I’m not here to tell you that fast food is good for you. In fact, there are a lot of terrible options out there (I’m looking at you Carl’s Jr./Hardee’s Baby Back Rib-Topped Thick Burger, with your whopping 1070 calories per serving…not including the side of french fries!). But, sometimes, fast food is a part of our lives. Even the healthiest amongst us finds ourselves without a lunch option from time to time. Or, sometimes, we’re facing a social situation that brings us to fast food. You might be surprised to learn that there are keto-friendly choices at the most popular fast food restaurants, so we compiled a list of the best keto fast food options.
Whenever you find yourself at a fast food restaurant, there are two important things to remember. The first is your liquid calories. Skip the soda, flavored coffees, smoothies, and shakes. These items are almost never healthy, and they’ll rack up your sugar and calorie counts pretty quickly! The second has to do with the sauces. Almost none of the sauces are very keto-friendly, so skip the dipping sauces whenever you can. You might also consider asking for your sandwiches without ketchup, which is notoriously high in sugar and corn syrup.
General Tips to Create the Best Keto Fast Food Options
Before we get into the specific fast food restaurants, let’s look at the general tips to follow to create the best keto fast food eating experience.
- Skip the bun or wrap. If they don’t know how to serve it to you, ask for your bunless-patty it in a bowl (or another container) with a fork on the side.
- Stick to meat, cheese, and veggies. Some vegetables are high in carbohydrates, but they’re not generally the veggies you’ll find at a fast food restaurant. Skip the potatoes and sauces while opting for extra meat, cheese, and veggies instead.
- The salad might not be the best option. Some fast food salads are incredibly high in carbs because of additions like croutons, dried fruits, or nuts. If you want a salad, it’s probably better to build it yourself by ordering a bunch of sides.
- No fried food. This should be self-explanatory, but the fried chicken patties, chicken tenders, and french fries are not going to be good for your waistline! Opt for grilled foods, instead.
- Check the nutritional information first. We included links for the nutrition information of popular fast food options. If you can’t find the nutritional info, ask them at the counter, but don’t do any guess work!
Without further ado, here are the best keto fast food options when you need something on-the-go. If you missed your favorite menu item, or you have any fast food ordering hacks, let us know all about it in the comments!
Subway, Jimmy John’s, Quizno’s, Jersey Mike’s
The rule of thumb is the same for all of these sandwich shops: Order your sandwich without a bun. They’re called sub “in a tub” at Jersey Mike’s and Unwiches at Jimmy Johns, but the idea is the same. If you need to stay extremely low-carb, order a side of bacon instead of a sandwich – it only has 1 carb! Otherwise, order your sandwich without the bun and you can order anything except the Meatball Marinara and Sweet Onion Chicken Teriyaki at Subway, and any marinated meat items (like BBQ beef) at Quizno’s and Jersey Mike’s.
McDonald’s, Wendy’s, and Burger King
So long as you stay away from the breaded items (like chicken nuggets) and the french fries, these fast food restaurants have a surprising number of keto-friendly items. Stick to the grilled chicken sandwiches or the plain burgers, ordered without the bun of course. Don’t go for anything with crazy toppings, like fried onion rings or barbecue sauce. Most of the breakfast items are fair game (sans bun) but stay away from items that could have added sugars, like oatmeal or yogurt parfaits.
The salad dressings at these places are sometimes carb-heavy, so check them out before ordering that salad. In general, you would probably be better off making your own salad by ordering a burger patty and a side of bacon and chopping it up onto a side of lettuce! You might even be able to order other sides–like hard boiled eggs, avocado, or bacon–to add to the mix.
Taco Bell is actually one of the healthier fast food restaurants out there because they offer small portion sizes. That being said, you’ll be wasting your money if you order any of their tacos without the shell. And those Power Bowl options are actually super carb-heavy! The best way to go at this fast food restaurant is to order only sides. Piece them together into a meal by ordering a side of lettuce, chicken or steak, guacamole, and cheese.
If you find yourself at a KFC, you may go hungry. That’s because almost everything on the menu is breaded and deep fried! You’ll be okay if you order the grilled items, but you won’t even want to order any of the vegetable sides. The only exception is the green beans, which contain only 4g carbs.
You might be tempted to order a rice bowl, but the rice at these places is super carb-heavy. Opt for a salad bowl instead. The guacamole has a few more carbs than we expected, as does the cheese sauce. But the rest of the toppings are within normal carbohydrate limits. To bulk up your bowl, order it with double protein.