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How to Accommodate Paleo, Keto, and Other Diets in Restaurants

Posted by Phil Wesson on 7/21/17 1:00 PM in Industry News & Trends, Menu Management

4 minute read Print

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Over the past three months, I have lost 36 lbs on the Keto diet.

And I don't say this to brag, I say it to prove a point.  In the past, I've tried a number of diets and exercise regimens, but nothing seemed to bring me success until I tried Keto. This diet  excludes carbs, replacing them with more protein and fat.

The one thing that made my weight loss efforts difficult was the fact that I could never find a restaurant that could accommodate my diet.

Grabbing a bite for lunch became an exercise in Google-fu to see where I could dine. More often than not, it was just plain inconvenient to try to find a cost-effective meal that met my dietary requirements. 

With approximately 66% of Americans becoming more health conscious and dieting in the U.S. each year, restaurants across the country could do with looking at ways to adapt their menu to fit some of the more popular diets.

Or else, these restaurants risk losing those customers. 

So what can you do to make your menu friendlier to popular, restrictive diets? Let's take a look at some of the more popular diets, and what your restaurant can do to accommodate them with your menu.

The Paleo Diet

The Paleo diet focuses on eating what our hunter-gatherer ancestors ate, consisting mainly of the following:

paleo restaurants
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Seafood
  • Meat
  • Nuts  

Excluded items and ingredients are ingredients like:

  • Soy
  • Dairy
  • Grains
  • Beans
  • Wheat
  • Processed foods

As grains and wheat themselves are such a staple in many cuisines, it can be challenging for diners to avoid the standard fare and meet their requirements.

Diners in quick-service burger restaurants can replace buns for lettuce, and many restaurants have gluten-free menus. However, to make a truly Paleo meal, restaurants can try removing all excluded groups by replace those sides with extra fruits or vegetables and replacing sauces with vinegrettes as the needs arise. 

While it's not specifically a Paleo menu, Panera Bread developed a (not so) secret menu that is - at the very least - Paleo-inspired. Many of their regular menu choices have been replaced with items that are higher in protein to keep diners feeling fuller despite the lack of grains, wheat, and cheese. 

The Ketogenic Diet

keto restaurantsKeto is my weapon of choice.

The Keto diet, (short for Ketogenic diet) is known for extremely low carb, high fat, high protein content. Many of the wheat flour-based menu items are replaced with almond and coconut flour variants, and one can eat all the bacon they want (which was a selling point for me).

For the most part, a low-carb version of many menu items will suffice to satisfy Keto dieters. However, there are a number of sauces used in regular fare that are high in sugar, which is one of Keto's main restrictions. 

For burger and sandwich shops, it's not too difficult to convert menu items into Keto-friendly versions. Replacing the bun with lettuce, and replacing sauces and marinades with low sugar or sugar free versions will meet the requirements of many Keto dieters. Salad dressings like ranch, blue cheese, and Italian can be used to add flavor to dishes, and as I mentioned earlier, more bacon is always welcomed. Bacon wrapped asparagus, or smoked salmon wrapped cheese appetizers can replace your regular carb filled appetizers, and add some new flavor combinations to your menu.

Check out ruled.me to see how some well-known restaurants are going Keto without even knowing it! 

gluten free restaurants

Gluten Free

This one is more about health than losing weight. Celiac disease affecting 1 in 133 people in the U.S., and regions that consume more wheat tend to have higher occurrences of the disease.  

If your menu doesn't have a gluten-free option, you're leaving money on the table. Many restaurants already have gluten-free menus, including many pizzerias like Otto in Maine and Massachusetts. They do this by removing wheat-based items or making gluten-free versions.

Your restaurant can stand out with some pretty inventive alternatives.

Much like the Keto diet, replacing wheat flour with almond and/or coconut flour will help satisfy the bread cravings of those who can't have gluten, but it doesn't have to stop there. Try portabella mushrooms or eggplant instead of buns for sandwiches and burgers, or cabbage or rice paper instead of flour tortillas. 

Adapting to the Many Diets Your Guests Are Trying

As more diners become health conscious, adapting to their needs (instead of hoping they come in on their cheat day) is the more sustainable route. The more you understand the popular dietary restrictions of your customers, the more you'll be able to accommodate them.

And if your customers are anything like me, they'll thank you for it.

restaurant kitchen

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Written by: Phil Wesson

Phil is a Marketing Manager at Toast, Inc. the All-in-One Restaurant Management Platform, where he produces video and design content to train, educate and and empower restaurant owners and employees. When he doesn’t have a camera in his hand, Phil writes short film scripts, forages the web for for the best made video marketing content, and perhaps plays a bit too much PS4.


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