How to Enjoy Fast Food on Keto
In a perfect world, we would only eat healthy and nutritious food for every meal and snack. But this isn’t always possible with today’s hectic schedules. Fast food is sometimes the only option. Unfortunately, fast food and keto don’t necessarily go together.
This is why we put together a fast food guide that will show you what you can eat at several fast food restaurants. You’ll be able to satisfy your hunger, enjoy a treat, and still stay within your macros. So, if you’re hungry, let’s get right to it.
Is Fast Food Allowed on Keto?
Answered simply, yes. You can eat fast food when you’re on a ketogenic diet. But there is a right way and a wrong way to go about it. The wrong way is to march in to a fast food restaurant and order whatever your taste buds come up with. The smart way is to do a little bit of investigating and then customize your meal so that it matches your ketogenic dietary needs.
If you haven’t eaten fast food since you started your keto diet, you may not know where to begin. We’ll go into detail later on, but here are a few fast food tips to keep in mind.
- Keep it simple – Try to stick with items that would be in your own refrigerator at home. Think veggies, cheese, and meet. Sauces are fine but just make sure you check for any hidden carbs. Fast food restaurants are always in competition with each other and often have some pretty crazy concoctions on special. Avoid the temptation and stick to the basics.
- Skip the bread – This may sound obvious but it’s worth mentioning. You want to skip any sort of breading. This includes breading found on chicken and appetizers along with what we call hidden breading, like breadcrumbs mixed into sides or meet for a substance. If something you want has already been prepared and you can’t alter the ingredients, just peel off the breading as best as you can.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help – Employees are there to help. If you’re uncertain about the ingredients in an item or if something can be customized, don’t be afraid to ask. Explain that you are trying to minimize your carb intake. Low-carb diets are common, and chances are the staff has been trained on how to answer your request.
Feeling hungry yet? Below you’ll find several fast food options. You don’t have to go hungry on keto!
Your Guide to Fast Food on Keto
We’ve organized this guide by types of food. While you won’t find the name of your favorite fast food restaurant, you should be able to categorize it and navigate their menu with our suggestions.
Is it time for a burger run? If you’re headed to one of the top fast food chains, like McDonald’s or Wendy’s, you have options when it comes to low-carb meals. First look for grilled chicken sandwiches. They won’t have breading and it’s easy to either ask for it without a bun or simply discard of the bun yourself.
You can also do the same with burgers. Make sure you do away with any ketchup. This condiment has too much sugar. But feel free to add sauces like mayo for an added burst of flavor and don’t be afraid to pile on veggies or extra cheese.
Most burger chains now offer salads but again, make sure you double check the ingredients. Some have breaded chicken, tortilla strips, or dressings that are full of hidden carbs. And in the fast food world, most of these are premade and you will not be able to customize as you want. You’ll also have to do without the fries, but more chains are starting to offer side options that will allow you to have a more rounded meal that’s keto-approved.
We know what you’re thinking. How can Mexican food ever be considered low carb? But with a little creativity, you can turn some of your favorites into keto-friendly options.
First, let’s start with items that you’ll need to avoid entirely. These include rice, beans, tortillas, and certain sauces. But if you take a look at Mexican staples, like steak, chicken, cheese, veggies, and delicious guacamole, you can put together a dish that’s still pretty tasty.
You might have to order sides and items separately rather than the basic combo meals. But with a little creativity you can come up with something that sure to catch the eye of your friends and other patrons.
Here’s another restaurant genre that most keto followers believe is off-limits. While we’ll admit, most of the menu is filled with carb heavy sauces, breaded protein, and dreaded rice, you can still enjoy authentic Chinese without worrying about throwing your diet off.
Let’s start with the basics. It should go without saying that you’ll have to skip any rice or noodles. When it comes to choosing a protein, look for naked meat that hasn’t been breaded. You might want to ask if the meat has been dipped in cornstarch before cooking though as this is common practice.
Look for dishes that are heavy in vegetables and be careful with sauces. As a general rule of thumb, stay away from sweeter sauces. Chances are, if the sauce is thin and savory, it has fewer carbs. If all else fails, you can always make your own keto-friendly Chinese at home.
Chicken in a bucket
Across America, busy families love to gather around buckets of fried chicken. This classic dinner is the staple of several fast food chains, including Popeye’s and KFC. Luckily, chains are keeping up with demand and offering options that are keto friendly. Here’s what you need to know.
This may sound obvious, but if they have grilled chicken on the menu, that’s the answer. Dress it up with a little keto approved sauce and you have a fast meal that’s also delicious. While you’ll find French fries and biscuits on the menu, skip those and look for healthier options like veggies or side salads. And believe it or not, it may be possible to order fried chicken without overdoing the cards. You’ll need to closely watch what you eat for the rest of the day, but if you stick with a couple small drumsticks, you should be okay.
Sub sandwiches are advertised as healthy and compared to other fast food options, they certainly are. But when it comes to keto, a foot of bread is your worst enemy. Luckily, you’ll be able to modify your order to make it work with your diet.
First, some sub chains advertise low-carb options. Simply pick your favorite sub and ask for it to be wrapped in lettuce instead of bread. You’ll get all the taste without the carbs. Just make sure you you’re double checking those sauces. If you need a little more flavor, add some extra cheese or mayo.
Some chains also offer salads with your favorite sub ingredients layered on top. Again, as long as the dressing won’t throw you over, you’re free to enjoy a large portion.
Is there anything more American than a hotdog? Unfortunately, as patriotic as they may be, they are not keto friendly. So, is it possible to find American staples that fit the keto bill? This is one of the more difficult fast food genres but with a little creativity, it’s not impossible to find an item that works for you.
While you can remove a hotdog from the bun and scrape the toppings over it, we do caution you against us. As you may know, hotdogs are simply made of processed meat and not one of the top recommended keto meat options. But chances are, a fast food chain that serves hotdogs will also serve up burgers and chicken sandwiches. Remove the bun, check the sauce, and you should be good to go.
Chances are, you’ll find bacon on the menu as well. Don’t be afraid to add extra to your sandwiches for more flavor and keto-friendly fat. You’ll have to skip the sides like fries, onion rings, and mozzarella sticks. But look for salads and broth-based soups full of veggies. Just double check that there is no added cornstarch or other carb source.
Ice cream parlor
Even if you’re not a big ice cream fan, there’s just something magical about enjoying ice cream with a few friends on a warm summer night. But is it even possible to eat ice cream when you’re on the keto diet?
If you’re smart about it, yes. A small serving of vanilla ice cream (think about ¼ cup) typically has around 8 grams of carbs, depending on the brand. So, if you’ve carefully watched your carbs for the day and focused on eating healthy carbs in the days prior, you might be able to get away with this. But you’ll have to stay away from the more intelligent flavors.
Some chains are also starting to offer low-carb ice cream, which is made with heavy whipping cream and flavored with fruit or cocoa. Don’t make the mistake of reaching for frozen yogurt though. Even though the dairy is a plus, there is typically too much fruit for it to be considered low carb. And on a final note, skip the cone and toppings. Your ice cream maybe on the plain side, but it won’t kick you out of ketosis.
Can I Ever Pig Out on Fast Food on Keto?
Have you found yourself with a serious fast food craving that you just can’t seem to ignore? You may be wondering if you can ever skip the keto guidelines and just order what you want at a fast food restaurant. The answer to this will depend on how strict of a keto diet you’re on. We would never recommend this for someone just starting out on keto or if you just entered ketosis. But if you’ve been on keto for some time now and have experienced positive results, a cheat day here and there won’t be the end of the world.
But before you order all your favorites, make sure that a treat doesn’t turn into a habit. It only takes one meal to throw you out of ketosis and erase weeks of hard work. But if you’re willing to take the extra steps to get yourself back on track, enjoy your favorite combo at your favorite fast food restaurant.
What Happens If I Overindulge?
First, don’t beat yourself up. It happens. Maybe you went into a fast food restaurant with the best of intentions, ate one French fry, and before you knew it, you had gone over your daily carbs.
While this isn’t ideal, the good news is that there are ways to get back into ketosis quickly. First, get back on your diet and be extra strict with your carb intake.
The second thing you should do is increase your exercise. This will speed up the depletion of glucose stores. Finally, there is a secret weapon you can use to speed up your re-entrance into ketosis. BHB salts are supplements that can help you speed up the transition into ketosis. They also help you skip the keto flu symptoms you may have experienced in the past.
The worst thing you can do if you overindulge is to keep doing it. The more you do it, the more it becomes a habit. Before you know it, you’ll have forgotten all about keto, gained weight, and lost any associated keto benefits you were experiencing.
It is possible to enjoy fast food, whether you’re out with your friends or just need something on the road, without destroying your diet on keto. Just remember to investigate. Ask questions when needed. Customize until you have an option that works for your diet and taste buds. While fresh and homemade is always best, you don’t have to stay in your kitchen forever. We hope you found a few options that work for you and your keto lifestyle.