A lot of fast food chains have tried to include healthier choices in recent years. However apple slices, full carb wraps, and 6 new fat free salad dressings don’t mesh with the low carb high fat lifestyle. Luckily there are still options when you need a fast food fix and are following the ketogenic diet.
This will be your go-to guide to keto food when you’re in need – fast – and not at home.
We’ve all been there. You’re out running errands on a Saturday afternoon and your tummy growls: it’s 2 pm and you haven’t eaten yet! Or it’s a Tuesday night and you’re at a friend’s house and they want to grab a meal quick.
What to do? Luckily, you have keto fast food options! I have happily eaten my way through the research for you – here’s a quick look at the most common fast food restaurants in the U.S. and keto meal options for you.
Five Guys Burgers & Fries:
Bacon Cheeseburger – Lettuce Wrap or Bowl
I only recently discovered the amazing keto to-go meal that is Five Guys. This is one of the few burger places I’ve been to that doesn’t flinch when I ask for no bun – you can either get your burger wrapped in lettuce or in a to go box (as pictured).
You can pick the toppings you want from their board. Best part is, if you order a bacon cheeseburger, you can ask for extra cheese and extra bacon for no extra charge! Another perk if you eat inside the restaurant is that they have all you can eat peanuts in the shell. A fun keto side that won’t make you long for their carby fries!
This is one of my favorite fast food options for a keto meal. Not only can you get an unwich to go, they deliver too! All of their sandwiches can be ordered as an unwich, which substitutes the bread/tortilla for a lettuce wrap.
This allows you to get your favorite Jimmy John’s sub in a low-carb version! Another perk of Jimmy John’s is that they have a very customizable nutrition menu builder online so you can easily add the macros of your unwich to your daily tracker!
Burrito Bowl Sans Rice/Beans or Salad
Up for Mexican food? You’re not alone! Chipotle is my favorite go to spot when I am craving spicy food while on the go. At Chipotle you can choose between a burrito bowl sans rice and beans or a salad.
Meat, cheese, sour cream, lettuce, salsa (the hot tomatillo-red chili salsa has the fewest carbs) – guac costs extra. That’s fine with me! Add on the fats and flavor, leaving the carbs behind – a great on the go meal can be had at Chipotle.
Protein Style Burger or the Flying Dutchman
Are you lucky enough to have an In-N-Out Burger nearby? While I unfortunately do not live near one, you are able to get a great keto-fied burger there as well! Order your In-N-Out burger “protein style” and they will swap out the bun with a lettuce wrap. To up the flavor without the carbs, swap the house spread for mustard and more pickles.
You can also order a Flying Dutchman which is two meat patties, two slices of cheese, and no bun or lettuce wrap! If you want any condiments, be sure to request them as they are not included on the Flying Dutchman.
Low Carb It Menu
This is another great place to grab a keto-fied fast food meal and where the staff are comfortable knowing their low carb menu options. They are one of the best spots to grab a keto breakfast on the go with their Low Carb Breakfast Bowl – a delicious selection of egg, cheese, and meats.
For lunch, dinner, or an afternoon snack, they offer the Low Carb 1/3 lb Thickburger or the Low Carb Charbroiled Chicken Club Sandwich; low carb versions of your favorite sandwiches served on a lettuce wrap. Hardee’s/Carl Jr’s websites also allow you to see the nutritional information of these items, helping you to easily track your daily macros.
Salads and “Power” Items on the Hidden Menu
Don’t let the “Bread” in Panera Bread stop you from giving this place a try for a keto meal – there are plenty of options! While they have a few salads that are low-carb with no dressing, there is a newer, better option for keto menu items at Panera found on their hidden menu.
For a breakfast meal, ask for the Power Breakfast Egg Bowl with Steak at 3g net carbs or the Power Breakfast Egg White Bowl with Roasted Turkey at 4g net carbs. For lunch or dinner, order the the Power Mediterranean Chicken at 7g net carbs, the Power Mediterranean Roasted Turkey Bowl at 7g net carbs, or the Power Steak Lettuce Wraps at 6g net carbs.
Panera also does a great job of listing the nutritional information for these menu items on their website.
McDonald’s and Burger King:
Breakfast Items and Bunless Sandwiches
Both McDonald’s and Burger King offer items that can be made low carb at a cheap price – this makes it a great stop on a road trip as one of these restaurants can usually be found in the smallest of pit stop towns.
You can ask for a breakfast sandwich at either restaurant and order it without the bun and the same goes for a grilled chicken breast or burger for a lunch or dinner. My personal favorite of these two is the McDouble from McDonald’s Value Menu without a bun or ketchup. They will usually serve it in a bowl and sometimes will add lettuce with it. Very tasty and keto-friendly at only 4g net carbs (ketchup will add an additional 1g net carb)!
My only complaint with these two restaurants is that the staff usually aren’t sure what you mean by “no bun” – however Burger King has the “low carb” option and seem to be better trained. Both chains offer their nutritional information in a customizable menu builder that has nutrition information – great way for you to plan out a meal ahead of time or track macros after.
Bunless Double Stack or Grilled Chicken Sandwich
A great meal that is also minimal on the wallet is Wendy’s Double Stack ordered without a bun. At 4g net carbs and on their Right Price Right Size Menu, it is delicious and gives you the meat, cheese, and toppings you crave.
While in university, I ate at Wendy’s for lunch every day for 3 months and ordered two bunless Double Stacks plain, to bring down the carb count even more. Another good keto option is the Ultimate Chicken Grill Sandwich – served without a bun, it is only 5g net carbs.
KFC is a great place to stop for a keto meal – each serving of their grilled chicken is either only 0 or 1g of net carbs. Ordering a few pieces of grilled chicken is super simple and super quick. Skip most of the sides – but if you must have one, ordering an individual serving of green beans is 2g net carbs.
If salad is more up your alley, the caesar or house side salad without dressing and croutons is 1g net and 2g net carbs respectively. A Heinz Buttermilk Ranch Dressing packet is 1g net carb, Marzettie Light Italian Dressing is 2g net carbs, and a KFC Creamy Parmesan Caesar Dressing is 4g net carbs.
In the hopes that the Grilled Double Down Sandwich returns someday (one of my personal favorite fast food keto meal in the past), I’ll list it here. That sandwich is only 4g net carbs and they are super delicious.
Chopped Salad or Bunless Breakfast Item
Subway used to be a great place for low carbers as they had teamed up with Atkins to offer low carb wraps. Unfortunately that ended many years ago now and we’re left up to our own devices to make a keto friendly meal!
Luckily you’re able to make a chopped salad out of any of their sandwiches and they have plenty of meats and toppings to choose from. For the lowest carb count, choose the Grilled Chicken Breast chopped salad made with spinach. As a dressing, your best option is the olive oil blend which is 0g net carbs. The next best keto option is the ranch dressing but it’s 4g net carbs!
As Subway has also recently started serving breakfast, you can now also get any of their breakfast subs without a bun and add any topping you please – a great keto way to start the day!
As a quick aside, attempting to “Calculate Yours” on their online menu is a bit tricky for breakfast as they will not allow you to select “None” for bread and you will have to manually figure out macros by subtracting out the bread nutritional information.
Gas Station and Convenience Store:
I never thought I would be one to eat a sandwich from a gas station but a long car trip last year changed that; I didn’t want to have to stop for gas and at a restaurant when I just wanted to keep driving!
I picked up a breakfast sandwich from inside a gas station and after peeling off the bun – it was pretty tasty! Just sausage, egg, and cheese. A lot of gas stations now offer hard-boiled eggs, deli meat, and string cheese in their cases in addition to other keto friendly snack items like almonds and pork rinds.
Take a look around, you can easily make a keto meal when you’re in a rush. Many gas station chains have also started to make their cheap coffee more “gourmet” too and offer add-ins – I have found sugar-free syrups at more than one chain, making that late night pick-me-up taste so much better!
Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, or most Coffee Houses:
Coffee or Tea and Bunless Breakfast Sandwich
When you are looking for a drink to warm you up or cool you down, you can always head to a coffee place. While the easiest option is to ask for a black coffee or tea, hot or iced, you can always ask them if they have heavy whipping cream, almond, or coconut milk (make sure these are unsweetened, if they carry it). I have found most small mom and pop coffee shops will have heavy whipping cream and Starbucks will usually have it if you ask.
Other low carb options include an Americano, which is hot water added to espresso, and a Depth Charge, which is a shot of espresso added to a cup of coffee (also known as a red eye, turbo, and shot in the dark). Most baristas will not bat an eye at your drink requests – they are used to getting silly long orders!
A lot of coffee houses now offer hot breakfast sandwiches as well – so if you are in a rush, order a breakfast sandwich and get rid of the bun – you’ll be left with a gooey and delicious mess of eggs, cheese, and sausage or bacon!
Make Your Own Menu Item
I honestly didn’t believe this was true until I tried it: you can order just the sides at Taco Bell! Skip their tacos and salads in an effort to make a low carb dish here and just order the items you want. You can order a side of chicken, beef, lettuce, and guacamole for under $2.
Add a hot sauce packet or two on top and you’ve got that tasty Taco Bell meal you want – without the carbs. You can also do this for a breakfast meal as well, ordering eggs and a sausage patty or two as side items. Definitely gives their Dollar Cravings Menu a run for the money!
So what are your favorite keto fast foods? What local fast food places do you have that you can keto at?
* Photo of Unwich courtesy of Jimmy John’s Instagram
* Photo of Burrito Bowl courtesy of Chiotle’s Instagram
* Photo of Protein Style Burger courtesy of In-n-Out’s Instagram
* Photo of Low Carb It Burger courtesy of Hardee’s Instagram
* Photo of Power Salad courtesy of Panera Bread’s Website
* Photo of Grilled Chicken courtesy of KFC’s Website
* Photo of Chopped Salad courtesy of Subway’s Website
* Photo of Starbucks Coffee courtesy of Starbuck’s Instagram
* Photo of Hot Sauce courtesy of Taco Bell’s Instagram