Parties and eating out often present challenges to those of us on low-carb diets. Unlike dinner invitations, where you can share your food preferences beforehand with the host, parties are notorious for their overabundance of carby foods. Murphy’s law says that if you don’t eat before the party, this will be the case, but if you do eat prior, there will inevitably be an amazing spread of low-carb food. As a subject of many low-carb experiments with this law, I can tell you it’s true! And depending on a party’s locale, it can be annoying to leave in the middle of great conversation to go eat (I’m also a pro at this) so my word to the wise is don’t improvise. Eat before you go.

Yes, it can be frustrating to watch everyone enjoy food that you could have enjoyed as well—if you’re lucky, you’ll stay long enough to get hungry again—but it’s so much worse to be famished and be staring at a mountain of tortilla chips and flatbread pizza, not to mention how you’ll feel after eating it. Sure you have to get used to not grazing while socializing, but if this is what’s mainly occupying your time at any party, it might not be one worth hanging out for anyway. Or, if you’re put on spot for why you aren’t eating, this can become the topic of conversation, which is beneficial if you’re looking for one (i.e. you’re stuck at a party because of someone else). And in case it’s a great party and you want to stay until the end, stash some snacks big enough to see you through.

Eating out is even more challenging since ” low-sugar, low-carb” (LSLC) is not yet in the public lexicon. “Gluten-free” may be, but I’ve still seen my friend with Celiac disease having to return the food she ordered (which was listed as gluten free on the menu) twice because of a kitchen’s mistakes. While we low-carb eaters don’t face the same risks as people with Celiac, we still don’t want to be eating overly-sugared meals: so many sauces and dressings taste only mildly sweet but add up to 50 grams of added sugar to your meal regardless of what type of cuisine you’re having. When in doubt, ask the kitchen. Some will be responsive and knowledgeable. Other kitchens won’t respond or even get why you are asking, which is why when you can opt for a veggie dish with no added sugar and receive something that is mostly rice. Because of this, I try to specify not only “sauce on the side,” but no potatoes, rice, bread, etc. Unfortunately, many places charge a fee to replace a starch with a veg (boo!) and, depending on context, accommodation may become too time consuming or awkward to pursue. In striking a balance between being perceived as fussy/holding up the process and eating healthfully, it’s always easier to specify “with nothing on it,” than to ask many questions. And while I don’t condone abusing the term “diabetic,” there have been occasions where I’ve referenced “diabetes” to a kitchen as “my concern,” as so many know this term (as they do “gluten-free”) and thus pay more attention to dietary restrictions when they hear it.