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Keto Fast Food: Your Restaurant & Ordering Guide

You’ve decided to invest in your health by participating in the ketogenic way of eating, or maybe you’re thinking about giving keto a try. Great!

But sometimes your schedule gets crazy and sometimes slipping through the drive-thru after work is a necessary evil. 

Good news: there is such a thing as keto fast food.

Believe it or not, keto can be easy to stick to when you’re eating out if you’re prepared to request modifications. If you’re not careful, you could find yourself eating hidden carbs that’ll throw your body out of ketosis.

We’ve mapped out the best fast food restaurants for keto-friendly options, what to order, and what to watch out for.

A Quick Look at the Basics: How Keto Works

The keto diet is a low-carb, moderate protein, high-fat diet that focuses on your macronutrients — proteins, carbohydrates, and fats — and how much of each you consume. When eating keto, the goal is to consume about 75 percent of your daily calories from healthy fats, 20 percent from protein, and 5 percent from carbohydrates. While exact numbers will differ based on your gender, weight, activity level and nutritional needs, a sample average 2,000-calorie day would be:

Ketosis is the goal of the ketogenic diet. This is where the magic happens. “When your body enters ketosis, it becomes a fat-burning machine that uses up your fat stores to supply your body with its energy. It also turns fat into ketones in the liver which can supply your brain with energy, helping you become more focused, alert and energized.” Molly Devine, RD, LD/N. 

The key to success is keeping your carb intake low, which can be especially difficult if you’re eating fast food. With a range of 25g to 50g of daily carbs, you can easily overdo it with just one entree.

Leave out the carb-heavy foods such as rice, beans, sweets, grains, milk, cereals, fruits, and even certain vegetables.

Instead, you’re going to focus on the staples. Refer to this keto essentials list when you’re trying to think creatively about how to remain keto while eating out: fish, meat, eggs, cheese, butter, heavy cream, oils, avocados, nuts, seeds, and low-carb vegetables.

Check out our Keto Food Pyramid for a helpful representation of what eating keto looks like.

General Guidelines for Ordering Keto-Friendly Fast Food

While following all the rules isn’t fail-proof, thinking through some of these principles will definitely put you on the right track when it comes to keto fast food.

10 Best Keto Fast Food Restaurants (& What to Order) 

So now that we’ve got a good baseline, let’s talk about how to eat out but still watch that waistline. Cheesy? Okay maybe a little, but cheese is good for you, especially on keto. For your benefit, we’re going to look at 12 of the most frequented fast food restaurants in America.

These locations can be found just about anywhere in the U.S. So if you’re ever in a jam, you can stay on track with keto.

#1: Subway

Here’s a fun fact to impress your friends: There are about 10,000 more Subways than there are McDonald’s. Believe it or not, Subway is the most common fast food chain in America. But if you decide to eat here, don’t plan on grabbing the 5-dollar footlong. Fortunately, many of their sandwiches can be turned into salads. Cutting tomatoes and onions is an easy way to reduce the carb count in these salads, so all of the values below represent these salads without tomatoes and onions. Play around with their nutrition calculator to find other keto-friendly options.

Chicken Bacon Ranch

Black Forest Ham

Cold Cut Combo

Italian BMT

Tuna Sandwich

#2: McDonald’s

Your friends may not be there for you when you need them, but you can bet a McDonald’s probably will be (although not as often as Subway). If you get rid of the bread, it’s pretty easy to get enough protein and fat from McDonald’s menu items. You’ll have to say no to french fries, hash browns, oatmeal, and breaded items like chicken nuggets, but there are still a host of good breakfast, lunch, and dinner options to keep your body in ketosis. Check out their nutrition calculator for yourself.

Lunch/Dinner Options

Quarter Pounder with Cheese — No Bun

Bacon Smokehouse Burger — No Bun

Big Mac — No Bun

Bacon Smokehouse Artisan Grilled Chicken Sandwich — No Bun

Breakfast Options

Most McDonald’s breakfast items are now served all day, so you can choose these items anytime.

Egg McMuffin — No English Muffin

Sausage McMuffin — No English Muffin

Sausage Egg McMuffin — No English Muffin

#3: Starbucks

Good news, coffee lovers: It’s pretty easy to stay keto while getting your morning pick-me-up.

Black espresso and black coffee are carb-free, of course, but if you need a keto latte substitute, Starbucks has a solid selection of sugar-free syrups. Each pump of syrup contains about 1g of carbohydrates.

Stevia is another option if you want to sweeten your drink, but steer clear of the iced teas. Each 12-ounce shaken black or green iced tea features 8g of carbohydrates and that’s the lowest amount you’ll find in the iced teas. View their nutrition calculator to create a keto-friendly concoction.

#4: Burger King

As with McDonald’s, Burger King’s staple burgers are good choices for keeping with the keto way of eating if you toss the bread and remove the ketchup. Their bacon is pretty delicious, so adding that to your bun-less sandwich can boost your fat macros and add some flavor. If you make Burger King your stop, give some heavy consideration to the Whopper. At 36g of fat and 20g of protein, you’ll get a lot of bang for your buck. Don’t see an item below that interests you? Visit their nutritional calculator to see if your favorite sandwich can be keto-fied.

Cheeseburger — No Bun

Double Cheeseburger — No Bun

Whopper — No Bun

Double Whopper — No Bun

Grilled Chicken Sandwich

#5: Taco Bell

Considering the majority of the menu is made up of tacos, burritos, and nachos, it will take some ingenuity to eat keto at Taco Bell. The nice thing here is that the ability to add guacamole, sour cream, and cheese to any dish will help you boost your fat macros. Check out their calculator to play with the options for yourself.

Beef Taco

Power Bowl

Power Menu Burrito

Grilled Breakfast Burrito

Chipotle Chicken Loaded Griller

Side of Guacamole

#6: Wendy’s

Wendy’s doesn’t provide an online nutrition calculator, but don’t fret. If you take the principles from Burger King and McDonald’s, you should be in the clear. Individual Wendy’s restaurants may also provide sheets with nutrition facts that can help you make your decision. Without having specific details, here are a few high fat, high protein options you can modify to reduce the carbohydrate count.

#7: KFC

We know we said that fried foods shouldn’t make your list. We’re sticking with that, but there are plenty of grilled options at KFC to satiate your palate during your next lunch date with the Colonel. KFC is known for their sides, but you won’t be able to touch any of them except for the green beans which have 4g of carbs per serving. You can figure out your own meal by checking out their nutrition calculator.

Grilled Breast

Grilled Drumstick

Grilled Thigh

Grilled Wing (1 Wing)

Hot Wing (1 Wing)

House Side Salad

#8: Chipotle

From pasture-raised animals to preservative-free food, Chipotle gives you a wholesome food option that can be keto-friendly. You’ll want to stay away from the carb-heavy rice, beans, and tortillas, but a salad with the right toppings will fill you up and taste delicious. And the sour cream and guacamole (it costs extra, but it’s worth it!) will help you increase your fat intake.

Another reason to give Chipotle some consideration is its offering of a keto-specific menu item. In January 2019, Chipotle announced a number of “Lifestyle bowls” to cater to people interested in specific diets, including Whole30, Paleo, and Keto. Currently, you can only order the “keto bowl” online or via the Chipotle app. If you want to order it in-store, simply order a burrito bowl with carnitas, romaine lettuce, red salsa, cheese, and guacamole. Voila – a keto bowl!

If that specific bowl doesn’t suit your fancy, there are plenty of other options. Because every bowl is different, we’ve included the nutrition facts for individual ingredients below. This list is by no means exhaustive, but we think it will provide you with a solid start. Chipotle’s nutrition calculator is extremely easy to play around with if you want to figure out exactly what you’d get by building a bowl or salad for yourself, so check it out.

Lettuce

Chicken

Steak

Carnitas

Barbacoa

Chorizo

Fajita vegetables

Fresh Tomato Salsa

Tomatillo-Green Chili Salsa

Tomatillo-Red Chili Salsa

Queso

Sour Cream

Cheese

Guacamole

#9: Arby’s

Arby’s provides a number of sandwiches that feature good cuts of meat that are great without the bread or in a salad. It’s one of the restaurants on our list with the most extensive list of options. Check out their nutrition calculator and decide for yourself.

Roast Beef Sandwich — No Bread

Double Roast Beef Sandwich — No Bread

Beef ‘n’ Cheddar — No Bread

Smokehouse Brisket — No Bread

Loaded Italian — No Bread

French Dip — No Bread

Grand Turkey Club — No Bread

Reuben — No Bread

Roast Turkey Farmhouse Salad 

Chopped Side Salad

Buttermilk Ranch Dressing

Balsamic Vinaigrette

Light Italian Dressing

#10: Jimmy John’s

If you like “subs so fast you’ll freak” and being able to eat keto, Jimmy John’s is your place. Just ask for an “unwich” and they’ll substitute the bread for lettuce on any of their sandwiches. If you go to the “unwich” section of their website, they’ll tell you that any of their sandwiches ordered as an “unwich” has no more than 10g of carbs. And if you download their nutrition guide, you can see the nutritional value for all of their unwiches. Just follow the column labeled “u” for each nutritional category. For your ease, here are some of their more popular sandwiches we think would be good choices based on protein and fat content.

#8 — Roast Beef, Ham & Provolone

#15 — Tuna Salad and Provolone

#9 — Big Italian

#12 — Turkey Breast, Provolone, Avocado

JJ Gargantuan

#1 – Ham and Provolone

Slim 1

Slim 3

#11: Chick-fil-A

Who doesn’t love a good #1 Classic Chicken sandwich from Chick-fil-A? Well, you’ll have to make a judgment call for yourself on whether or not you want to eat it. Without the bun, the sandwich nets out at 10g of carbs, so you could technically eat it if you’re strict in other areas. Their grilled options are a safer bet, but we’ll let you make the call here. In all, Chick-fil-A provides a pretty easy keto eating experience (except on Sundays when it’s closed). Here’s how some of the numbers shake out according to the Chick-fil-A website and our friends over at No Bun Please

Grilled Chicken Breast — No Bun

Grilled Chicken Breast Deluxe — No Bun

4-piece Grilled Chicken Nuggets

6-piece Grilled Chicken Nuggets

8-piece Grilled Chicken Nuggets

12-piece Grilled Chicken Nuggets

4-piece Original Nuggets

6-piece Original Nuggets

8-piece Original Nuggets

12-piece Original Nuggets

Original Chicken Breast — No Bun

If you’re interested in a salad, go with the basic salad, add some chicken and a high-fat dressing. Here are the most keto-friendly dressings we found.

Creamy Salsa

Avocado Ranch Lime

Garlic Herb and Ranch

Light Italian

That’s a Wrap (No Bun Intended)

Just because you can eat fast food and remain keto doesn’t mean you should make a habit out of it. We recommend taking the time to meal prep so that you can make sure you’re putting good, healthy food into your body and so that you know exactly what you’re consuming. A little work on the front end goes a long way.

That being said, there is freedom so go easy on yourself! Sometimes life gets hectic and fast food is the easiest option. Other times, you really just need to satisfy that craving for a Burger King Whopper or a Chipotle burrito bowl. We get it. When that happens,  feel free to grab a burger or sandwich (without the bun, of course). If you follow our guidelines, you’ll be able to keto-fy your favorite fast food choices while staying on track toward reaching your health goals.

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