Keto Friendly Fast Food Restaurants
Keto Fast Food: Fast-food and fast-casual restaurants build their businesses — and their menus — around carb-loaded burgers, fries, sandwiches and burrito bowls. If you’re following the keto diet, or just trying to control your carb intake, you’re going to want to seek out the best low-carb alternatives.
Step one is to nix the bread or bun if you’re going for a traditional sandwich or burger — they can easily add 40 to 50 grams of carbs to your meal. “Ask for extra lettuce to wrap it in,” says Abby Langer, RD, of Abby Langer Nutrition in Toronto.
Skip the ketchup, relish and barbecue sauce, too — they’re typically high in carbs. “Sugary condiments are some of the sneakier sources where carbs might show up,” says Samantha Cassetty, RD, nutrition and weight loss expert with a virtual nutrition counseling practice based in New York City. And you’ll want to leave out the carb-heavy beans, rice and corn, too.
Keto-Friendly Fast Food
Choosing fast food that fits into your diet can be challenging, especially when following a restrictive meal plan like the ketogenic diet.
The ketogenic diet is high in fat, low in carbs and moderate in protein.
While the majority of fast foods tend to be high in carbs, there are some keto-friendly options available.
Here are 9 fast-food options that you can enjoy on a ketogenic diet.
Typical burger meals from fast-food restaurants are high in carbs due to their buns.
For a keto-approved version of a fast-food burger meal, simply skip the bun and any toppings that could be high in carbs.
Popular high-carb toppings include honey mustard sauce, ketchup, teriyaki sauce, and breaded onions.
Swap the above toppings with mayo, salsa, fried egg, avocado, mustard, lettuce, ranch dressing, onions or tomato to cut back on carbs and add extra fat to your meal.
Here are some examples of low-carb, keto-friendly burger meals:
- McDonald’s Double Cheeseburger (no bun): 270 calories, 20 grams of fat, 4 grams of carbs and 20 grams of protein.
- Wendy’s Double Stack Cheeseburger (no bun): 260 calories, 20 grams of fat, 1 gram of carbs and 20 grams of protein.
- Five Guys Bacon Cheeseburger (no bun): 370 calories, 30 grams of fat, 0 grams of carbs and 24 grams of protein.
- Hardees ⅓ lb Thickburger with cheese and bacon (no bun): 430 calories, 36 grams of fat, 0 grams of carbs and 21 grams of protein.
- Sonic Double Bacon Cheeseburger (no bun): 638 calories, 49 grams of fat, 3 grams of carbs and 40 grams of protein.
Most fast-food establishments will be happy to serve you a bunless burger.
Boost your fiber intake by adding a simple side salad topped with a high-fat dressing to your meal.
Keto Fast Food Options
Are you in ketosis right now? If you’re not, you may be soon. The latest of the low-carbohydrate diets continues to sweep the nation as would-be beach bod-havers swap burger buns and fries out for extra bacon and avocado.
If you don’t know, the keto diet is the eradication of most carbohydrates and sugar in nearly all forms and a carefully calculated blitz of fats (and protein) meant to send your metabolism into a state of ketosis. When this happens ketones are created from fat (since there are no carbs or sugar present) and used for fuel at a much higher rate, resulting in fairly rapid weight loss along with reported spikes in energy.
Read more on CNET:
Read more on Chowhound: Cookbooks for keto, paleo and diabetic diets | Condiment showdown: ketchup vs. mustard
The average keto dieter wants to keep their carb intake to between 15 and 20 grams per day (or less), depending on body type. To put things in perspective, a single apple or banana has over 25 grams of carbs alone, so navigating a keto diet on any restaurant menu is tricky but you’ll have to do even more homework and question-asking at fast-food and fast-casual chains, where carb-less menu items can be scarce.
Though most national chains have been slow to catch up to the fad, Chipotle announced keto bowls earlier this year and it may not be too long before others follow suit. Until then, we did some digging into the menus of some of the nation’s most popular fast food and fast-casual chains to help you pick low-carb options to stay in full ketosis. All-day. Every day.
Fast Food Keto
Burger joints can be fairly keto-friendly as long as you’re willing to give up the buns and french fries and some chains like Shake Shack will even sub a lettuce wrap in for the keto-busting bread.
What to eat
Wendy’s Double Baconator has loads of fat and 53 grams of protein with only 2 grams of carbs when you lose the bun. Go the whole hog with a bunless Quarter Pounder with Cheese or Big Mac (or two) at McDonald’s, but add extra bacon or cheese, and hold the special sauce (which is, sadly, high in sugar). Go Double Whopper at BK and ask for loads of extra toppings and big pieces of lettuce to wrap it up in.
As we mentioned, Shake Shack will hook you up with a lettuce wrap to replace its famous potato buns and feel free to load up on Shack Sauce, cheese and bacon and you’re still likely to stay under 3 net carbs. At west coast favorite In-N-Out Burger, go for a semi-secret menu item “The Flying Dutchman,” which is two patties with two slices of cheese melted in between. And you should definitely get that “Animal Style” with extra spread, pickles, and grilled onions.
A bunless grilled chicken sandwich, which they must have a version of, is another viable option and though you can’t have the fries, tots or a Wendy’s baked potato on the side, most offer side salads. Just be careful to choose a full-fat, low-carb dressing. And don’t even think about opening that packet of croutons, mister.
What to watch out for
Be careful of some sauces and salad dressings that often contain loads of sugar. Ketchup is one of the sneakiest culprits and should be eaten in moderation or not at all, but go nuts with mustard, mayo, onions, pickles and other tasty toppers.
Full milk fat dressings like buttermilk ranch and Caesar are your best options for salads, and while Wendy’s beef chilli might seem like a good high fat choice, those carby beans will throw your keto diet off track in a hurry. Also, avoid veggie burgers or Shake Shack’s mushroom burger, which is all loaded with breadcrumbs and beans.
Best Keto Fast Food
Eating fast food while dieting is hard, but finding keto-friendly foods can be especially challenging. The high-fat, low-carb diet calls for approximately 70 percent of your daily calories to come from fat, 20 percent from protein and only about 10 percent from carbs. Although the drive-thru is full of fat-laden menu items, these foods are typically loaded with carbs–a keto no-no. But sometimes, fast food is handy, like when you need to grab some fuel in between work meetings.
So what’s a busy keto dieter to do?
Many fast-food options are customizable and can be adapted to fit a keto lifestyle, says Jenny Kramer, R.D., who specializes in the ketogenic diet at Indiana University. Since staying in ketosis, or burning fat for energy requires a lot of diligence and adherence to maintaining the proper fat, protein and carbs ratio, Kramer recommends carrying your own source of fat.
“Most of the time it’s not going to be easy to find olive oil to pour right on your salad,” she says. In addition, it’s best to be mindful of protein portion sizes too. “You want to be careful that you’re not overdoing it on your meat serving,” she says. So maybe don’t go for that triple cheeseburger.
And if you’re consuming more protein at lunch, you may want to increase fat and reduce protein at dinner to stay within the daily recommendations. Although finding keto-friendly fast food requires some work, there are options from 10 popular chains that you can easily adapt to fit your diet.
Fast Food Keto Options
Panera has gotten healthier over the past few years, eliminating harmful chemicals and additives and offering more transparency with its menu. Obviously, the sandwiches are mostly off-limits but there are some workarounds.
What to eat
Sandwiches (with no bread). The damned delicious bread at PB is obviously a keto non-starter but sandwiches like The Cuban and Bacon Turkey Bravo have a lot of high protein/fat ingredients like pulled pork, ham, cheese, turkey and bacon so ask for them on a bed of greens. Unlike most burger joints, Panera keeps fresh avocado on hand (a perfect keto food), so load up on avocado, bacon, (some) nuts and cheese.
Salads can be OK but be conscious that many contain high carb-count dressings and toppings such as tortilla strips, corn or ancient grains that will surely sabotage your hard-earned ketosis. The Green Goddess Salad, with egg, avocado, bacon, and tomato is one of your best bets.
What to watch out for
Unfortunately, the soups and sides are mostly a no at Panera for keto folks. Soups made with regular or lower-fat milk are jacked up with sugar to make up for a taste. A lot of the soups also contain flour for thickening and the turkey chili contains beans, another keto no-no. Panera offers a bounty of keto-busting sides too, such as a piece of bread (no way), a bag of chips (sorry, sister) and fruit or fruit cup (still no).
The key to surviving “the Bell” (besides having Pepto handy) is to avoid beans, corn, and tortillas at all costs, which can make things tricky. But fear not: We have ideas.
What to eat
Try a Cantina Power Bowl and skip the rice and beans, opting for romaine lettuce, extra protein, guacamole and lots of hot sauce. Don’t be afraid of full-fat sour cream and extra cheese; both keto-friendly and oh so good.
What to watch out for
Corn in all its forms is super high in glucose and carbohydrates, so even a few kernels might push you over the edge. Make sure to ask as sometimes corn sneaks into salsas and other menu items. And no chips, tortillas or taco shells.
Can I have fast food on keto?
You don’t have to ditch fast food if you’re on the keto diet. Are you in ketosis right now? If you’re not, you may be soon. The latest of the low-carbohydrate diets continues to sweep the nation as would-be beach bod-havers swap burger buns and fries out for extra bacon and avocado.
Is KFC Keto-friendly?
What fast food places can I eat on keto?
- Taco Bell. The people over at Pop Sugar say it’s totally possible to eat a meal at Taco Bell while on the keto diet.
- Chick-fil-A. keto_curious.
- Burger King. Like all of the other fast food choices, you’ll want to order your sandwich without the bun.
- Five Guys.