9 tips for eating healthy while dining out

9 tips for eating healthy while dining out

Dr. Tony Hampton, family medicine physician with Advocate Medical Group in Chicago, offers the following tips for dining out on a low-carb, high-fat diet:

1) The art of replacement: Replace high-starch sides with low-starch sides. Most restaurants give you multiple vegetable options. The meal in the photo above came with potatoes. I just switched them for brussel sprouts, which were browned, halved and cooked in a pan with coconut oil, onions, salt and pepper. Try this at home – it was delicious! Simply say no to starchy sides like rice, corn, potatoes, sweet peas, pasta, acorn or butternut squash, beets and plantains.

2) Low-carb appetizers: Shrimp cocktail, shrimp wrapped in bacon or a cheese plate can start your meal off right.

3) Avoid the bread: This meal came with cornbread, which we simply avoided completely. This may be the hardest part about going low-carb, but sacrificing the bread will allow you to avoid 25-30 carbs on the typical bread side. Keep in mind: most people will have more than one piece, doubling that the carb total to 50.

4) Eat a salad: Either as a side to replace a starchy vegetable or before the main entree comes, salads help fill you up while adding the leafy greens you’ll need to stay healthy. When I travel and need to eat at McDonald’s, I will order a bun-less burger with a side salad. Make sure to use dressings which are fatty based in olive oil, if possible. I sometimes keep olive oil with me to avoid cheaper restaurant oils, which are not always as healthy.

5) Lettuce wrap your sandwich: Many subway restaurants will lettuce wrap your sandwiches or tacos, even when it’s not mentioned on the menu. By doing this, you eliminate the biggest source of carbs (bread).

6) Request a side of liquid butter: One of the keys to eating low-carb, high-fat is finding ways to add fat to your diet. A simple solution is to add butter, which you can then put on your meat or veggies. Butter adds flavor, especially if your vegetables were steamed. Butter may be the missing ingredient.

7) Condiments: Ketchup usually contains added fructose, so consider mustard instead.

8) Drinks: Choose water, sparkling water, tea, or coffee without adding sugar. When it comes to alcohol, there are many low-carb options. Just search Google for low-carb alcohol. The many options may surprise you. Many wines, in spite of the fact that they are made with grapes, can be low-carb. Many beers have low-carb options, as well (Michelob Ultra Light has 2.6 carbs).

9) Pass on the dessert: By the time you eat the typical meal, you probably won’t be hungry anyway. If you insist, share with the table to minimize the impact. We sometimes order berries with cream to fulfill our appetite for dessert.

Dr. Tony Hampton, MD, MBA, CPE is Advocate Operating System Medical Director at Advocate Health Care. He currently works for Advocate Medical Group (AMG) as a family medicine physician, medical director, chair of AMG’s Health Outcomes Committee, and Vice Chair of the Governing Council. 

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  1. While I feel this concept, in and of itself, is good, this photo of this meal appears to have every item drenched in oil. Yikes!

    • Dr. Tony Hampton
      Dr. Tony Hampton October 16, 2017 at 9:45 am · Reply


      For 40 years, we have avoided oils due to Ancel Keys, who suggested that saturated fat causes heart disease. We now know this is not true. Here is a list of the fats to consume or avoid, depending on whether used for hot or cold purposes: Saturated oils for hot purposes include coconut, palm, MCT, butter and animal fats. Unsaturated oils for cold uses include olive oil, nuts oils and flaxseed oil. Avoid man-made saturated fats like margarine and hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils. Avoid unsaturated oils that are highly processed, which are oxidized easily with heat like canola oil, corn oil vegetable oil, etc. Check out this video to learn more: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yJSoYUa73jw&t=2417s

  2. Restaurants use way more than enough butter and oil in the preparation process. The last thing I would ask for when trying to be healthy is more butter.

  3. Are you kidding me? You’re telling people to avoid beets, squash, corn, and peas but to glutton out on bacon-wrapped shrimp, McDonald’s hamburgers, and butter-laden vegetables? No wonder the U.S. has an obesity epidemic. Why don’t you just throw in some nice fatty pork rinds while you’re at it.

    • Dr. Tony Hampton
      Dr. Tony Hampton October 16, 2017 at 10:11 am · Reply


      Many of my patients are surprised when I tell then to snack on pork skins, which is a zero-carb snack. I attended the American College of Obesity Medicine conference in Chicago last year. During this conference, the question of snacking was raised, and snacks like cheese sticks, pickles and pork skins made the top of the recommended snacks. Reversing the old beliefs about fat will take some time. The macronutrient that we should be cutting back on is carbohydrates. The good news is although I suggested avoiding certain ones like corn, the real key is to make sure carbohydrate consumption is not too high. This gives us some room to enjoy starchier vegetables periodically depending on your goals and medical condition.

  4. Dr. Hampton,

    I am very happy that I came across this article in my online researching. It is refreshing to see doctors informing themselves with recent studies rather than sticking with decades old information. I have currently made a switch to a keto lifestyle to combat high cholesterol (LDL) and live a healthier lifestyle which I assume you also tell your patients to do. As you mention,
    There are new studies that prove that saturated fat does not cause heart disease. Carbohydrates and sugars are the culprit! I understand through my research that this lifestyle could initially spike your LDL but can then level off and decrease after your body adjusts. And even though LDL may increase, the particle size of LDL is what matters (larger, puffy LDL which is good) along with your HDL and triglyceride numbers. Are you familiar with this as well?

    I applaud you for trying to bring this to light and you will be part of the doctors changing patients lives!

About the Author

Dr. Tony Hampton
Dr. Tony Hampton

Dr. Tony Hampton, MD, MBA, CPE is Advocate Operating System Medical Director at Advocate Health Care. He currently works for Advocate Medical Group (AMG) as a family medicine physician, medical director, chair of AMG’s Health Outcomes Committee, and Vice Chair of the Governing Council. He is the father of two young men one who recently started college. He has been happily married since 1993.