The Ultimate Keto Fast Food Guide (in 2023).
Can you survive on keto fast food? Yes, it’s possible (but would you want to?)
Discover the foods you need to AVOID … the best menu items to ORDER … the top 5 copycat recipes to make at HOME.
On crazy busy days or when you are on a road trip, fast food is just so easy! It might be convenient, but is it keto? Is it even possible to eat keto foods at fast food restaurants?
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Can you eat fast food on a keto diet?
Yes, you CAN eat fast food and stay keto! It really is possible to maintain a ketogenic diet and eat at fast-food restaurants, it just takes a little more thought.
One thing I want to clear up – the low-carb or keto diet is not about deprivation or a list of taboo foods. Instead, it is a lifestyle that focuses on eating whole, unprocessed foods that are proven to achieve fantastic weight loss and health benefits.
That is why it really is possible to eat low-carb options and keto-friendly options even if you are at a fast-food joint. You just have to order whole, unprocessed menu items. That might limit your choices, and take a little imagination, but it is still possible to stick to your net carbs limit.
Keto fast food guide
Yes, it is possible to eat at a fast-food restaurant, stay in ketosis, and still lose weight. It might not be easy at first to find foods that will fuel your body and keep it in fat-burning mode, but it is possible.
It will take a little extra planning, but once you discover a few of your favorite keto-friendly foods at popular chains, you will have some easy keto options to stick with your macros.
Before we dive in, there is an elephant in the room we need to address. The good news is that you might be able to stay in ketosis while you eat out, but it’s not a good idea, and I do not recommend making that your entire lifestyle. Your body needs vitamins, minerals, and nutrients from whole foods. Processed take-out food won’t give your body these nutrients.
It’s ok in a pinch or as a rare treat, but I do not suggest it as a lifestyle choice. But let’s be realistic, you need to have some fast food options so you may enjoy a keto meal and stay on track with your low-carb diet.
The best low-carb fast food options
The worst thing you can do is stress out about food. You need good low-carb options to order in a convenient way. Instead of worrying about not being able to find low-carb options, or grabbing something while on the road, plan ahead and think about what you are going to order at the most popular restaurants.
There are ways to make these fast food joints work for you. Even fast-food chains have low-carb meals and dinner options that will give you a quick meal that is a good option.
Here at Ditch The Carbs, I’m a strong advocate for eating nutrient-dense foods instead of using your daily grams of carbs as an excuse to be able to eat processed foods.
For instance, knowing that you have only consumed 5g carbs during the day shouldn’t justify eating fast food. By all means, enjoy the occasional fast food as a treat or for a particular occasion but beware that it doesn’t become a regular occurrence.
No matter which fast-food places you stop at, make sure you are choosing food that will feed your body the nutrients it needs. Keto isn’t just about calculating your macro numbers, it’s about nourishing yourself so you feel fantastic!
What to enjoy?
Which fast food places can I eat at when I am on a keto diet?
Stick to fast-food chain stores that offer easy-to-access and transparent nutrition information about their menu options.
Here are some of my favorite places to eat while on keto and the best things to order from them:
- Subway – sub of the day as a salad, not as a sub or wrap. Always choose aioli or mayo, not the teriyaki sauce, sweet’n’sour, or tomato sauces which are all high in sugar.
- McDonald’s – bunless burger served as a lettuce burger. Or, swap the french fries for a side salad and place the burger patties on top (availability depends on the friendly nature of the franchise owner). And if you want extra grams of protein, why not order a Big Mac with extra patties or an egg McMuffin and discard the high-carb bun or muffin?
- Burger King – lettuce burgers (or lettuce wrap). Seared chicken wraps (are lower in carbs than a burger or a crumbed chicken wrap).
- Wendy’s – low-carb burger – you don’t even need to ask for any substitutions! Yay.
- Chipotle – Burrito bowl with cauliflower rice and no beans is a quick and easy low-carb meal.
Another key aspect of selecting a suitable fast food place is to go with those that have a broad menu selection rather than those that won’t offer you many options other than highly processed and carb-dense foods.
As you can see, it does require a teeny bit of planning and research ahead of time but it’s well worth the effort if it means that your keto diet efforts remain intact while you enjoy the fast food ordered.
How to order low-carb takeout food
There are a few tips and hacks I always follow when I eat out. If you use these hacks, it will make ordering the best option at a fast-food restaurant so much less stressful!
My favorite low-carb fast food hacks:
- Make a few simple swaps and you can learn how to order 23 keto Starbucks drinks.
- Order salad without salad dressings. Many dressings in a fast food meals are high in sugar and unhealthy oils such as canola or sunflower oil. You can also ask for it on the side of a container. This way you can control how much you use and how many grams of carbs you are adding to your meal. If the menu allows, why not order a side of sour cream, olive oil, or even blue cheese at a steakhouse, so you can still enjoy the healthy high-fat diet, whilst maintaining your carb intake?
- Avoid ordering any food that has been deep-fried or is covered in breadcrumbs or batter.
- A grilled chicken sandwich (or roast beef sandwich), then simply remove the bread.
- Order a few beef patties, fried eggs, and grilled chicken as a protein-style meal.
- If hot dogs with cheese are the only option, make sure you say no to the high-sugar ketchup and mustard.
- A black coffee with a side of double/heavy cream.
- Stick to protein options that have been baked or grilled.
- If in doubt, always consult the nutrition info listed online prior to ordering any fast food.
What to avoid?
What kinds of foods should I avoid at fast food places when eating keto?
Now that you know what to eat, let’s talk about what you shouldn’t. Here is a quick list of things to avoid at fast-food restaurants:
- Anything made with refined flours (burger buns, muffins, bagels, sandwich bread)
- French fries
- Hash browns
- Milky beverages (lattes, milkshakes, cappuccinos)
- Sugary beverages (fruit juices or soda, and desserts)
- Cakes, desserts, ice cream, and even fruit smoothies.
- Use condiments sparingly or try to avoid them entirely
Here are some typical examples of the types of foods and food items offered at fast-food chains that are somewhat deceptively non-keto and should therefore be avoided if you are going to remain in ketosis (the state in which your body burns fat instead of carbohydrates for fuel).
- Greek yogurt parfait with granola – around 28g carbs per serving
- Fruit cup – around 12g carbs per serving
- Chicken soup – between 15g – 29g carbs per serving depending on whether you select the small or large portion
- Vinaigrettes – anywhere between 8g – 16g carbs per serving
- Ketchup – 16g carbs per serving
- Perinaise sauce – 8g carbs per serving
- BBQ sauce – around 10g carbs per serving
- Fat-Free Honey Mustard – around 22g carbs per serving
- Sweet and spicy sriracha sauce – around 10g carbs per serving
- Chili Salsa – around 21g carbs per serving
- Cold Brew Iced Coffee – between 26g – 33g carbs per serving depending on the size selected
- Vanilla Cold Brew Iced Coffee – between 30g – 38g carbs per serving depending on the size selected
The total carb grams of net carbs for the food items listed above have been sourced from the nutritional pages of various fast food franchises and are presented merely as a guide.
Some even have a nutrition calculator so you can select what to add or remove from your meal and it will calculate the nutrition facts such as calorie intake, protein, and carb counts.
For complete and detailed nutritional information, please consult the following websites (which may not be an exhaustive list of fast-food chains near or available to you):
As you can see, even though your choices are limited, it is still possible to find healthier and lower-carb options. When you plan ahead, you will be able to find foods that will help you stay in ketosis when you eat at these places occasionally.
Is eating fast food considered “dirty keto”?
An alternative to a clean keto is dirty keto. This variation of the keto diet is when you remain under 20 grams of net carbs per day, but don’t mind where your carbs come from.
It allows you to eat highly processed and packaged foods. This is a popular choice for people who want to stay within their carb limits but don’t want to prep clean keto meals.
While you may still be able to stay in ketosis eating this way, you’ll never reach maximum health and weight-loss results and it can also easily lead to consuming other foods that will certainly kick you out of ketosis.
Eating fast food while staying within your carb limit might seem like an easy way to do keto, but it isn’t healthy. You need macronutrients from whole foods. Your body needs the vitamins and minerals for unprocessed foods for it to operate at its best and give you the best weight loss and health results.
Top fast food copycat recipes you can make at home
The healthiest option is always to eat whole foods at home that you make yourself. This way, you control how much sugar/carbs you use and you know exactly how healthy it is for you!
My favorite recipes are below, but I also have a huge list of 29 low-carb copycat recipes that you must try!
Here are some of my favorite take-out-inspired recipes that taste just like you are at a restaurant:
As you can see, it really is possible to eat out and still stay in ketosis. Plan ahead, stay away from the obvious culprits and keep eating whole foods as your main meals.
Please let me know below, what copycat recipes do you make at home.
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