The Keto Diet is arguably the most popular diet in the United States. Celebrities, fitness gurus and food enthusiast have lost hundreds of pounds on the diet that focuses on eating sizeable amounts of fats and moderate protein while ditching excessive carbs, sugar and starches. To be successful, those who love stuffing their faces with loads of carb-heavy tortilla chips, french fries, and sweets will have to make huge changes if they hope to shift their body into ketosis.
The reality is the Keto Diet is the latest and greatest diet fad on the market and thousands of Austinites are looking for a strategy that allows them to enjoy a low-carb way of eating without missing out on their favorite dining spots. Fortunately, most restaurants in Austin will easily accommodate a keto friendly menu as long as you plan ahead properly and know the rules of your macros.
If you want to dine-out successfully without sabotaging your diet, there’s a few simple rules to follow. Avoid starch, sugar and get creative wherever possible. There’s hidden sugars and carbs in many dishes and you’ll do more harm to your diet than you think if you’re not careful in your selections. If you’re planning an outing with friends and family, most restaurants will have a menu available online so it’s best to have a list of restaurants in your black book that you can easily refer to when the time comes. To help you navigate the keto-friendly streets of Austin and avoid the pitfalls, we’ve developed a guide of our favorite spots.
ALSO SEE: 15 Healthy Restaurants in Austin
Austin BBQ Joints
If you’re a meat eater, barbecue is probably one of the easiest ways to maintain your efforts on the Keto diet. Just about every barbecue joint in town will be a great option as long as you order fatty meats like fatty cuts of brisket, sausage, beef ribs and pulled pork. Keep in mind, your protein intake should be kept in moderation, so instead of ordering several pounds of meat, be sure to order a sufficient amount of pickles, onions and a side salad if there’s any available.
Stay away from potato salad, beans, desserts, tortillas and any slices of bread offered. Most of the classic side items are usually loaded with carbs and sugar, which is a big no-no for keto. You’ll also want to be very careful with BBQ sauce as they’re usually made with way too much sugar with the exception of a few vinegar based sauces like you’ll find at some popular restaurants and BBQ food trucks in Austin.
If you’re a Chi’lantro loyalist like me, the first thing you probably think of is their famous Kimchi Fries, Noodle Bowls and Tacos – none of which are allowed on the Keto diet. Do not despair, you can still enjoy the fresh goodness of Chi’lantro as long as you skip carby dishes and hidden sugary sauces like those covered on the chicken wings. Go for the Salad Bowl filled with your choice of meat, lots of veggies, guacamole, a fried egg and kimchi which is loaded with all the macros required in the diet. You’ll walk away happy with a full keto belly instead of a gluten belly.
Asian Restaurants in Austin
Maintaining a Keto plan can be both very easy and very difficult at Asian restaurants if you’re not mindful of the ingredients. With options from Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, Thai and Japanese, there are literally dozens of options to choose from in Austin. Stay away from rice, battered dishes and sweet sauces and order dishes made with brown sauce and stir frys made with low carb veggies and meat. Korean BBQ is a wonderful option because it’s mostly meat and veggies, but watch out for Japanese sushi rolls and Ramen since rice and noodles are not allowed. One of my favorites is Crispy Duck with lettuce wraps or sautéed green beans and cabbage.
Austin Taco Joints
Just about any taco joint or food truck in town can qualify as Keto-friendly as long as you avoid the tortillas. Many will argue that the tortilla is arguably the best part of any well made taco, but since it’s not allowed in a ketogenic lifestyle, you’ll have to grab a fork and eat the fillings from the inside only. Don’t be afraid to ask for extra veggies and avocados to bulk up on the fillings. If you really can’t help yourself from eating tortillas, just take one small bite of the taco as it was made, just for tasting and use some good old fashioned willpower to resist eating the entire thing. For a solid pro move, ask the taco maker to make your order without the tortillas. They might look at your strange, but it’s better than letting a tortilla go to waste.
Austin Mexican Restaurants
Austin has an abundance of Mexican and Tex-Mex restaurants. Depending on how fancy you prefer to dine, you can keto-your-way through just about any Mexican restaurant in Austin as long as you pass on the beans, rice and tortillas. Order a burrito bowl and load up on the chicken, barbacoa and steak with lettuce, guacamole, cheese and sour cream. If you’re in a restaurant with more of an expensive, interior-style menu, go for fajitas, carne asada, seafood or creative dish option that offers a few low carb tweaks.
High Note is a concept designed by the owners of Kerbey Lane, focused on serving a fresh and healthier menu made with real ingredients that will leave feeling good about what you eat. The menu is filled with healthy items that easily cater to most diets, which can easily be designed to a ketogenic lifestyle with a custom order during breakfast, lunch and dinner. You’ll also find Butter Coffee made with MCT oil and ghee, which is perfect for keto dieters on a meal replacement plan.
OUR PICKS: Pozole Daily Bone Broth with roasted pork loin; Chicken Bone Broth; Chop Salad
Ordering pizza while maintaining a keto diet can be very picky. Obviously you’ll have to avoid the doughy crust at all costs, even if it’s gluten free. You’ll want to focus your efforts on eating the toppings instead. Some restaurants may offer a crustless pizza and cauliflower pizza crust, but be careful because some of them are still loaded with a net carb count higher than your daily macros will allow. Get friendly with a knife and fork because you’ll spend most of your pizza eating days picking your toppings off, which is still the best part especially if you love cheese, so consider ordering extra toppings and a side salad so you won’t leave feeling empty inside.
Three words – Lettuce Wrap burgers! If you love burgers you’ll thrive on the Keto diet at Hopdoddy, as long as you skip the bun. Hopdoddy offers over a dozen different burgers on their menu and you can order each one of them as a lettuce wrap loaded with most of your favorite keto-friendly toppings like a fried egg, bacon, avocado and jalapenos. You’ll hit all of your macros with one burger, as long as you skip the fries and those deceptively delicious shakes. Good luck with that!
Fast Food in Austin
Eating fast food is known as “Dirty Keto” because there’s usually zero-nutritional value in just about anything your order due to the relatively low cost ingredients. Fast food keto is surprisingly easy as long as you’re on your best behavior when you stroll through the drive thru. Obviously that means no french fries, onion rings or ice cream. P. Terry’s is well known for offering a lettuce wrapped burger which comes through in a pinch when you’re starving after a late night downtown. Order double meat patties, bacon, cheese, jalapenos, mayo and mustard, but avoid ketchup at all costs since it’s loaded with enough sugar to keep a toddler awake all night. When visiting a fried chicken joint try to order grilled chicken with a side of green beans or creamed spinach where available. If grilled chicken isn’t available you’ll have a hell of a time picking off the battered skin. It would be easier for you to order naked wings from your favorite wing joint with a side of ranch or blue cheese.