A dietitian’s guide to eating out on a low carb diet

A dietitian’s guide to eating out on a low carb diet

If you’re trying to lose weight, chances are you’re cutting back on carbs. Bread, pasta and potatoes are all off the menu, and hey – you’ve probably already lost some weight. But is this restriction actually necessary? Well, no, not in my opinion…

You might be surprised to learn that there’s exactly the same amount of energy in one gram of carbohydrate as there is in one gram of protein – so carbs are not innately fattening. Mind blowing, I know.

The reason that people lose weight quickly when cutting out carbs is that carbohydrates are stored in your body with water. So, stop eating carbs and your body quickly uses up the stored carbohydrate, which also removes all of that water, which translates to a lighter reading on the scales.

But as you can see, you’re not actually losing the fat mass that you’re probably trying to. That takes a long-term energy deficit, and it doesn’t happen overnight.

In case you aren’t aware, carbs are found in lots of different foods. Anything grain-based along with starchy veg, fruit and dairy all contain carbs and they offer valuable nutrition.

But, carbohydrates are also rich in highly refined foods like pastries, biscuits, cakes and soft drinks – and this is where the problem arises.

The carbohydrates found in such ‘treat’ foods have a high glycaemic index. That means they’re broken down quickly and spike your blood sugar, which doesn’t leave you feeling very satisfied, so you’re likely to reach for more. Not to mention, these foods also pack a lot of energy thanks to their added sugar and fat content, which can lead to weight gain over time when consumed in excess.

Of course, I don’t have a problem with people cutting out highly refined, processed carbohydrates that offer little nutritional benefit.

I also don’t have a problem if people eat far too much carbohydrate in general and are trying to cut down to balance out their intake a little better with protein and fat.

But, please know that cutting carbs completely is just not necessary for good health. In fact, I think it’s quite the opposite.

Nonetheless, if you are trying to cut back on carbs for any reason, eating out can be a little tricky.

My top tip for any healthy eating plan is to focus on veggies – and by doing so, you’re already going to par back your carbohydrate intake (refined or otherwise). I’d recommend aiming for half a plate of veggies at each main meal, with a small portion of protein to keep you feeling full. So, to give you a helping hand, here are some of my top choices for eating out that are easy on carbs (particularly the refined type):

· Grilled fish and a garden salad

· BBQ’d chicken (no stuffing) and non-starchy veggies like broccoli and cauliflower

· Thai stir fry with seafood and extra vegetables

· San choy bau with extra vegetables on the side

· Grilled beef burger without the bun and extra salad

· Vegetable frittata with extra salad on the side

And there you have it! My go-to recommendations for eating out when you’re carb-conscious.

Melissa Meier is an online and Sydney-based Accredited Practising Dietitian. You can connect with her at www.honestnutrition.com.au or on Instagram @honest_nutrition.