At first glance, you might think it’s a little confusing to eat a keto and low carb diet while dining out….
…. but it’s actually not too hard when you know what foods on the menu to look for!
The two main foods to focus on are:
Why meats and vegetables?
Because these two types of foods are the lowest in carbs.
Meat has zero carbs, and vegetables are low to moderate in carbs.
Focusing your choices on these two options will keep your total carb intake low, and also keep your total caloric intake low because you’re getting rid of carbohydrates like bread.
What about fats?
Honestly, most of the fats found in restaurants and fast food joints aren’t the good types. They are usually the vegetable oil types. And we know that a keto diet is high in fats, moderate in proteins, and low in carbs…. so I recommend eating a higher protein fast food meal, and you can take in more (good) fats when you get home to meet your macronutrient needs.
How To Eat Keto While At Fast Food Restaurants
Staying keto at fast food places is all about making good choices.
The first thing you need to do is NOT give in to the bun! I came from a background of eating tons of carbs and I know how hard it is to say no that burger.
There are just a few things you need to avoid:
You want to avoid any types of foods that are breaded. Sandwiches, pastas, burgers, pitas, just to name a few.
You also want to avoid anything sugary – like soft drinks, juices, and desserts like cookies and cake.
By doing the two things above, you’re left with low carb types foods only. Eating low carb while away from home is really all about discipline and not giving in to easy “tasty” foods that are not part of your way of eating.
Best Restaurants For Keto / Low Carb Dieters
Honestly, every restaurant and fast food chain will have low carb food choices. Even a place like Pizza Hut, where they serve mostly Pizza and Pastas, you can order an item like wings (go for breadless).
KFC, McDonalds, A&W, etc, all have chicken and beef burgers that you can order without the bun. Any place that serves skewers of meat, like middle eastern restaurants and food chains are great.
Places that serve chicken are also great too, because you’re getting mostly protein and not much else – which makes it super low carb. I like KFC for their chicken options.
Chipotle may be the best place to go if you are looking for low carb foods. You can build a bowl of your favorite meats and veggies, and top it off with salsa or guacamole. All of it will be very low carb. Skip the wrap!
One of my favorite fast food places are those Chinese pick 5 items places. Because you can very easily see your choices. Chinese food is pretty notoriously greasy and fried, but at least you have an option of like 30 items here. Go for things like broccoli and sprouts. They’ll always have meat options to choose. Of course, skip any meats doused in sauces (they are incredibly high in sugar), skip all noodle choices, and anything wrapped and deep fried like spring rolls.
The bottom line is this:
You can do keto at any fast food restaurant. Eat the meats and veggies. Anything carby is a no no. If you’re pretty experienced at eating low carb, you’ll have this down pretty good. If you’re newer to keto, you’ll soon learn how to identify keto friendly foods really fast, and make good choices!
15 Keto Friendly Fast Food Ordering Tips
1. Get grilled chicken over breaded chicken
Get used to the grilled chicken life! This is one of the easiest ways to stay keto while fast fooding. Every fast food joint that serves chicken will have some sort of non-breaded option. If chicken is on the menu, then go breadless. I know it might be hard, but you can skip the crunch. The size of your belly will thank you.
2. Get it wrapped in lettuce
It’s not so weird anymore to get a burger wrapped in lettuce. People with gluten intolerance do it all the time, and anybody who wants to stay low carb can too of course! Lettuce has pretty much no calories and it’s obviously much healthier than a bun. It will probably get a little messier than a bun, cause let’s be real – lettuce ain’t good at holding anything together – but this is one way to enjoy a great tasting burger without the carbs.
3. Say no to the bun
No matter what, you CANNOT order food with bread. Whether you’re buying a burger, sandwich, or submarine, you gotta go bunless. We all like a nice buns, but when it comes to our food – just say no! A bun can add sever hundred calories – most of which are carbs, and it will kick you out of ketosis fast.
4. Choose low calorie salad dressings
If you can, skip the salad dressing all together. But if you need some flavor and want a dressing, ranch, caesar, 1000 island, etc, are all not so very good options. They are high in calories and, you guessed it, carbs.
Try for olive oil and vinegar if that is an option. Restaurants serving salads will have it. It’s a little harder to get this at fast food joints. But if they have something light or low calories, it will likely be better overall for you – though not optimal.
5. Just say no to anything sweet
When you’re getting adapted to keto, sweet tooth will kick in. But once you’ve become adapted, you’re usually not craving too many sweets – if at all. You know how Subway gives you a free cookie with your order? DON’T TAKE IT. Just say no to cookies.
Sweets like brownies and cookies are especially popular with fast food places for whatever reason. Eating these is just as bad as eating a bun with your food btw. In my mind, eating sweets is probably the most guilty thing you can do while keto’ing. It’s just pure JUNK. Has no nutritional value. And you’re really just satisfying a craving rather than filling a nutritional need in your body.
6. Add bacon and guacamole
If there is an option to add bacon or guacamole, do it! We all know bacon is a keto favorite because it’s high in fats and tasty. While bacon won’t be the free range antibiotic free type, not all of us can afford high quality bacon – so let’s just enjoy it.
Guacamole is great because it’s just smashed avocados – which are great and are not as susceptible to pesticide damage like like other fruits/vegetables. Guacamole is one of the main keto superfoods you should be eating all the time.
7. Use salsa for flavoring
Skip the dressing and sauces for salsa. Salsa can be very flavorful, adding spice and tangyness with little calories and best of all, little carbs. I like it on my eggs sometimes and to flavor just about anything that tastes bland.
8. Bacon, eggs, and sausages for breakfast
Need a keto fast food breakfast meal? Get eggs, bacon, and sausages. These are super foods in the low carb breakfast world. In fact, all three of these foods are zero carb. I love breakfast because it’s not confusing at all for keto’ers. Most of us are used to eating eggs and bacon for breakfast – so there isn’t much to change here – except skipping the hash browns of course!
9. Skip anything fried
If you can avoid it, skip fried foods. It’s not that fried foods are necessarily bad, but it’s the oils that are used to fry foods that are bad. Most restaurants and fast food places use vegetable oils to fry their foods. And vegetables oils are BAD. Very bad for your health, no matter what the government tells you.
Also, many fried foods are breaded cause you know, food with a crunchy texture is well… crunchier! By avoiding deep fried fast foods, you’ll be more likely to skip anything breaded and avoid the bad fats.
For me, the only thing I eat that’s fried is probably wings. When I’m at a restaurant I typically order a thing of wings and get it salt and pepper style. It’s a fair amount of calories and fried in bad fats – but it’s zero carb and a better option than beef dip with fries.
10. Don’t be afraid of the salad
I didn’t grow up eating much salads so salads have always been a pretty unsexy food choice for me. But as I’ve become keto and low carb, I’ve really embraced salads into my life. At fast food joints, grab salads! They may not make you that full but it should hold you over until you can cook a great meal at home.
Add a unbreaded chicken breast if you can for that extra protein and fulfillmentness (making up words here!). You’ll probably want to skip the fruit like apples or mango oranges that sometimes find their way onto salads, and skip the croutons…. and as I mentioned before, choose low carb/low calorie salad dressings if you must.
11. Eat to satisfy, not to fill
I always prefer to eat meals at home because I know exactly what’s in it. If you’re out and about though, I think it’s a great idea to eat fast food until you are just satisfied…. so when you get home, you can make “real food”. I like this because it will save you money first of all, and you’ll also be eating less unhealthy foods. In other words, eat to satisfy your hunger, not anymore.
12. Drink water, tea, or coffee with your meal
A great way to “fill” your stomach is to drink liquids with your meal. Also eating slower can help create a full feeling too. Water, tea, and coffee all have zero calories. These are your go-to drinks on a keto diet. Obviously, not the sexiest choices, or even the tastiest – but this isn’t an option here and it’s something you need to get used to. As you get keto adapted, you’ll probably not really crave the sweet stuff anymore – or a lot less than usual.
On a side note, I’m personally not a fan of drinking zero carb drink or any other type of sweetened drink that is “healthy”. I think every now and then to keep yourself sane is okay, but doing it regularly is a bad idea because you are maintaining your sugar cravings when you do it. And in the long run, I feel it’s better to just NOT have sugar cravings at all.
13. Ask what items they have that are gluten free / low carb
Don’t be afraid to talk to your server. Ask them what options they have that are low carb. Gluten free is also something you can ask about. A LOT of people have intolerances to certain types of food these days, and you may be surprised at how knowledgeable your server is.
It doesn’t hurt to ask. And they can give you recommendations, which will be useful if you don’t know the menu well.
14. Take some time to look at the menu first
A BIG thing you can do before you eat fast food is to look at their menu on your phone because you hit them up for a meal. Especially if you are in a place like a food court where you have many options, you can easily decide what to eat based on how many low carb options they have and what you feel like eating.
This will help you not make a mistake ordering and also help you order a food you actually want to eat – cause you know, we’ve all messed up our order before! Basically, you want to make a smart decision instead of making a rash choice while you’re under the gun in the order line.
15. Skip the cheese and mayo
A lot of filler condiments can be skipped, in fact, SHOULD be skipped. Processed cheese is one of them. I’m someone who can tolerate dairy and I eat a lot of it, but I stay away from processed dairy as much as I can. In a simple sentence, processed cheese is bad for you.
Mayo isn’t necessarily bad, and if you make your own home made mayo, it can be incredibly delicious, keto and paleo. Restaurant mayo isn’t of the same awesome home made quality. If you need it you need it, but skip it if you can.
Other condiments like mustard, ketchup, relish, etc, are not good for you. They are decently high in sugars (carbs) and not real foods. They exist to flavor foods. Remember I mentioned salsa and guacamole above? Really try and go this route – even if it costs more money.
How To Avoid Eating Out
I personally recommend avoiding eating out at all costs if possible. I know we travel and get busy and can’t make a lunch, so sometimes we have to get some food at the food court. So make good choices in these situations.
For me, sometimes when I know I’ll be out for 6 hours or so, I make sure I eat a meal filled with fat before I leave the house. This helps keep me fuller longer so I don’t get so hungry I have to resort to fast food.
Also, I usually have a sandwich bag of nuts with me. I like almonds, walnuts, and pecans, as they are the best keto friendly nuts that are easily found. They have a great ratio of higher fats, moderate proteins, and low carbs. I eat these nuts if I get too hungry and can’t make it home in time. I prefer to keep my snacks sugarless because sweets can make me crave more food.
And probably the BEST tip I can give you to help you avoid eating fast food is to do what is called intermittent fasting. This is when you go a period of time without eating. For example, in a 24 hour period, you can go 18 hours without eating (and 6 hours when you can eat). This will train your body to not crave food all the time, so you’re less susceptible to hunger pains, and it will help you lose more weight faster – AND it’s incredibly healthy for you – contrary to what has been said about it (this is backed up by a lot of medical research).
Why You Want To Avoid Fast Food If Possible
I’m someone who eats mostly organic, and that really only happens when I eat at home. I go to the farmers market once a week and get what I need for the week there, and cook it all at home. This is so incredibly healthy and I really enjoy the process of buying local and cooking the foods myself.
The reason why I do this is because fast food is laced with bad fats, preservatives, GMO foods, and highly processed foods. None of this is good for you.
I do a keto diet where I eat natural paleo foods. Think keto diet and eating only healthy stuff. Because you can eat keto and eat processed meats, cheeses, and other less healthy foods and stay low carb, but it’s not as optimal as choosing high quality low carb foods – like grass fed beef and free range eggs.
I get that we can’t all buy organic and grass fed. It is definitely more expensive. But even so, meat you buy from your local grocery store is better than meat you buy at McDonalds – because that meat is laced with chemicals to make it taste really good – which isn’t a good thing for your overall health.
Personally, if I HAVE to eat fast food, I only eat a little bit. Just enough to stop the hunger or to hold me over until I can get home. I also look for the LEAST processed foods, and tend to lean to proteins like meat skewers or unbreaded chicken – because they make me fuller and have zero carbs.
Keto is a high fat diet, however, pretty much all fats at a fast food restaurant aren’t going to be optimal for you. Since toxins of animals are stored in fats, I rather not eat fats when I eat fast food and get my healthy fats when I am at home.
Keto Diet Resources You May Find Useful
The keto diet has been popular for a few years already but is finally now truly exploding in popularity because the truth is coming out about how you actually lose fat and what you actually need to eat for overall optimal health.
If you’re new to keto and need guidance, or you want to start this diet and need resources like cookbooks and keto health info to get you started, I’ll share with you some of my favorite ones below:
Keto Camp is a keto diet guide for beginners that’s well rounded with keto information on general health, using a keto diet specifically to lose weight, and it comes with cookbook and workout resources to burn more fat. If you’re looking for something to get you started, this is a great one.
Keto Diet Cookbook is a really good keto cookbook especially for beginners and people who aren’t great at cooking. The recipes are simple and easy to make, and are specific for weight loss and overall general health. The bonus material will give you a strong foundation of keto knowledge as well. If you’re looking for a great cookbook and want to deepen your understanding of keto, this is a great choice.