How to Do Fast Foods on the Keto Diet

by Eric Gordon on January 27, 2020

What You'll Learn...

  1. Order Your Food Without Bread
  2. McDonald's
  3. Burger King
  4. Order Your Sub Sandwich in a Bowl or a Tub
  5. Subway
  6. Jimmy John's
  7. Jersey Mike's
  8. Mexican Dishes in a Bowl Without the Tortilla
  9. Chipotle
  10. Taco Bell
  11. Wendy's
  12. Panera
The keto diet is based on reducing your carbs and increasing your intake of healthy fats and protein so that your body transitions from using glucose for energy to using the ketones in stored fats. The key to achieving ketosis is to reduce your carbs to less than 30 grams a day, which means cutting out a lot of high-carb foods including bread, potatoes, and other starchy foods.
When you go out to eat, it might seem as though it will be difficult to maintain the low carb count. However, it can be done and it is a lot easier than you might expect. When you are on the keto diet, the first step is to research what you can eat and then take a look at substitutes that will allow you to have your favorite meals without the carbs. This way, you will be prepared if you find yourself with no option but to fast food.
Another time that fast food comes into play is during a long road trip. You may have no choice but to stop at a fast-food restaurant along the way. However, fast food restaurants are becoming more and more aware that people want to eat healthier options and you will be able to find food that is keto-friendly.

Order Your Food Without the Bread

The meat in burgers or grilled chicken is good for you. It’s the bread that racks up the carbs. When you order, request your food without the bun. You can ask for an extra piece of lettuce and use it as a wrap. Look at the following restaurant items’ carb counts when you leave the buns off:

1. McDonald’s

As a matter of convenience, you can always find a McDonald’s when you are traveling. It is a simple solution and the reality is that most of the carbs come from their bread. You can eat most of their sandwiches if you skip the bread and stay away from fries, breaded chicken, and soda. Take a look at some of the nutritional facts about typical McDonald’s food:
Double Cheeseburger without bun
Calories: 280
Fat: 20 grams
Protein: 20 grams
Carbs: 5 grams
Fiber: 1 gram
Grilled Chicken Sandwich without the bun
Calories: 160
Fat: 4 grams
Protein: 29 grams
Carbs: 2 grams
Fiber: 1 gram
Also if you are into your fast food shakes or ice cream you could do an easy replacement by bringing a Keto Cheesecake shake from your home with you to hold-you-over for the sweet tooth urges. The struggle is real.
As you can see, either of these options will keep you inside of your carb count. In addition, McDonald’s breakfast items are fine as long as you forego the bread. Look at the following:
Egg McMuffin without bread
Calories: 160
Fat: 11 grams
Protein: 12 grams
Carbs: 3 grams
Fiber: 0 grams
Sausage McMuffin without bread
Calories: 340
Fat: 29 grams
Protein: 16 grams
Carbs: 3 grams
Fiber: 0 grams
Again, without the bread, these breakfast items are going to be keto-friendly because they are low carb. If you want to add a drink, choose coffee or tea without sugar. You can choose one of their salads but you will want to skip the dressing and the croutons as these will take your carb count up higher.

2. Burger King

Burger King is another fast-food restaurant where you can stay keto as long as you order without the bread. In addition, leave the ketchup off because the sugar will increase the carbs. You can always ask for an extra piece of lettuce to wrap around the burger, which replaces the bun beautifully. Take a look at a few Burger King menu items:
Whopper (no bun, no ketchup)
Calories: 410
Fat: 11 grams
Protein: 20 grams
Carbs: 3 grams
Fiber: 0 grams
Burger King breakfasts can be eaten without the bread as well. The thing to remember is that the carbs are in all of the bread products and sauces. You should limit those and eat meats and cheeses. In addition, stay away from soda. Stick with water, coffee, or tea for your drink.

Order Your Sub Sandwich in a Bowl or a Tub 

You may think that you can’t have sandwiches but you can have them in a different form. Many sub shops will let you order your sub in a bowl. You will get the meats, cheeses, and veggies that you need without the carbs that come in the bread.
Order your sub without the bread and add cheese. The bread has between 24 and 45 grams of carbohydrates so you can see why you want to avoid it. However, if you take the bread out, you have choices. Look at the following:

3. Subway

Calories: 310
Fat: 27 grams
Protein: 16 grams
Carbs: 7 grams
Fiber: 2 grams
Oven Roasted Chicken
Calories: 150
Fat: 6 grams
Protein: 20 grams
Carbs: 7 grams
Fiber: 2 grams
Roast Beef
Calories: 160
Fat: 7 grams
Protein: 20 grams
Carbs: 7 grams
Fiber: 3 grams
There are calculators online for Subway food where you can look up your favorite meal and determine how to customize it to keep your carbs low. Choose black olives, lettuce, pickles, spinach, and green peppers as your toppings. They have lower carbs. You can add cheese and replace the dressing with a little bit of olive oil.

4. Jimmy John’s

Jimmy John’s is another sandwich place and you can order any sandwich as an “unwich,” which is a sandwich without the bread. Take a look at the following choices:
Pepe Ham 8” Unwich
Calories: 345
Fat: 27.5 grams
Protein: 19 grams
Carbs: 6 grams
Fiber: 1 gram
Big John Roast Beef 8” Unwich
Calories: 255
Fat: 20 grams
Protein: 16 grams
Carbs: 3 grams
Fiber: 1 gram
Totally Tuna 8” Unwich
Calories: 275
Fat: 22 grams
Protein: 11 grams
Carbs: 7 grams
Fiber: 2 grams
JJBLT 8” Unwich
Calories: 335
Fat: 29 grams
Protein: 12 grams
Carbs: 3 grams
Fiber: 1 gram
You can see that the Unwich is a great option from Jimmy John’s.

5. Jersey Mike’s

Another sub shop, Jersey Mike’s, created the sub in a tub. Ordering your sub without the bread takes the carbs from over 50 to under 10 grams. Take a look at these options:
Mike’s Famous Philly
Calories: 430
Fat: 27 grams
Protein: 35 grams
Carbs: 10 grams
Fiber: <1 gram
Ham & Provolone
Calories: 520
Fat: 41 grams
Protein: 26.5 grams
Carbs: 10 grams
Fiber: 2.25 grams
Calories: 410
Fat: 39 grams
Protein: 10 grams
Carbs: 6.23 grams
Fiber: 1.79 grams
It’s amazing what a difference it makes to order it in a tub. You can take a look at Jersey Mike’s online nutritional calculator to see what the carb count is on your favorite sub in a tub.

Mexican Dishes in a Bowl Without the Tortilla

The tortilla is the carb factory for Mexican food. You do not need to skip Mexican food to stay on your keto diet; you can order your favorite dishes in a bowl or as a salad. A 13-inch tortilla has 54 grams of carbs, which is nearly twice what you should have each day.
In addition, you need to stay away from rice and beans. They are loaded with carbs and they won’t work with keto. However, take a look at these other options:

6. Chipotle

You will want to stick with a burrito bowl or a salad bowl here. In fact, Chipotle offers a keto bowl, which will work out perfectly. Their fresh guacamole is a delicious addition to any of the items on their menu. Most of their meats have less than one gram of carbs and many of their fillings are low carb as well. You can customize your order and choose the fillings that are best for you. They are low carb but stick with only a few as the more you add, the higher your carb count will go.

7. Taco Bell

Taco Bell is probably the most difficult place to stay keto but you can do it by ordering your taco ingredients on the side (no shell). In a bind, order the taco and mix it in a bowl but toss the shell.
Order a Salad
In an effort to provide healthy and low-carb options, many fast-food restaurants now offer salads. You can actually order a half portion, which will cut down on the carbs. Stay away from croutons and dressing. That is where the sneaky carbs are lurking. Look at the following:

8. Wendy’s

Wendy’s has a nutrition calculator so that you can plan ahead. A half portion of their Southwest Avocado Chicken Salad will only set you back nine grams of carbs. You can also try the Chicken Cobb Salad or a small Caesar without the croutons.

9. Panera

You will need to avoid most of their soups and sides but in addition to their sandwiches without bread, you can order their salads without the dressing. Some of their salads come with tortilla strips so you need to avoid them. However, the Green Goddess Salad has egg, avocado, bacon, and tomato and is a good choice. Take a look at their online nutrition menu for further ideas.

The Verdict on Fast Food

The verdict on fast food is that while you can make it work on the keto diet, you need to limit fast food as much as possible. If you are traveling or you haven’t had a chance to eat, there is nothing wrong with fast food and you can find a menu item that is keto-friendly. Breakfast, lunch, or dinner, there is something you can eat at just about any of them.
Certain fast food restaurants have developed keto-friendly dishes, such as Chipotle’s keto bowl, and others are aware enough of the times that they offer lower-carb options. The problem is that eating low carb and eating healthy isn’t always the same thing.
Your body needs certain nutrients and part of keto living is eating high-quality healthy fats and protein. Preparing a burger with grass-fed organic beef at home is always going to offer you a greater source of nutrition than getting a bunless burger at a fast-food restaurant.
There are other foods that you need, such as cruciferous vegetables, and you will be hard-pressed to find them at fast-food restaurants. Most people go on the keto diet because they want to live a healthier life and eating fast food every day isn’t going to support that effort even if you choose low-carb items.

Guidelines for Staying Keto at Fast Food Restaurants

The following rules will help you stay keto when you eat fast food. They will apply to almost any restaurant where you need to eat. In addition, you can look up the nutritional content of menu items online for just about any fast-food restaurant. That way, you can plan before you go. If you have no other choice, keep the following in mind:
  • Order burgers without the bun.
  • Order sandwiches in a bowl or a tub.
  • Order Mexican food without the tortilla.
  • Stay away from fries and chips.
  • Order coffee, tea, or water to drink.
  • Order a salad without croutons or dressing.
  • Order breakfast sandwiches without the bread.

Easy Snacks to Help You Avoid Fast Food

If you find that you are having more emergency meals at fast-food restaurants than you would like, you may want to consider these simple snacks that will help you cut down on your fast food intake. Most are available at gas stations or convenience stores and they can really make a difference. Quick snacks can include the following:
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Beef jerky
  • String cheese
  • Meat sticks
  • Peanut butter packets
  • Pork rinds
Preparing your snacks at home is an even better option. By planning ahead and meal prepping each week, you will find it much easier to stay keto. You can make hard-boiled eggs, cheese, and low-carb veggies with you for snacking and it should help eliminate those extra fast food runs.
You can do fast food and stay true to the keto diet but you should exercise caution. The fact that food is low carb doesn’t make it a healthy choice so try to minimize your trips to these restaurants. Of course, when you are on a long road trip, your options are limited so follow the tips above and you should have no trouble finding something to eat.