eat at much nicer restaurants than I do if you can actually request that your food be prepared in a certain way. ;)

    A few months ago, I ordered some steamed broccoli in a national steak house chain restaurant. That broccoli was sooooo sweet that I feel certain it must have been soaked in sugar... unless of course the broccoli was some kind of genetically modified mutant with a special sweetness gene added to it. Either way, I ended up having a blood sugar crash reaction to it.

    And that was one of the "nicer" restaurants I've eaten at in the last couple of years... Not much you can do about the places that dig into a vat of pre-cooked chicken (cooked in who-knows-what) to put on your Chicken Caesar Salad (hold the croutons, please. Please? Oh alright, I'll pick them off and shove them to the side, like I usually do. *sigh*), and hand you a packet of pre-made salad dressing that may or may not have several different types of sugar in it, even though Caesar dressing is generally one of the "safer" ones.

    For that matter, I remember years and years ago using oil and vinegar on a salad bar salad, thinking it would be safe because the one bottle was marked "oil" and the other was marked "vinegar", but that vinegar obviously had sugar added to it - sweetest vinegar I'd ever tasted. So I don't trust that either.

    This rule isn't so hard to follow at nicer restaurants, where your meal really is prepared to your specifications, but at the pedestrian places I frequent? Quite frankly, I'd rather not even eat out any more, but occasionally I'm forced to, like when I'm forced to travel for a couple of days.

  4. It is much easier at nicer restarants. I even had a waiter get me a bowl of blueberries with whipped cream for desert one time!!

    Mainly I stick with salads...and so far I've only once had dressing that I thought was ok turn out to be loaded with sugar.

    I did go to one place that I thought there would be nothing for me....but my friend suggested we leave before we got to order. I was one of those "mexican" know, burritos, etc. Well about all I could have on the menu was dry lettuce with some meat. The only "dressing" they had was salsa!! Oil and vinegar wasn't even an option....although I detest oil and vinegar!

  5. An easy way around this is to say you're allergic to grains (I'm celiac but often say allergy bc people underatand what that means), or claim diabetic status if it's sugary ingredients you're wary of. And be sure to reward your server for any extra effort - checking ingredients with the chef, bringing bottled stuff to the table so you can read the label, etc.