“When you’re here, you’re family.” That’s the Olive Garden slogan for literally everyone—except, apparently, those on the keto diet, who basically sign an “I promise not to eat spaghetti for the foreseeable future” pledge.
But in doing that, do you really have to become totally estranged from your beloved fast-casual Italian chain restaurant? Not totally. While you definitely can’t opt for the Never-Ending Pasta Bowl (or even just a breadstick, tbh), there are still ways to enjoy the OG.
“Since you generally want to keep your grams of carbs under 50 grams per day on the keto diet, aim to keep your carbs at any Olive Garden meal under half, or 25 grams, of your daily allotment,” says Erin Palinski-Wade, RD, a dietitian in New Jersey and author of 2 Day Diabetes Diet.
Okay, so how exactly do you make this happen when you sit down to eat at the OG? The answer is, thankfully, easy peasy: by following a basic structure for building keto-friendly meals. That includes a low-carb base, sauce, and topping choice. Stick to this formula, and you’re good to go. Here are the deets:
1. Your Base
Instead of off-limits pasta, opt for a bed of leafy greens or fresh veggies. (FYI, some of their delish low-carb sides include Parmesan-crusted zucchini and broccoli, so you can turn those into a “base” as well.) Palinski-Wade mentions that the restaurant now offers zoodles (zucchini noodles), which is the closest you’ll get to pasta without all the carbs.
2. Your Sauce
Palinski-Wade recommends opting for the creamy pesto or mushroom sauce, since the dairy will increase your fat intake. “In general, when aiming to build a keto-friendly meal, you want to aim for about 10 percent of calories or less from carbs, with 60 to 90 percent of calories coming from fats.”
If cream sauce isn’t your thing (no offense, but who are you?), she adds that a basic marinara—with meat or cheese optionally added—is a good low-carb choice, too.
3. Your Protein
Now, for the good stuff: Choose a solid protein to round out your low-carb meal, like grilled chicken, a sauteed filet of fish, shrimp, or steak. Avoid breaded options, like crispy chicken, which Palinski-Wade says will contain too many carbs. (And anyone who’s tried to scrape breading off knows it ain’t easy.)
Put it all together…
…and what do you get? A whole keto-friendly meal!
Palinski-Wade says, for example, you could end up with something that looks like this: zoodles (5 grams of net carbs) topped with alfredo sauce (8 grams of net carbs) and grilled chicken breast (1 gram of net carbs). That would give you a meal that comes in at only 14 net carbs—not too shabby, right?
Stacking a low-carb base, sauce, and protein together is one of the easiest ways to enjoy the Garden on a keto diet—but you’ll still need to keep an eye on portions, says Palinski-Wade. Even low-carb bases and sauces will have a small amount of carbs that could add up if you overindulge, she explains.
However, if building your own keto creation at the table isn’t quite up your alley, don’t panic—here’s a list of meals that are already pretty keto-friendly (or can be, with a few modifications) so you can feel like you’re part of the family and stay in ketosis. Win-win.
1. Stuffed Mushrooms
Let’s be honest: The best part of going out to eat is getting an appetizer (you’re definitely not going to make yourself an app at home). These stuffed mushrooms are filled with clams and three different types of cheeses, so they’re definitely keto-friendly. Go ahead and grab an order to share.
Per serving: 380 calories, 30 g fat (8 g sat fat), 860 mg sodium, 13 g carbohydrates, 3 g sugar, 1 g fiber, 15 g protein.
2. Zuppa Toscana
I’m going to level with you here: This soup contains potatoes (yes, they have carbs). But it’s also made with spicy Italian sausage and kale—and held together with a creamy broth. It can also absolutely fit into your carb allowance for the day, so go ahead and grab a bowl.
Per serving: 220 calories, 15 g fat (7 g sat fat), 790 mg sodium, 15 g carbohydrates, 2 g sugar, 2 g fiber, 7 g protein.
3. Famous House Salad with Signature Italian Dressing
Good news: You can totally douse your salad in OG’s delish Italian dressing (it’s only got two grams of carbs!). The bad news: You’ve got to nix the croutons. But you can go crazy and add an extra serving of dressing to make up for it (it’ll only bump your salad up to nine grams of carbs).
Per serving: 110 calories, 8 g fat (1.5 g sat fat), 670 mg sodium, 7 g carbohydrates, 3 g sugar, 2 g fiber, 2 g protein.
4. Chicken Margherita
This dish is basically a keto dieter’s dream: chicken topped with cheese and butter. The meal is also served with a size of parmesan-crusted zucchini, which only has five grams of carbs (don’t worry—it’s already counted in the carb content below). Also: The lunch portion only has two fewer grams of carbs than the dinner option, so I think you know what to do with that information…
Per serving: 570 calories, 30 g fat (10 g sat fat), 1340 mg sodium, 13 g carbohydrates, 4 g sugar, 4 g fiber, 64 g protein.
5. Salmon Piccata
Apparently “piccata” means “doused in a delicious butter sauce and perfect for keto dieters.” This salmon version gives you even more fat than the chicken version (it’s just as tasty though). Also, FYI: There’s an Herb-Grilled Salmon dish on the menu too, but the butter sauce makes this option the clear winner.
Per serving: 580 calories, 40 g fat (12 g sat fat), 1560 mg sodium, 12 g carbohydrates, 3 g sugar, 3 g fiber, 45 g protein.
6. Chicken Piccata
No, you’re not seeing double—the OG’s Chicken Piccata dish is very similar to the Chicken Margherita dish, except it’s not topped with cheese. Instead, it’s just topped with the lemon garlic butter sauce, along with sun-dried tomatoes and capers. The parmesan-crusted zucchini makes another appearance here, too.
Per serving: 530 calories, 27 g fat (11 g sat fat), 1480 mg sodium, 12 g carbohydrates, 4 g sugar, 3 g fiber, 60 g protein.
7. Amaretto Tiramisu
Okay, this might be pushing it for some extremely dedicated keto dieters, but if you’ve got a few extra carbs in your allowance and want something sweet, this Amaretto Tiramisu dessert only has 14 grams of carbs—perfect for a nightcap with a hot cup of (black) coffee. It’s also got a good amount of fat for a “mini” dessert.
Per serving: 220 calories, 17 g fat (10 g sat fat), 65 mg sodium, 14 g carbohydrates, 11 g sugar, 0 g fiber, 3 g protein.
Source: Read Full Article