How to Create a Keto-Friendly Restaurant Menu

How to Create a Keto-Friendly Restaurant Menu

The keto diet. Have you heard of it? If you haven’t by now, you might be living under a rock. This low-carb, high fat diet is literally the biggest trend since the rebirth of cauliflower into, well, everything. Oh, speaking of cauliflower — it’s keto-friendly too. So what do you need to know about this new dietary trend that’s sweeping the country in avalanche-style fashion? We’ve got you covered with all the latest information to get you up to speed and help you create a keto-friendly restaurant menu quicker than you can say “net carb”. Don’t worry, we’ll explain that too.

Breaking Down the Ketogenic Diet

Let’s begin with the basics. The keto-diet is actually nothing new. It was first developed 100 years ago in the 1920’s and has been used to treat everything from epilepsy to autoimmune diseases. It’s emergence as a weight-loss option is what’s a little fresher on the horizon.

High-fat, low-carb options on the keto-diet go beyond salads. Almost every menu item, with the right swaps, has the potential to be keto-friendly.

The ketogenic diet is a high-fat, low-carb diet that causes the body to switch it’s primary source of fuel from glucose (derived from carbohydrates) into fat through a process called ketosis. Ketosis is a natural process that occurs when the body receives less than 50g of carbohydrates for a period of 3 days or longer. The body then knows to begin using it’s back-up fuel for primary fuel. Can you guess what that might be? Fat! Hence the keto diet’s re-emergence as a weight-loss fad. Once the body has switched into ketosis, the individual observing this lifestyle must continue to feed the body what has now become it’s primary energy source, which is the reason for the high-fat/low-carb combo. If the carbohydrate intake becomes too great, the body will naturally flip back to utilizing carbohydrates for energy and the body will no longer be in ketosis.

More Than a Weight-Loss Fad

You would think after the rise and fall of a similar diet, the Atkin’s diet, new version of the bun-less cheeseburger phenomenon would fade out like it’s predecessor. But unlike it’s overly-high-in-protein relative, the ketogenic diet’s science is sound, the ratios are researched and the body’s use of fat for fuel is necessary in the case that carbohydrates are not consumed regularly.

Although significant, the benefits of observing a ketogenic diet go far beyond weight-loss. Creating a keto-friendly restaurant menu helps you reap all the benefits of this hot trend.

But besides the weight-loss benefits of this fat-forward lifestyle, there are many functional benefits to observing this diet — especially in the cases of chronic disease and other disorders that do not gel well with a high carb diet (that we as Americans have become accustomed to per the USDA’s daily recommended intakes for health.

Who Should Be Observing a Keto-Friendly Diet?

By this time, it’s no secret that the food industry has heard the consumer’s cry for functional foods that improve their health. Everyday it seems that another manufacturer surfaces with a new spin on an old favorite. Meat is receiving an over-haul as the population moves into a flexitarian lifestyle — more veggies, less meat, and more whole health-improving foods. The premise for the keto-diet is no different. When done correctly, the sources for the high-fat portion of this lifestyle should consist of healthy fats that come from avocados, olive oil, nut butters, and other monounsaturated fatty acids that improve heart health, regulate blood sugar, decrease inflammation and improve brain functionality.

Keto is not limited to a simple weight loss fad. Those suffering from chronic disease can benefit from the anti-inflammatory and blood sugar regulating properties of the ketogenic diet.

The functional portion of this low-carb diet is what gives this dietary regimen it’s promotion out of “crash diet” status and onto a whole other level entirely.

Without going too deeply into the benefits, the anti-inflammatory and blood sugar regulating properties of this lifestyle alone have long been hailed for it’s ability to improve the quality of life for those suffering from chronic diseases such as:

Given this information, you can begin to see why the ketogenic diet is not only here to stay, but has simultaneously collided with other major trends including the functional foods movement and the Flexitarian lifestyle. Thus making the keto-diet a food industry trend titan, if you will.

Creating a Keto-Friendly Restaurant Menu

So now that you understand the gist of the Ketogenic Diet and who it’s for (which when we include the weight loss benefits, is practically every person who has a mouth and digestive system) now we can piece together how to create a keto-friendly restaurant menu so that you can reap the financial benefits while your customers get the functional food they crave. Everybody wins!

The biggest thing to remember about this diet is that it is high-fat, moderate protein and low-carb. So there’s more to it than just swapping a tortilla for a lettuce wrap or throwing some olive oil on some veggies. Remember that “net carb” thing we mentioned earlier? This is the key to creating delicious keto-friendly menu items for your restaurant that will keep diners coming back for more.

What is a Net Carb?

A net carb(ohyrate) is the carbohydrate count in a food item after the fiber has been subtracted. Dietary fiber is technically a carbohydrate but since it can not be digested and utilized for glucose, it doesn’t count in the actual carbohydrates in a dish. I repeat, the only carbs that count are the ones that impact blood glucose. So, when you calculate the nutrition for your menu items, make sure that you subtract the dietary fiber count from the overall carbohydrate count.

Here’s an example:

The total carbohydrate count in a food item isn’t what keto-diet followers are looking for. Net carbs are the carbs that count.

A sweet potato contains approximately 42 g of carbohydrates but has about 7g of fiber.

42g (carbs) – 7g (fiber) = 35g (net carbs).

The Lower the Net Carbs, The More Keto-Friendly the Menu Item

An observer of the keto-diet typically has approximately 50g or less net carbs in their allowance for the day, with most devotees hovering around 20g. This gives them about 6.5g of carbs to spend on a meal (if we aren’t including snacks). This is a crucial note when creating keto-friendly, low-carb options for your restaurant menu. Utilizing that all-powerful, ever-friendly veggie, cauliflower, in all it’s forms, tends to be very helpful in reducing carbohydrate counts. Swapping brown rice for riced cauliflower in a dish, will reduce the carbohydrate count significantly.

Riced cauliflower is a go-to veggie for those following the ketogenic diet. It is a low-carb option than can make almost any menu item that requires rice into a keto-friendly option.

For example, creating a keto-friendly taco bowl would be the difference of swapping out traditional rice for riced cauliflower (pictured above) and up-playing the fat sources in your dish.  Be creative, adding an extra ounce of carnitas or grilled chicken and topping with avocado, sour cream, and even some cheese. But don’t forget the added veggies! Utilizing the flavors of low-carb options like green peppers, onions, and other vegetables in addition to high fat sources bring balance to your dish and easily switch your traditional menu items to keto-friendly options.

Just make sure that you have a great nutrition calculator to make sure that your keto-friendly restaurant menu is as accurate as it is delicious.

Need access to an online nutrition calculator created just for making new restaurant menu items? Well, do we have the solution for you. MenuCalc is the most trusted nutrition calculator in the industry! Contact us today for more information. 

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