Health and fast food don’t typically belong in the same sentence together. However, there are times when, despite your best efforts, you’re faced with a fast food menu and a grumbling stomach. Maybe it’s an unexpected delay in a smaller airport or a traffic jam and a car full of hungry kids. Whatever the reason, my advice is the same – use what information you have to make the best choice available to you when ordering keto fast food.
Before getting into chain specific choices, there are a few basic guidelines that can save you some time and ketones.
- Seek out the keto staple foods: non-starchy vegetables (ex. lettuce, tomatoes, peppers etc.), protein (ex. chicken, beef, eggs etc.) and fats (ex. mayo, vinaigrette dressing, cheese etc.).
- Avoid breads, breading (ex. breaded fish, chicken, onion rings etc.), french fries, and sweetened sauces (ex. barbeque, honey mustard etc.).
- Choose zero carb beverages like water, unsweetened iced tea or coffee.
- Pay attention to sauces! Zero or low carb sauces and dressings typically include mayo, classic hot sauce, Italian and vinaigrette-based dressings (with exception to raspberry and other fruit vinaigrettes which have higher sugar content), fresh salsa and ranch dressing.
- Consider the label of ‟sandwich” as optional. There is no rule you have to eat the bread.
- Use your smart phone! Most restaurant menus are online and have interactive calculators.
Check out these keto friendly options from common fast food restaurants:
Keto Fast Food Options at Chipotle
Beverages: San Pellegrino, Unsweetened Tea, Bottled Water
Nutrition facts calculated using: Chipotle Nutrition Calculator
Make it work, any Mexican style fare: choose salad, not tacos or rice bowls. Start with a bed of lettuce, pick a protein, add non starchy vegetables like onions, peppers, tomatoes. Top with some fat – preferably guacamole or avocados, garnish with cheese and sour cream if you’d like or skip it if you’re dairy free.
Keto Fast Food Options at McDonald's
Beverages: Coffee, Cream, Unsweetened Tea, Bottled Water
Nutrition facts calculated using: McDonalds Nutrition Calculator
Make it work, any burger joint: choose a sandwich with grilled chicken, beef, eggs or breakfast meat. Add on cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion to taste, skip the bun. Add salad with vinaigrette or ranch dressing.
Keto Fast Food Options at Starbucks
Beverages (1g of net carb or less): brewed coffee, brewed tea, Pellegrino, bottled water
Nutrition facts calculated using: Starbucks Nutrition
Make it work, any coffee shop: order black coffee or tea with heavy cream. Stick with sugar free syrups. Customize any beverage by asking for no sugar and subbing in heavy cream. Choose egg bites/wraps or sandwiches and ditch the bread.
Keto Fast Food Options at Subway
Beverages (1g of net carb or less): brewed coffee, unsweetened iced tea, bottled water
Nutrition facts calculated using: Subway Nutrition Calculator
Make it work, any sub shop: stick with salads and protein or a bunless sandwich. Some sub shops, like Jimmy Johns, have large lettuce leaves that can be used in place of bread (this known as an ‟Unwich”). As always, keep the beverages zero carbs. This is most simply accomplished by drinking water but unsweetened tea and diet sodas also work.
Eating fast food does not mean you have to throw in the towel on your low carb diet. There are many good options available. With a bit of information and some plastic ware, most menus are painlessly customizable.
So, the next time you find yourself in a pinch and the golden arches are calling your name, head on in and get creative. While it’s not health food, you can stay in ketosis and return to leafy greens and avocadoes when you arrive at your destination.
Want more suggestions for eating keto on the go? Check out our blog post Staying Keto During the Summer While Eating Out.