For those who eat low-carb or ketogenic diets, there is almost always something they can eat at every restaurant or fast food place. Plan ahead. Before entering a restaurant, check its menu and nutritional information online at home or using your smartphone. It’s always good to know the safe options before you indulge in menu items you shouldn’t have on a low-carb diet.
To make it easier for you to find a quick keto option, I’ve compiled a list of several restaurants and fast food places and those items I’ve found to be the lowest carb (and most emotionally satisfying) options. These aren’t all perfect options, but when you don’t have other options due to time or location constraints, they’ll do it in a pinch.
It helps a lot that fast food places are required to post nutritional content. Every day it is easier to follow the ketogenic plan. The carb count I am listing is approximate and is in NET grams.
Usually there is usually some choice of salad wherever you are. At burger joints, simply remove the bun, and many places offer lettuce instead. The chicken should not be breaded.
As a side note, it helps to have a knife and fork handy in your car or bag. Big, juicy burgers on little bits of lettuce end up on the table, or in your lap. Small, flimsy plastic fast food containers also make it hard to eat. Get out your own sturdy utensils and enjoy!
Now for food choices…here are some pretty obvious rules of thumb to follow:
- Skip the bun or wrap
- Skip the pasta, potato or rice.
- Salads – without croutons. Stick with the low-sugar dressing options: Caesar, blue cheese, ranch, chipotle. Look at the name which may give you a clue, things like “honey” in the honey dijon or “sweet” in the name of the dressing; they are generally not a good choice. Check the ingredient for items that have a higher carbohydrate content.
- Chicken – Choose grilled or sauteed. Stay away from any chicken that is breaded.
mcdonald’s – opt for any burger (zero g) or grilled chicken (2 g) without the bun and topped with cheese, mayonnaise, mustard, onion, etc. Without tomato sauce. Add a salad (3 g). Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad or Grilled Chicken Bacon Ranch Salad is 9g.
king of burgers – the same burger info as McDonald’s: burger (zero g) without the bun and topped with cheese, mayonnaise, mustard, onion, etc. Without tomato sauce. The grilled chicken sandwich without bread is 3 g. BEWARE: You may think the veggie burger is low, but it has 19g carbs, so that’s about a full day’s worth of carbs on keto. Add a salad (3 g). Garden Salad with Grilled Tender Chicken is 8g without dressing or croutons. Crispy tender chicken salad is not an option. Do not you dare.
BONUS – dessert!?! – fresh apple fries are unfried and have 5g net carbs WITHOUT caramel sauce.
Underground – You should probably skip the subway if you can. Buns and wraps are high in carbohydrates. I suppose you could ask them to throw the ingredients in a wrapper without bread, but that doesn’t sound appealing. I don’t have any info on what the carb count would be for each sub without bread, but you can probably figure it out: chicken or pepperoni is fine, but is chicken with “sweet onion” okay? No idea. Stick with the salads, but keep in mind that you’ll only get iceberg lettuce (4g).
Carl’s Junior and Hardees – This chain offers “lettuce wraps”: your burger wrapped in a large piece of lettuce for easy low-carb eating. (Like I said, I tried it and I don’t love it. Instead, I like to bring my own fork.) Bunless Options: Six-Dollar Burger (7g), 1/2-Thick Burger (5g), Grilled Chicken Club Sandwich (7g/10g at Hardees). Grilled chicken salad without croutons is 10 g. The salad is 3g.
Jimmy John’s – The unwich, a sandwich wrapped in lettuce, fits perfectly here. Meats are fine, just make sure the ingredients aren’t high in carbs.
Wendy’s – Again, you can get your burger in a lettuce wrap or in a box. Any burger with toppings. Mayo has corn syrup and it is 1g. Grilled chicken fillet is 1 g. It can be ordered in the chicken club sandwich or the ultimate grilled chicken sandwich. Best Salads: Chicken Caesar (7g), Chicken Blt Salad with Grilled Chicken. Side salads 6 g or 2 g for Caesar.
Pizza Hut and other pizzerias – It is possible to get used to eating pizza without a crust. You need to eat twice as much, but if there’s a party or dinner out that you can’t avoid at a pizzeria, just remove the cheesy toppings and eat the big messy pile of cheese and toppings. A salad is a nice addition. Otherwise, simply opt to make pizza at home with a low-carb base.
mongolian barbecue -YES! Fill your bowl with chicken, shrimp, onion slices, and mushrooms, then top with the Asian Black Bean Sauce. I know beans have carbs, but the label on this sauce says 1 gram of carbs per ounce (each sauce is clearly labeled). Add some garlic and wait for the grill to do its thing. Needless to say, you skip the snacks, tortillas, and rice. Ask the servers not to bring them to the table.
italian restaurants – These require a bit of cunning, but can be conquered! Ideas: How about Chicken Marsala at an Italian place? Make sure it doesn’t come with pasta. Substitute broccoli or another keto side dish, or a large salad. Chicken piccata is also a possibility.
Mexican and Chinese restaurants are the most difficult, because any low-carb option is not the reason to go to the restaurant in the first place. At a Mexican restaurant, I tend to order a large burrito without beans and spread out the soft tortilla like a plate. Eat the inner ingredients and mix the tortilla.
If you MUST go to a chinese buffet (I attended a funeral dinner at one), you can find options, but they probably won’t be your favorite General Tso’s. How about the salad bar options? eggs? the inside of the eggrolls, and I even ate just the inside of the crab rangoons. Unfortunately, these ideas leave a lot of discarded shells and fried outer pieces on your plate and make it look like you’re actually wasting food.
wings anywhere – Standard buffalo sauce is usually fine, as is garlic Parmesan.
Convenience stores can also be a good option! 7-11 has packages of hard boiled eggs, cheese slabs, slim jims, almonds, and pork rinds. Pork Rinds come in BBQ flavor and are ZERO carbs.
Remember, whatever you choose, hold onto bread, potatoes, rice, noodles, chips, and tortillas. And beware of the possibility of cornstarch, breadcrumbs, and other fillers. With proper planning and a good attitude, you can find healthy, low-carb keto options when dining out and stick to your successful keto diet plan.