Have you ever wondered whether you can really eat at fast food joints and stay low carb? It seems that a lot of people ask themselves this, so we decided to find out how simple it is to grab something quick and convenient to eat in popular fast-food chains in the U.S.
In general, the best keto fast food choices fall into these main categories:
- Lettuce wrapped sandwich or bowl – Either way, the key is skipping the bun on a sandwich.
- Salads – An obvious choice, but watch out for sugary dressings or breaded toppings.
- Naked chicken – Usually this means wings or grilled chicken.
Some tips when ordering:
- Order meat (without breading), cheese, and vegetables. Meat, cheese, and veggies are almost always safe because you can see what you are getting, unlike sauces that almost always have carbs lurking.
- Check ingredients and nutrition info online. Most restaurant websites have nutrition info posted these days, so you can look it up to know for sure.
- Skip the bun. Some fast food places seem to have no keto meals available, but you can always ask for no bun on any sandwich. You can try asking for a lettuce wrap as well.
- Avoid fried foods. Fried usually means breaded, and breaded means carbs. If the option is available, replace it with grilled instead.
- Ask for “carb-free” extras. Some low to no carb extras include: Lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, banana peppers or jalapeños, olives, pickles, spinach, sour cream, oil & vinegar, mayonnaise
- Anything breaded or fried – Chicken, fish, mozzarella sticks, etc.
- Bread of any kind – Including buns, wraps, toast, croutons, etc. (Order these items without the bread or bun instead.)
- Potatoes – French fries, tater tots, hash browns, chips, etc.
- Most side dishes – Most other fast food sides are high in carbs as well, such as corn, rice, beans, onion rings, etc.
- Desserts – Desserts are often loaded with sugar.
- Sweet dressings & sauces – If it’s even slightly sweet, it has sugar added.
- Creamy or thick soups – which often have flour and starch
- Candied nuts
- All fruit except berries
- Salad dressings are probably the most challenging part.
Keto Lettuce-Wrapped Burger
A bunless burger wrapped in lettuce is a standard low-carb, fast-food meal. It’s high in protein, essentially carb-free, and available at all fast-food burger establishments.
You can further customize your burger by adding the following low-carb toppings or additions, depending on availability and personal preferences:
Cheese: Less than 1 gram of carbs per slice
Bacon: Less than 1 gram of carbs per slice
Mustard: Less than 1 gram of carbs per tablespoon
Mayo: Less than 1 gram of carbs per tablespoon
Onions: 1 gram of digestible carbs per slice
Tomato: Less than 1 gram of digestible carbs per slice
Guacamole: 3 grams of digestible carbs per 1/4 cup (60 grams)
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 (1).
- McDonald’s Bunless Big Mac (order with caution – the sauce contains sugar) – 6g net carbs
- Wendy’s Double Stack Cheeseburger (no bun): 260 calories, 20 grams of fat, 1 gram of carbs and 20 grams of protein (2).
- Five Guys Bacon Cheeseburger (no bun): 370 calories, 30 grams of fat, 0 grams of carbs and 24 grams of protein (3).
- 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 (4).
- Sonic Double Bacon Cheeseburger (no bun): 638 calories, 49 grams of fat, 3 grams of carbs and 40 grams of protein (5).
- Hardees ⅓ lb Low-Carb Thickburger: 470 calories, 36 grams of fat, 9 grams of carbs and 22 grams of protein.
- Carl’s Jr. Lettuce-Wrapped Thickburger: 420 calories, 33 grams of fat, 8 grams of carbs and 25 grams of protein.
- Carls’ Jr. Bunless Monster Biscuit – 2g net carbs
- Carls’ Jr. Lettuce Wrapped 1/3 lb. Thickburger – 8g net carbs
- Carls’ Jr. Low Carb It Charbroiled Chicken Club Sandwich – 3g net carbs
- In-n-Out Burger “Protein Style” Cheeseburger with onion: 330 calories, 25 grams of fat, 11 grams of carbs and 18 grams of protein.
- In-n-Out Burger Bunless Hamburger – 8g net carbs
- Five Guys Bacon Cheeseburger in a lettuce wrap and with mayo: 394 calories, 34 grams of fat, less than 1 gram of carbs and 20 grams of protein.
- Five Guys Lettuce Wrapped Bacon Cheeseburger (with pickles, mayo, mustard, and grilled mushrooms) – 4g net carbs
- Dairy Queen Lettuce Wrapped 1/3 lb. Double with Cheese – 3g net carbs
- Dairy Queen Bunless Chili Cheese Dog – 4g net carbs
- Jack in the Box Bunless Double Jack Cheeseburger with a Side Salad – 6g net carbs
- Shake Shack Bunless SmokeShack – 4g net carbs
- Sonic Bunless Super Sonic Bacon Double Cheeseburger – 5g net carbs
- Wendy’s Lettuce Wrapped Baconator (no ketchup) – 5g net carbs
- Wendy’s Lettuce Wrapped Son of Baconator (no ketchup) – 4g net carbs
Keto Bunless Chicken Sandwich
Ordering a grilled chicken sandwich without the bun and customizing it with high-fat toppings is a nutritious and satisfying way to stay in ketosis. When ordering grilled chicken, avoid items marinated in sweet sauces, including honey or maple syrup.
The majority of fast-food restaurants have this option available; you just have to ask.
Here are a few ways to make a low-carb, high-fat chicken meal when on the go:
- McDonald’s Pico Guacamole Sandwich without the bun: 330 calories, 18 grams of fat, 9 grams of carbs and 34 grams of protein.
- Burger King Grilled Chicken Sandwich with extra mayo and no bun: 350 calories, 25 grams of fat, 2 grams of carbs, and 30 grams of protein.
- Chick-fil-A Grilled Chicken Nuggets dipped in 2 servings of ranch avocado dressing: 420 calories, 18 grams of fat, 3 grams of carbs, and 25 grams of protein.
- Chick-fil-A Lettuce Wrapped Grilled Chicken Club Sandwich – 2g net carbs
- Chick-fil-A Grilled Nuggets (8 ct.) with Buffalo Sauce and Garlic Herb Ranch – 3g net carbs
- Chick-fil-A Chicken, Egg, and Cheese Bagel (no bagel) – 7g net carbs
- Wendy’s Grilled Chicken Sandwich with extra mayo and no bun: 286 calories, 16 grams of fat, 5 grams of carbs, and 29 grams of protein.
- Jack in the Box Chicken Club Salad with Grilled Chicken – 6g net carbs
- Panera Napa Almond Chicken Salad Sandwich (no bread) – 6g net carbs
- Wendy’s Bunless Asiago Ranch Grilled Chicken Club – 3g net carbs
Sometimes the simplest breakfast option can be the most delicious, such as bacon or sausage and eggs.
This traditional breakfast combination is available at most fast-food restaurants and contains a minimal amount of carbs.
Eggs can help keep you full and satisfied for hours. In one study in overweight young women, eating sausage and eggs for breakfast helped reduce appetite. It also lowered blood sugar and insulin while reducing calorie intake at lunch, compared to a low-protein, higher-carb breakfast.
Cured bacon and sausages are processed meat products, however, which have been linked to an increased risk of heart disease and cancer.
For this reason, most health professionals advise against a high intake of these foods.
Ordering keto-friendly breakfast fast food is pretty simple and falls into two main categories:
- Bunless Breakfast Sandwiches – Simply get a bacon, egg and cheese or sausage, egg and cheese sandwich without the bun, or even a burrito without the wrap. The filling is usually not a ton of food though, so you might want to get two.
- Breakfast Bowls or Skillets – Many places have breakfast bowls or skillets with meat, eggs, veggies, and usually potatoes. Simply ask for no potatoes!
TIP: If you’re choosing between “bacon, egg and cheese” and “sausage, egg and cheese”, opt for the latter. You’ll get more meat and more food, as the bacon portions tend to be extremely small.
The following breakfast options are great choices for people following a ketogenic diet:
- Panera Bread Power Breakfast Bowl with steak, two eggs, avocado and tomato: 230 calories, 15 grams of fat, 5 grams of carbs and 20 grams of protein.
- McDonald’s Big Breakfast without the biscuit or hash browns: 340 calories, 29 grams of fat, 2 grams of carbs and 19 grams of protein.
- McDonald’s Bacon, Egg and Cheese Biscuit without the biscuit: 190 calories, 13 grams of fat, 4 grams of carbs and 14 grams of protein.
- Burger King Ultimate Breakfast Platter without pancakes, hash browns or biscuit: 340 calories, 29 grams of fat, 1 gram of carbs and 16 grams of protein.
- McDonald’s breakfast sandwich without the bread: Each sandwich contains 29 grams of carbs. However, ordering either of these items without the muffin will reduce the carb content to 2 grams or less. It’s also a good idea to order 2 low-carb sandwiches, as each one will only provide about 12 grams of protein.
- Mc Donald’s Bunless Egg McMuffin with a Side Salad – 5g net carbs
- Panera Bread Power Breakfast Bowl: The Power Breakfast Egg Bowl with Steak features steak, tomatoes, avocado, and 2 eggs. It provides 5 grams of carbs and 20 grams of protein. The Power Breakfast Egg White Bowl with Turkey contains egg whites, spinach, bell peppers, and basil for 7 grams of carbs and 25 grams of protein.
- Starbucks Bacon Gruyere Sous Vide Egg Bites – 9g net carbs
Keto Burrito Bowl
Burritos are favorite comfort food. They typically contain meat, vegetables, rice, and beans wrapped in a large flour tortilla. This results in a meal that can easily pack more than 100 grams of carbs.
However, almost every Mexican restaurant allows you to leave out the tortilla and other high-carb items. This is known as a burrito bowl or “bare” burrito.
A burrito bowl made with meat, grilled onions, bell peppers, and salsa is a delicious and satisfying meal that provides less than 10 grams of digestible carbs.
Here are some burrito bowl options for ketogenic diets:
- Chipotle Steak Burrito Bowl with lettuce, salsa, sour cream and cheese (no rice or beans): 400 calories, 23 grams of fat, 6 grams of carbs and 29 grams of protein (7).
- Chipotle Chicken Burrito Bowl with cheese, guacamole and romaine lettuce (no rice or beans): 525 calories, 37 grams of fat, 10 grams of carbs and 40 grams of protein (7).
- Chipotle Burrito Bowl with Chicken, Cheese, Sour Cream, and Green Chili Salsa (no rice or beans) – 7g net carbs
- Chipotle Salad Bowl with Chicken, Guacamole, Pico de Gallo, Sour Cream, and Cheese (no rice, beans or dressing) – 6g net carbs
- Taco Bell Cantina Power Steak Bowl with extra guacamole (no rice or beans): 310 calories, 23 grams of fat, 8 grams of carbs and 20 grams of protein (8).
- El Pollo Logo Keto Taco: 260 calories | 17g fat | 19g protein | 14g total carbs | 9g fiber | 5g net carbs.
You can get keto-friendly salads with low carb ingredients such as lettuce (or any other greens), tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, onions (in moderation), cheese, bacon, avocado, guacamole, grilled chicken, hard-boiled eggs, nuts or seeds (without sugar), etc.
However, be careful because many fast-food salads have added carbs. Salad ingredients to avoid on keto include:
- Fried or breaded chicken
- Candied nuts
- All fruit except berries
- Your safest bet for dressing is oil and vinegar.
Keto salad dressings to try:
- Keto Ranch Dressing – The most popular one on the blog! Readers tell me it tastes like their favorite name brand bottled stuff.
- Keto Caesar Dressing
- Keto Poppy Seed Dressing – This is sweet without any sugar.
- Blue Cheese Dressing – Coming soon!
- Creamy Balsamic Dressing
Fast-food salads to try:
- Panera Bread Cobb Salad with Grilled Chicken (no corn) – 10g net carbs
- Del Taco Chicken Bacon Avocado Salad (no tortilla chips) – 3g net carbs
- Del Taco Fresca Bowl (no beans or rice) – 5g net carbs
- Mc Donald’s Bacon Ranch Grilled Chicken Salad – 5g net carbs
- Panera Green Goddess Cobb Salad with Chicken (no pickled onions) – 11g net carbs
- Subway Chicken Bacon Ranch Salad – 9g net carbs
- Subway Steak and Cheese Salad – 9g net carbs
Surprisingly, many convenience stores and gas stations have a good selection of low-carb foods.
On-the-go snacks for a ketogenic diet include:
- Hard-boiled eggs
- Peanut butter packets
- String cheese
- Sunflower seeds
- Beef jerky
- Meat sticks
- Tuna packets
- Pork rinds
Although buying snacks is convenient, focusing on preparing homemade snacks will give you more control over the food that you eat.
Many beverages served in roadside restaurants tend to be high in sugar. From milkshakes to sweet tea, sugar-laden drinks rule fast-food menus.
For example, just one small Vanilla Bean Coolatta from Dunkin’ Donuts packs in 88 grams of sugar. That’s 22 teaspoons of sugar.
Fortunately, there are many fast-food beverages that fit into a ketogenic diet.
The most obvious choice is water, but here are a few other low-carb drink options:
- Unsweetened iced tea
- Coffee with cream
- Black iced coffee
- Hot tea with lemon juice
- Soda water
- Keeping a no-calorie sweetener like Stevia in your car can come in handy when you want to sweeten your beverage without adding carbs.
Starbucks Keto Drinks
- Grande Americano (sugar-free vanilla syrup and splash of heavy whipping cream, this one is my go-to!) – 2g net carbs
- Tall Caffe Misto (no steamed milk, sub with half heavy whipping cream, half water steamed) – 3g net carbs
- Grande Hot Coffee or Iced Coffee (no sweetener, with a shot of heavy whipping cream) – 0g net carbs
- Grande Keto London Fog (Earl Grey tea, sugar-free vanilla syrup, heavy whipping cream) – 3g net carbs
- Grande Keto Pink Drink* (unsweetened passion tango tea, sugar-free vanilla syrup, heavy whipping cream) 1g net carbs
- Venti Keto White Drink (unsweetened peach tea, sugar-free vanilla syrup, heavy whipping cream) 3g net carbs
Buffalo wings may also be a low-carb option at pizza places and sports bars, depending on how they’re prepared.
Traditionally, buffalo wings are covered in a spicy red sauce made from vinegar and hot red peppers.
An order of these buffalo wings typically has 0–3 grams of carbs per serving.
Other sauces can add a significant number of carbs, especially sweet types, such as barbecue, teriyaki, and anything made from honey.
Sometimes the wings are breaded or battered and fried, which is especially common for boneless wings. Therefore, be sure to ask how the wings are made and order yours with no breading or batter.
Buffalo wings are also usually served with carrots, celery, and ranch dressing.
Although they’re higher in carbs than many other vegetables, carrots are fine to eat in small quantities. A half-cup (60 grams) of carrot strips contains about 5 grams of net carbs.