Dine out as a Vegetarian. . . on a Diet.

As I get ready for short, short croptop season, I am one of the great number of Louisvillians attempting to diet. Most of the popular ones are similar: HCG, South Beach Diet, keto, intermittent fasting or Atkins, if you are a Rob Lowe fan (he seems to be single-handedly bringing it back). They limit calories and/or restrict carbohydrates. (If you are not sure what food has carbs, think of any joy you have ever had in your life… those are carbs.)

Whichever program you use to de-midriff the midriff, it is hard to dine out on any diet. Plus, as a gluten-free vegetarian, I find it darn near impossible… but doable. So, for this Veg Out column, I am writing about the tasty meals I can have while suppressing most of life’s joys, all in the hope of fitting back into one’s Borat mankini.

One disclaimer: Although I am a doctor, I am the Ed.D. kind who can help turn around your struggling K-12 school, not the M.D. kind, so please, folks, take this as entertainment, not medical advice.

Wild Ginger is my favorite place to eat when dieting. I can eat a mountain of food for almost no calories because the restaurant’s many rolls can be made with cucumber instead of rice. WG is also careful to prepare food to meet food allergies and eating restrictions, if you ask, so I end up there once a week. My favorite roll is their oshinko roll: It is crunchy, with vibrant, pickled vegetables ($4) and ask for added grilled shiitake mushrooms for savory chewiness. I also order a veggie roll ($7) and tamago roll ($6)— fluffy, sweet scrambled egg with the cucumber wrap, which is delivered as a mountain of food but only a few hundred calories. Hot green tea with lemon as a kicker and you have a very tasty, satiating meal.

Now, your wife might eat a huge chirashi bowl of protein and carbs in front of you, sounding like any movie on Cinemax after midnight while doing it. But who cares? You will have enough in your stomach to handle her schadenfreude-based meal selection.

Joy Luck also offers a filling, flavorful, calorie-friendly meal. Here is how you order: Ask for the Five-flavor vegetable dish cooked with no sauce or oil, just stir-fried with gluten free soy. Instead of the side of rice, you guessed it, sub it out for a side of steamed veggies. I usually eat only a few pieces of carrots because root veggies might screw up my carb counting. If you are a meat eater and need a little more protein, add un-breaded seafood or chunks of some poor, defenseless chicken that never did anything to you.

Ramsi’s Café On The World offers great, low-cal food options. It has two go-to salads for dieting. A health option is the Raw Hope Salad (no relation to my eating companion Hope polishing off a basil salmon sandwich on a large piece of focaccia right in front of me). I get the wonderful carrot, ginger dressing on the side and ask for a fried egg ($3) on top. I cut the egg into small pieces as well as cutting up the veggies a bit, dig my fork into the dressing and then assemble a veggie-protein bite. If you are avoiding carbs but are looser on the calories, the Crispy Petal salad made with Brussels sprouts is amazing. Meat eaters can add salmon or chicken.

Sarino has several amazing salads, and if you are only counting carbs not calories, it has one of the best charcuterie plates in town. Vegetarians, just stick with the cheese.

Lastly, Monnik Beer Co. has several amazing salads. Now, you are going to want to order the jackfruit nachos… I mean, you are really going to. But hold strong. Order the Harvest salad and hold the purple potato. The light vinaigrette with the greens smattering of edamame, hardboiled egg and olives will fill you up. If you need more protein, add a second egg or have them top it with jackfruit.