Are There Keto-Friendly Options On Olive Garden's Menu?

The ketogenic (or keto, for short) diet has come a long way from its origins as an early 20th-century epilepsy treatment. Today, it's a popular method for weight loss, while research is underway into other health benefits, including potential relief from symptoms of some neurological disorders. Despite these possible positives, those following the diet may often find that many menu items at their favorite restaurants are now off-limits. Still, there's no need for keto practitioners to avoid the trip to Olive Garden altogether.

While Olive Garden made Mashed's list of popular restaurants with keto options, there's no avoiding the fact that those eating keto will have to skip some of the chain's most iconic choices, including the famous breadsticks and all of the pasta options. These contain far more carbohydrates than are allowed on this fat-focused diet, which usually restricts carbs to just 5% of one's calories. Even some of Olive Garden's sauces may contain more carbs than many diners expect, up to 19 grams in total. 

However, there are plenty of alternatives. Keto-focused diners have numerous options for low-carb entrees, including herb-grilled salmon, grilled chicken margarita, Tuscan sirloin steak, and Italian sausage links. These contain from 2 to 15 grams of total carbs each.

Sides and other options

You can supplement Olive Garden's low-carb entrees with sides like a house or side salad (without croutons) or with steamed or parmesan garlic broccoli for a complete meal. Unfortunately, keto eaters will have to skip the chain's appetizers. All of the appetizer options on the Olive Garden menu are relatively high in carbs and off-limits. The same goes for desserts outside of mint candies.

While you may not be able to partake in Olive Garden's Zuppa Toscana as prepared at the restaurant, those craving it can make it at home and use a simple ingredient swap that makes Tuscan soup keto-friendly: replacing the traditional potatoes with lower-carb cauliflower. Cauliflower is a common keto-friendly replacement in a variety of dishes, from rice to pizza crust to mashed cauliflower, as a cup contains just 5 grams of carbs.

So, don't despair if you're an Olive Garden fan who's recently gone keto. While you may need to switch up your typical order, there are still delicious choices that will keep your diet on track.