When I first started LCHF, one of my primary concerns was eating out. There would clearly have to be some changes, but exactly what kind and what, if anything, would the impact on my social life be?
One of the first rules of LCHF is to only eat when you are hungry. Actually, eating when you are not hungry doesn’t really matter, SO LONG AS you stick to your daily carb limit and remain ketogenic. Remember, you can’t gain wait by eating fat! All that will happen is that you will simply feel full (even fuller but NOT bloated), and will be able to keep going for even longer before you feel hungry again. Hence, in general when eating out, try to go for the high-fat, lo-carb options whenever available. Clearly there will be times when this is not an option and you will have to make some compromises..
These are probably the most difficult & challenging of social situations for the LCHF practitioner, for several reasons:
- You don’t want to offend your host by stipulating long lists of things you can/ cannot eat beforehand.
- Since it’s usually an evening event, you will probably be hungry anyway, and so you will want/ be ready to eat.
- Being fully ketogenic, you have the “physiological choice” of not eating at all i.e. burning your own “onboard” fat without having a major blood sugar crash. However, turning up at a dinner party and not eating kind of defeats the point, and also runs the risk of insulting your host!
- Sitting around a dinner table is a relatively intimate affair and so it’s difficult to “hide” what you are eating and avoid any unnecessary attention, unlike during buffet-style events, see below.
I have found that with a little bit of thought these so-called “problems” are easily overcome, such that nowadays I don’t really have to think about it any more. In general, this is how I proceed:
- Find out beforehand what your host is intending to serve for the dinner party. Be honest and up-front and tell them that you are LCHF. Most people are more than happy to accommodate and can easily do so by leaving out the carbs just for your serving. This means that they don’t really have to make any special arrangements, since all they are doing is leaving something out rather than adding something unusual or “special” just for you. I’ve found that friends who already know that I’m LCHF tend to be very accommodating, even going to the lengths of preparing “something special” just for me!
- If necessary, eat at home beforehand. That way you will guarantee to be fully-satiated, especially after you’ve eaten at the dinner party where your portions may be smaller/ low fat due to the carbs being left out, as per above.
- Desserts: you can skip altogether if necessary. Again, this is no problem for the host. Being “understanding friends”, they should not take unnecessary offence!
- If eating out is a rarity rather than a rule, then you could just eat whatever is presented regardless, without saying anything or revealing to anyone that you are LCHF. So long as you are strict LCHF for most of the rest of the time, the occasional “carb blow-out” should do you no harm at all in the long term.
- Alcohol: same as the above point but try to make your drinks last longer than you would otherwise, hence reducing the overall amount consumed. Treat alcohol as a special treat, to be savoured rather than abused through binge drinking, which will almost certainly knock you out of ketosis regardless of any other negative health implications.
These are becoming easier all the time with ever-increasing “alternatives” to the main menu items e.g. vegan, non-dairy and even lo-carb itself. As per dinner parties, if the menu does not have anything specifically lo-carb then just take a “high-carb” option and ask them to leave out the carbs, or swap for e.g. a salad.
My favourite restaurants that lend themselves well to LCHF:
- Mexican: ribs, burgers without the bap with salad substituted for the fries, open tortilla without the tortilla itself (since this is always on the bottom, you can just leave it uneaten if they can’t leave it out)
- Turkish kebab-style: Go for the meat with salad option
- Italian: We have a local restaurant that does home made Italian-style sausages with salad. Ask for a side-order of mayonnaise as well. Ideal!
- Steak & Fish Restaurants: Lend themselves very well to LCHF but tend to be very low in fat so you might still be hungry when you get home! Again, ask for a side-order of mayo, just to boost your fat intake and “fill you up”.
A lot of big family events such as weddings, christenings, anniversaries and even funerals tend to be this kind of event these days and are the easiest of all to deal with in my opinion. The trick here is to be completely satiated before you go. Since they are usually afternoon/ evening events, they are very easy to deal with; have lunch/ dinner at home before you leave! This way, eating at the event itself becomes an option and not a must, depending on what kind of food is available. Being “celebratory” buffets, they tend to be very high-carb affairs i.e. wedding and anniversary cakes, sweet & savoury snacks, soft & alcoholic drinks, etc. However, buffets tend to be less intimate affairs compared to the dinner party environment, and so you can afford to be VERY selective, since now no one is really watching or monitoring what you are eating. If nothing takes your fancy, you can even choose not to eat at all, safe in the knowledge that this will draw minimum attention both from guests and the host! What I tend to do is go into “graze” mode: I’ll start off with some safe savoury options such as sausages, cold meats and fish, salads, etc., leaving plenty of room for even a small slice of wedding cake, still well within daily carb allowances. Hunger won’t be a problem because you’ve already had a full-fat meal at home and no one will be offended by your eating habits, leaving everyone to fully enjoy the occasion!
These are the LCHF practitioner’s dream come true; plenty of meat and fat to go round! I tend to avoid the heavily marinaded stuff or restrict to just a small amount, since the marinades themselves tend to have a very high sugar content. I would typically start with say a small marinaded steak and then move on to sausages and burgers which are guaranteed to fill you up nicely. Serve with salads and olive oil-based mayo. Avoid mayo made from vegetable oils, especially rape seed oil, wherever possible, due to their highly inflammatory effects. For drinks I tend to stick with iced water with a dash of fresh lemon and lime, nice and refreshing for those warm summer BBQs!