If missing out on parties, gatherings, and outings just because you’re on the keto diet, isn’t an option for you, there are ways you can successfully navigate these social situations and eat and drink with other partygoers.
“Our culture is largely centered around food — think happy hours, holidays, family gatherings, and parties. The key is figuring out a realistic way to stay keto and be able to enjoy yourself, no matter the situation,” Karissa Long, author of Clean Keto Lifestyle (CKL), told Healthline.
But how can you realistically do that? Below are a few tips for sticking to your ketogenic diet in different settings.
If you don’t announce your diet, no one will notice your drink of choice, says JJ Virgin, celebrity nutrition expert and author of The Virgin Diet.
“Opt for sparkling water in a wine glass and add a little tequila if you want to put the happy into the hour,” Virgin told Healthline.
If wine is your drink of choice, she suggests sticking to high-quality biodynamic, organic wine.
“Dry Farm Wines is my go-to source of reliable, low-sugar impact wine that won’t kick you out of ketosis,” Virgin said.
Long suggests other low-carb wine and clear liquors, including:
- dry red wines, which contain 3 to 5 grams of carbs per 5-ounce glass, such as cabernet sauvignon, merlot, or pinot noir
- dry white wines, which contain 3 to 5 grams of carbs per 5-ounce glass, such as Champagne, chardonnay, pinot grigio, or sauvignon blanc
- clear liquors, which contain zero carbs, such as gin, vodka, and tequila.
Long recommends staying away from the following drinks during happy hour:
- tonic water because it is full of sugar
- mixed drinks and premade frozen drinks since they most likely contain sugar
- beers that contains gluten, which can be inflammatory, and are higher in carbs
If bringing your lunchbox to a special work outing isn’t an option, don’t fret. There are ways to fit in keto style.
Long says start by researching the restaurant’s menu online before going there so you have an idea of what to choose or can call ahead to ask questions about a specific dish.
“If no entrees on the menu seem to work, get creative and build a meal with apps or sides,” Long said.
And if something is marked as gluten-free, ask if that means it’s also keto-friendly.
“Be a food detective and ask if there are any added sugars or grain,” said Long.
Once you’re at the restaurant, Virgin says consider a salad.
“But it’s important to steer clear of the ‘sundae’ toppings that are loaded with hidden sugars. These include sugary dressings, croutons, and dried fruit,” she said.
Here are some of Long’s other tips for in-the-moment decision making:
- Base your meals around a protein, such as eggs, steak, or salmon.
- Add in healthy fats and veggies to round out your meal.
- Keep starches and grains off your plate and replace them with a salad or extra veggies.
- Substitute lettuce wraps for the bun, if ordering a sandwich or burger.
- Stay away from sauces and condiments, such as ketchup, salad dressing, cocktail sauce, BBQ sauce, honey mustard, gravy, and marinara because they may contain sugar and/or flour.
- Consider keto-friendly mustard, salsa, guacamole, mayonnaise, bearnaise, and hollandaise.
If your work lunch happens to be in the conference room and a sandwich platter is the provided meal, Virgin says, “Just pull off the bread for a keto-friendly meal.”
When you receive an invite to a party, Virgin says reach out to the host before attending.
“Start by letting the host know you’re on a health plan and have specific dietary needs. If they can accommodate, great! If not, eat a healthy meal before going out or offer to bring a dish to share,” she said.
Long agrees, and offers the following tips for approaching the host, if you don’t know how to get the conversation going:
- Let the host know that a ketogenic diet means you’re not eating grains or sugars.
- If you don’t want to tell them you’re on a diet, tell them you have stomach issues and need to avoid grains and sugars.
- Offer to bring a keto-friendly dish to share with everyone at the party.
- Feel confident in saying, “No thank you,” and don’t feel the need to make excuses for why you are not eating something.
- Don’t feel pressure to eat something you don’t want to just to please the host or avoid embarrassment.
- Have fun and don’t stress.
“Remember this is one meal, if you don’t eat 100 percent keto, it’s okay,” Long said. “You can always get back on track with the next meal.”
And no matter what social gathering you’re about to embark on, Virgin says give yourself peace of mind by bringing along emergency food you can turn to. Easy on-the-go options include olives, keto-friendly bars, or raw nuts that are low in carbs such as macadamia nuts or pecans.
“That way, you’ll have healthy fuel to sustain you in case your stomach starts growling (especially during those all-day events), and you’ll be less likely to fall prey to cravings or temptation,” said Virgin.
Cathy Cassata is a freelance writer who specializes in stories about health, mental health, and human behavior. She has a knack for writing with emotion and connecting with readers in an insightful and engaging way. Read more of her work here.