Fast food isn’t known for its nutritious content. When you add a keto lifestyle into the mix, it may seem impossible to eat a low-carb diet when dining out. But with a little planning and creativity, it’s possible to find keto fast food options without losing your mind.
An ideal diet for remaining in ketosis should consist of at least 70% fats, 20% protein and 10% or less of carbs. Overall, you shouldn’t consume more than 30 net grams of carbs per day when following a ketogenic diet.
When you enter a restaurant, you’re bombarded with carb-heavy options, like bread, tortillas, potatoes, and pasta. An average side of French fries can have at least 60 grams of net carbs while a single serving of pasta and sauce has over 70 net grams of carbs. So, if you can’t eat a restaurant’s staple dishes, is it possible to order something that will leave you satisfied?
Explore our list of fast food options that can provide you with a tasty keto-friendly meal. No matter where you’re headed, there’s a perfect low-carb meal waiting for you.
10 Keto Fast Food Options to Try Today
KFC’s fried chicken put them on the map but there are plenty of other options on their menu for you. A Kentucky Grilled Chicken Breast has 0 net carbs. Make it a meal by adding on a side of Green Beans (2 net carbs) and a House Salad (1 net carb). Try some Ranch Dipping Sauce or Creamy Buffalo. Both are 2 net carbs each.
Finding it hard to go to KFC without ordering fried chicken? That’s okay. Order one or two Original Recipe Chicken Drumsticks. They’ll cost you 3 net carbs each but if you plan your carb intake accordingly, they shouldn’t throw you off track.
With a reputation of using fresh and natural ingredients, Chipotle is a great option for keto-friendly meals. You’ll have to skip the rice and beans but there are plenty of other options for a custom meal.
You can start with either a Burrito Bowl (no rice or beans) or go for a salad. Choose your meat and add your favorite toppings. The specific toppings you choose and if you ask for light or extra will determine your total number of net carbs. But to keep the number as low as possible, stick with chicken, steak, or carnitas as your meat. Add on some cheese and sour cream. The tomatillo-red chili salsa has the least number of carbs out of their salsas. Guacamole is also a fantastic way to add flavor without too many carbs (2 net carbs per serving).
For comparison, a chicken burrito bowl with fajita vegetables instead of rice and beans topped with tomatillo-red chili salsa, cheese, sour cream, and guacamole has 12 net carbs.
Panera could possibly be the best lunch spot on the planet. Their options are vast, service is quick, and the atmosphere is great for dining alone or holding meetings. But grilled sandwiches, creamy soups, and baked muffins aren’t necessarily keto-friendly.
Instead, alter some of the menu items to meet your low-carb needs. For breakfast, a Ham, Egg, and Cheese sandwich without bread comes in at 2 net carbs compared to 30 with the bread. For lunch or dinner, consider the Chicken Caesar Salad (just skip the croutons). This full meal comes in at 6 net carbs. Round out your Panera experience with a drink, like an iced coffee (2 net carbs), iced tea (2 net carbs for a medium), or a plum ginger hibiscus tea (0 net carbs).
Despite its extensive list of tempting burgers and bottomless steak fries, Red Robin is very keto-friendly. They have several options to customize your meal to meet your dietary needs. If you’re all about the burgers, you can ask for your patty Wedgie Style (wrapped in lettuce) or Open-Faced (half the bun, but still high in carbs). While most burger toppings are okay, there are a few to keep an eye out for (like pineapple, onion rings, and sweet sauces).
Without the bun, the standard Red Robin Gourmet Cheeseburger comes in at 2 net carbs. Splurge with the Guacamole Bacon Burger and you’ll only take in 4 net carbs. Skip the fries and complete your meal with steamed broccoli (3 net carbs) or a side salad (2 net carbs without dressing).
If you haven’t met an Unwich yet, now’s the time. Jimmy John’s is incredibly keto friendly. Try any of their subs wrapped in fresh lettuce instead of being slapped inside a sub roll. You’ll have plenty of choices.
The lowest carb option is the B.L.T. Unwich at only 1 net carb. One of the most popular bread-less options is the Italian Night Club Unwich. It includes salami, ham, capicola, provolone, tomato, onion, vinaigrette, and mayo. It’s a filling sub with only 4 net carbs.
Add a Jumbo Kosher Dill Pickle to your meal (0 net carbs) and wash it all down with a diet soda, iced tea, or water.
Buffalo Wild Wings
It’s game night and your friends want to head out for a platter of wings. If you get the right type and flavoring at Buffalo Wild Wings, you’re good to go.
Choose traditional bone-in wings as boneless are breaded. A plain traditional wing doesn’t have any net carbs, so you have a little playing room when it comes to sauces.
Any of their dry seasonings, like Buffalo or Lemon Pepper, add 1 net carb for a snack size serving. Something a little thicker, like Parmesan Garlic or Mild Buffalo, add 2 net carbs per snack size serving.
Don’t forget, Buffalo Wild Wings also has burgers and salads. Ask for no bun, croutons, or sweet sauces or dressings and you have plenty of keto fast food options if wings aren’t your thing.
Steak ‘n Shake
Steak ‘n Shake is one of America’s favorite 24-hour diners. You might have to skip the milkshakes but there are still plenty of options at any time of the day that are keto-friendly.
If you’re there early enough for breakfast, go with eggs and breakfast meat with a coffee. If you want to enjoy any of their burgers, you know the drill. Skip the bun and load up on toppings like bacon, guacamole, cheese, and veggies.
Unfortunately, all their sides are carb heavy. Go for a side salad instead with 2 net carbs without dressing. As far as dressings go, both their Bleu Cheese and Ranch will cost you 1 net carb per serving.
Unless it’s Sunday, head on over to Chick-fil-A for plenty of keto fast food options. You can even indulge in some of their breaded chicken if you have a few unused carbs for the day.
For example, a 4-piece Original Nuggets has 5 net carbs. If you don’t overdo it with a sweet sauce, this is a decent amount of normally forbidden food to munch on. You can always order a Grilled Chicken Breast Deluxe without the bun and only worry about consuming 3 net carbs. The only side that will work is a side salad but be cautious.
These are still a little carb heavy at 8 net carbs per serving without modifications.
You do have plenty of sauce and dressing choices though. The Zesty Buffalo Sauce has 1 net carb per serving. The Creamy Salsa Dressing and Avocado Lime Ranch both have 3 net carbs each.
With nearly 25,000 locations in the U.S., you’re never far from this keto paradise. Don’t let the name fool you. There are plenty of options at the restaurant known for their bread.
Because you can choose your own toppings and ingredients, it’s difficult to provide exact net carb amounts for entrees. Also, use caution when it comes to their sauces. Stay away from their Honey Mustard, Sweet Onion Sauce, and Sweet Chili Sauce.
A Cold Cut Combo Salad is 9 net carbs served as is. A Veggie Delite Salad is 7 net carbs. Both are large enough to be a meal on their own. If you want to go with a sub but without the bread, consider the difference in carbs. A Chicken & Bacon Ranch Melt is 41 carbs with the bread. Ask for it without (they’ll put it in a container) and you’ll only be consuming 5 net carbs. You can also add extra bacon to just about anything at 1 net carb per serving.
Late night cravings can still be keto-friendly. While a burrito is off limits, there are a surprising number of keto fast food options at Taco Bell.
Your best bet is to look at their Power Menu items. They’re marketed as high-protein options but can be modified to be keto-friendly. Their Chicken Power Menu Bowl can be modified to include no beans or rice. Feel free to double up on the meat, especially if you’re extra hungry. The Bowl, complete with cheese, Pico de Gallo, guacamole, sour cream, and lettuce, comes in at 5 net carbs.
You can also try the Fiesta Taco Salad without the shell, strips, beans, rice, or salsa for a full meal with only 9 net carbs. Go without the tomatoes to save a few more carbs.
How to Eat Keto at Any Restaurant
Did we miss your favorite restaurant? Use this quick guide to help you come up with a keto-friendly meal that your taste buds will love.
Burgers, hot dogs, macaroni and cheese, and mashed potatoes are American staples but not keto-friendly. So, when you head to your favorite diner, keep these tips in mind.
- Order your favorite burger but skip the bun. Add extra bacon, cheese, avocado, lettuce, or tomato. Skip the fries on the side though.
- Stay away from the soup. Most are prepared with cornstarch as a thickening agent, which can add in plenty of sneaky carbs.
- If you’re at a diner that serves breakfast all day, stick with a classic dish like eggs and bacon.
- Don’t be afraid to ask how dishes are prepared. Seemingly keto-friendly options can have hidden carbs, like meatloaf made with bread crumbs or salads served with fruit or sweet dressings.
Think you can’t enjoy an Italian meal out because you’re in ketosis? There are options out there!
- Ask about low-carb pasta. Not every restaurant will have this option, but it could be a perfect way for you to enjoy your favorite dish without going carb crazy.
- Don’t make the mistake of thinking tomato sauce is better than alfredo. A traditional spaghetti sauce recipe will include plenty of sugar (carbs). Alfredo sauce is mostly made with cheeses and cream (plenty of fat).
- Look for dishes that aren’t pasta based, like grilled chicken or salmon. Sub out sides as needed for a fully keto-rounded meal.
There are plenty of keto-friendly options on a Mexican food menu. You just have to know where to look.
- Don’t upgrade anything to a meal with beans and rice.
- Even if it’s girls’ night out, say no to the margaritas and complimentary chips.
- Fajitas are a great option for a keto diet. Skip the tortillas and eat your veggies and meat directly from the skillet.
- Taco salads are another excellent choice. Just don’t indulge in the shell.
Nothing goes better with a living room movie fest than Chinese. You don’t have to skip the take out if you’re living the keto life.
- This should go without saying but skip the rice, even if your entrée comes with it.
- Look for options with naked meat and plenty of low-carb veggies. Suggestions include Chicken and Broccoli, Moo Shu Pork, and Spicy Shrimp.
- Look out for sweet sauces. If you find a meal that works otherwise, do without the sauce or ask for a suggested substitute. In general, the thinner the sauce, the fewer carbs it has.
Festivals and Fairs
Scorching summer days are best spent at fairs and festivals. But is it even possible to stick to a keto diet at one?
- You’ll have to skip some classics, like funnel cake, cotton candy, and corn dogs.
- If there are plenty of food stalls, you’re sure to find burgers you can order without the bun or giant turkey legs to munch on.
- If you’re really hungry, look for a kebab food stall. Order enough meat and veggies to fill you up before hitting the rides.
No matter the type of restaurant or event you’re headed to, there are always keto fast food options that will keep you on track. Here are some final tips to keep in mind.
- Keep it simple. Look for meats, cheeses, and low-carb vegetables on the menu.
- If you’re familiar with keto, this may be obvious, but it should still be said. Avoid all buns, breads, breading, croutons, and baked goods.
- Always read the ingredients to avoid mistakes. If your dish does show up with items you don’t want, just pick them off.
- Not all condiments are your friends. The sweeter the sauce, the better the chance it has too many carbs for you to stay in ketosis. Use fattier dressings for your salad or as a sauce for your chicken or burger, like Bleu Cheese or Ranch.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions or make a special request. Unless otherwise specified, most restaurants will do their best to accommodate your dietary needs.
Avoid Fast Food with These Tips
You won’t always be able to avoid heading out for a meal. Maybe you’re celebrating a birthday with friends or your spouse’s promotion. But when you start relying on fast food because it’s the easiest option to curb your hunger, you’re making life harder than it needs to be. Here’s how to avoid hitting up the fast food line in the first place.
Make grocery shopping part of your routine.
Don’t put off grocery shopping until the fridge is completely empty and you’re starving. Make it part of your routine, whether it’s weekly or daily. If you have simple keto options always on hand, you’ll be less likely to head out for dinner.
Eat before you leave.
Heading to a birthday dinner with friends? Spending the day at the carnival with your family? Do your best to fill up on keto-friendly options before you leave.
If you’re allowed to, bring your own keto snacks with you. This works for road trips or fests. While you probably can’t bring your favorite keto snack with you to dinner at a sit-down restaurant, they can save the day at other times.
Grab a coffee.
If you’re not starving but still finding it hard to turn down a snack or dish when you’re out, opt for a coffee or tea instead. Both are keto-friendly, will keep your hands busy, and calm down your taste buds.
Take a keto cooking class.
Eating the same old thing can get boring. If you’re running out of options, look for a local keto cooking class that will introduce you to new dishes and keep your diet interesting, making you more likely to stick with it.
What to Do if You Slip
So, you cheated a bit. Your friend offered to share their plate of breaded buffalo wings or you just couldn’t turn down the chips and salsa. It’s okay. Life is too short to always say no.
In fact, studies have shown that those who allow themselves the occasional “cheat day” were actually more committed to playing by the rules on “non-cheat days.” But now that you’ve enjoyed the moment, it’s time to get back on the keto track.
Break the cravings
Once you indulge in additional carbs, your body automatically starts to crave more. So, if you brought home leftovers or think it’s okay to just have a few more chips, stop yourself now. The more you eat, the harder it will be to stop.
One way to get your body back into ketosis faster is to exercise more. The more you move around (even if you just go on a long walk), the more carbs your body will use. The faster you get the carbs out of your system, the faster your liver will start to produce ketones again as your body turns to fat for energy.
Concentrate on your meals
After you’ve given yourself a cheat day, you’ll need to put a little more concentration into your diet until you’re back into ketosis. Plan out all your meals and only eat when you’re very hungry (you don’t have to starve yourself but avoid mindless munching). When trying to enter ketosis again, it’s best if your carb intake only comes from vegetables (spinach, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, etc.) so build this into your meal plan.
Eating keto is considered a lifestyle instead of a diet. But just because you’re in ketosis doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy and live your life. Head out to dinner with friends. Hit up a music festival. Don’t be afraid of vacations because of all the dining out involved.
No matter where you head to eat, there are always keto fast food options on the menu. You may have to look harder in some places than others, but your new favorite keto fast food meal is out there.