Your Best Low Carb Fast Food Options: A Guide for Keto on the Go

Let’s be real for a moment: you’re not always going to have a home cooked meal prepared and waiting for you.

Sometimes you need to depend on a fast food chain to keep hunger at bay, scanning the menu for a healthy option.

However, when you add in a highly restrictive diet like Keto, Paleo or low-carb, the task can seem impossible.

Forget it. I’m screwed. Order me a burger and chocolate shake and I’ll get back on track tomorrow.”

WAIT!

You don’t have to throw in the towel quite yet.

Just because you pulled into the drive-thru doesn’t mean I’ll let you fall off that low-carb wagon. In this Guide, I’ll tell you exactly what to order so you can stick to Keto. And a couple other options in case my first suggestion isn’t jiving.

To start, let’s discuss some general tips when ordering low-carb at a fast food chain. Or you can click below to jump to any specific restaurant, in case you are reading this in line and need to make up your mind quickly.

Don’t fret, instead click here:

Quick Tips for Low-Carb Fast Food Dining

If you’re interested in learning about the Keto Diet, make sure to read our MASSIVE guide on the subject. We have included everything but the kitchen sink in the article. And in the next update, I’m getting that sink in there.

Personally, I don’t think carbs deserve the bad rep they currently have, as I lay out in our “How to pick the perfect diet for you” article – but that’s neither here nor there.

Instead, we’re gonna tackle it as if you’re somebody that thrives under a low-carb environment but has to eat fast food for whatever reason!

Keep these rules in mind for dining out while following a low-carb diet.

  • Ditch the bun. Oftentimes, making a low-carb meal at a restaurant is as simple as saying “no bun please.” And really, it’s pretty much required if you’re following Keto. For example, including the bun on the McDonald’s Double Quarter Pounder adds an extra 30 grams of carbs. Some forms of Keto recommend 20 grams of net carbs (total g of carbs minus g of fiber). Lettuce wraps are your friend.
  • Focus on meat, veggies, and cheese. Carbs can creep into all sorts of items in fast food. Take an order of coleslaw from KFC. Sure, there are veggies in there all right. But it also has a lot of carbs, 14 grams for one serving. 10 of which, is sugar! Order simple things like meat, veggies, and cheese, which will generally have less hidden carbs.
  • Avoid fried or breaded food. You would think that fried would be fine with Keto, because of the fat involved. However, they’ll add flour into the mix (meaning carbs) so stay away from mozzarella sticks or fried chicken. Grilled over fried, everytime.
  • Salads can be problematic. If you find a salad that’s just veggies, meat, and cheese, go all in! However, you’ll run into trouble with the added croutons, dried fruit, or sugar covered nuts. Be careful and check ingredients. Also, the dressing can be loaded with sugar. Speaking of dressing…
  • Condiments on the side. One packet of Honey Mustard Sauce from Chick-fil-A has 10 grams of sugar. That could be a lot of your carb allowance for the day. Ask for all sauces and dressings on the side, and stick to fattier options like Caesar, ranch, and oil when you can. Chick-fil-A’s Garlic and Herb Ranch sauce only has 1 gram of carbs per packet.
  • It’s okay to special order. Often times the low-carb solution at a fast food joint is there, you just have to ask for it. “Can I have the chicken salad, but instead of the normal dressing it comes with, can I just have ranch?” Restaurants want to help you. It’s okay to ask for what you want. You are special.

Consider these above highlights for navigating fast food under a Keto Diet or low carb diet. Want to be told exactly what to order? We got you.

In line? Staring at the menu and can’t figure out what’s low-carb?

Order the following, just make sure you look at both calorie intake along with carb count!

It’s not gonna help much if you stick low carb but eat 5,000 calories worth of fast food! So make sure the calorie count fits into your daily allotment whenever possible.

Low-Carb Options at Boston Market

Because you choose your sides here, it’s relatively easy to get a meal at Boston Market that will comply with Keto. They also have a nutrition calculator online to help with macro ratios. However, Keto at Boston Market does mean you are going to have to pass on the dinner roll or side of cornbread.  Pick the following:

Our Low-Carb Favorite:

  • Three-Piece Dark: Lot’s of protein, decent fat, and no carbs.
    • Calories: 300
    • Protein: 37g
    • Net Carbs: 1g
    • Fat: 16g
  •  Green Beans: Keep it simple.
    • Calories: 90cals
    • Protein: 1g
    • Net Carbs: 4g
    • Fat: 5g
  • Fresh Steamed Vegetables: Following our “simple” strategy.
    • Calories: 60
    • Protein: 2g
    • Net Carbs: 4g
    • Fat: 3.5g

Other Low-Carb Recommendations:

  • Turkey: Lot’s of protein, but less fat than the chicken order.
    • Calories: 230
    • Protein: 43g
    • Net Carbs: 0g
    • Fat: 6g
  • Caesar Salad: While it has some carbs, it’s not considerable when weighed against other options.
    • Calories: 150
    • Protein: 3g
    • Net Carbs: 6g
    • Fat: 13g

Low-Carb Options at Burger King

The name of the game at Burger King is “no bun please.” Luckily, their nutrition calculator lets you customize your order, showing you exactly how many carbs you’ll save by removing the bun. For us nerds who love data, that’s awesome. Although I’ll gripe that this customization functionality doesn’t work on BK’s salads.

Our Low-Carb Favorite:

  • Double Cheeseburger (no bun, no ketchup): It’s simple, but simple works. You’re basically getting meat, cheese, and a pickle.
    • Calories: 250
    • Protein: 20g
    • Net Carbs: <1g
    • Fat: 19g
  •  Garden Side Salad (no croutons): We’ll make up for the lack of veggies here.
    • Calories: 60
    • Protein: 4g
    • Net Carbs: 2g
    • Fat: 4g
  • Ken’s Ranch Dressing: The fattiest dressing they have.
    • Calories: 260
    • Protein: 1g
    • Net Carbs: 2g
    • Fat: 28g

Other Low-Carb Recommendations:

  • Grilled Chicken Sandwich (no bun, with mayo): In case you don’t feel like beef.
    • Calories: 270
    • Protein: 30g
    • Net Carbs: 2g
    • Fat: 16g

Low-Carb Options at Chipotle

Chipotle is a personal favorite of mine, as it’s one of a few chains where you are able to order a “paleo-ish” meal. That, and it’s easy to follow low-carb here. If there’s a Chipotle near you, it could be a great resource for a quick and painless Keto meal. Scope out Chipotle’s nutrition calculator here, which will cover any customization you can imagine.

Our Low-Carb Favorite:

  • Salad Bowl (with Carnitas): order it with Fajita Vegetables, Fresh Tomato Salsa, Sour Cream, Cheese, and YES for Guacamole.
    • Calories: 710
    • Protein: 34g
    • Net Carbs: 12
    • Fat: 51g

Other Low-Carb Recommendations: Stick to the Salad Bowl. However, go ahead and pick out any meat you’d like. Carnitas just has the highest fat content, which is why we recommend it for a Keto Diet. Steak and chicken are also fine.

Low-Carb Options at Dunkin’ Donuts

Proving that you can get a low-carb meal pretty much everywhere, we have Dunkin’ Donuts. As a nerd that grew up in New England, Dunkin Donuts will always hold a special place in my heart.

Granted, you won’t be ordering a donut (sorry). Also, for drinks, stick with black coffee or unsweetened tea. Everything else is a sugar landmine.

Our Low-Carb Favorite:

  • Sausage Egg and Cheese Bagel (no bagel): Sausage and egg are a breakfast staple. Plus, cheese!
    • Calories: 370
    • Protein: 16g
    • Net Carbs: 3g
    • Fat: 33g

Other Low-Carb Recommendations:

  • Egg, Sausage and Cheese Wake-Up Wrap: If you’re following a strict Keto protocol, stick to the sausage and egg bagel sandwich, sans bagel. If you have some leeway with your carb allowance, you might be able to get away with this wrap which will net you 14 grams of carbs. If the Carb Police arrests you for this one, I warned you.
    • Calorie: 290
    • Protein: 11g
    • Net Carbs: 14g
    • Fat: 20g

Low-Carb Options at McDonald’s

If one image is associated with fast food, it’s the arches of McDonald’s. In America, you’re never too far from one. Or really, even in most of the world. Can you be low-carb here? Yes! Plus, like Burger King, their nutrition calculator includes all the bunless customizations you can think up. I like that.

Our Low-Carb Favorite:

  • Bacon Ranch Grilled Chicken Salad (Use the Balsamic Vinaigrette listed below for a 9g carb meal): It’s mostly greens, grilled chicken and a little bacon. No customization required. Your salad comes in under 400 calories.
    • Calories: 320
    • Protein: 42g
    • Net Carbs: 6g
    • Fat: 14g
  • Newman’s Own Low Fat Balsamic Vinaigrette: The lowest calorie dressing found at McDonald’s.
    • Calories: 35
    • Protein: 0g
    • Net Carbs: 3g
    • Fat: 2.5g

Other Low-Carb Recommendations:

  • Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese (no bun, no ketchup): Lot’s of fat, decent protein, and little carbs. You can order any burger on the menu this way with similar results.
    • Calories: 590
    • Protein: 45g
    • Net Carbs: 4g
    • Fat: 43g
  • Artisan Grilled Chicken Sandwich (no bun; vinaigrette carb content is negligible so go for it): Not a lot of fat with this order, but very low-carb with a decent source of protein.
    • Calories: 160
    • Protein: 29g
    • Net Carbs: 1g
    • Fat: 4g
  • Sausage McMuffin with Egg (no muffin): I know, it seems sacrilegious to lose the muffin. However, it’s the only way to keep the order low-carb.
    • Calories: 340
    • Protein: 16g
    • Net Carbs: 3g
    • Fat: 29g

Low-Carb Options at Starbucks

At this point in civilization, there’s a Starbucks on the corner of every Starbucks. Which is good if you follow the Keto Diet, because you can make an order from this chain work. If you get coffee or tea, keep it unsweetened. If you want some cream, ask for “heavy cream.” They’ll give you the full-fat version they have in the back. With Keto, always go full fat.

Our Low-Carb Favorite:

  • Sous Vide Egg Bites, Bacon & Gruyere: The lowest carb count of the egg bite options. A great protein to carb ratio. Plus fat. Always fat.
    • Calories: 310
    • Protein: 19g
    • Net Carbs: 9g
    • Fat: 22g

Other Low-Carb Recommendations:

  • Chicken & Greens Caesar Salad Bowl: Greens, chicken and a fatty dressing. This will work in a pinch.
    • Calories: 340
    • Protein: 19g
    • Net Carbs: 7g
    • Fat: 25g

Low-Carb Options at Subway

It’s estimated that 18.5% of all fast food restaurants are a Subway.[1]The more you know.  The good news is, it’s pretty straightforward to order a low-carb meal here. Every sub they sell can also be made into a salad, forgoing the bun.

Go ahead and ask for cheese (duh) and get plenty of veggies. Get ‘em. Also, bacon and guacamole are your Keto friends. For dressings? Stick with oil and vinegar.

Our Low-Carb Favorite:

  • Tuna Salad: This will give you the most fat for the fewest carbs. Plus, a solid serving of protein. Nutrition info below is with lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, onion, green peppers, cucumbers, and olives, with oil and vinegar as dressing.
    • Calories: 500
    • Protein: 15g
    • Net Carbs: 7g
    • Fat: 45g

Other Low-Carb Recommendations:

  • Oven Roasted Chicken: If tuna isn’t your jam, go ahead and get the chicken. Follow the same idea as the tuna salad and grab it with lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, onion, green peppers, cucumbers, and olives, with oil and vinegar as dressing. Also, feel free to add bacon and guacamole to increase your calories. Your nutrition info will look like this if ordered as above:
    • Calories: 490
    • Protein: 24g
    • Net Carbs: 11g.
    • Fat: 35.5g

Low-Carb Options at Wendy’s

I’ve always been amused by Wendy’s, probably because they make square burger patties. Wendy’s, you cray. You can also get a decent low-carb meal here.

Our Low-Carb Favorite:

  • Southwest Avocado Chicken Salad: It is nice not to have to special order anything. Go ahead and eat this salad as is. Lots of fat and protein and low-carb(ish).
    • Calories: 600
    • Protein: 42g
    • Net Carbs: 11g
    • Fat: 41g

Other Low-Carb Recommendations:

  • Baconator (no bun, no ketchup): If a salad isn’t what you’re after, a meal of bacon, meat, and cheese can keep you going. I wouldn’t recommend this all the time (see the calories), but the beauty of Keto is, a pile of meat and cheese can get you by.
    • Calories: 760
    • Protein: 53g
    • Net Carbs: 2g.
    • Fat: 60g

Eating fast food doesn’t mean you have to give up on keto or low-carb

Just about anywhere you go can offer you a low-carb meal. We just covered 8 popular restaurants and provided exactly what to order to stick with the Keto Diet.

Even if you find yourself at a restaurant not covered in our guide, DON’T PANIC!

Stick to the advice at the start of this Guide, and remember, it’s okay to request a special order. The staff at restaurants want to make you happy, so good ahead and tell them what would make you happy.

The good news is, this is getting easier and easier. As the Keto and the low-carb trend continues to skyrocket in popularity, more and more chains are working to accommodate.

Go ahead and let the store know about your low-carb requirement. They’ll listen. And the next time you stop by, there might be something on the menu specifically designed to meet your needs. That’s how you end up with The Low Carb Thickburger at Carl’s Jr/Hardee’s. Capitalism at work!

Another note: If you’re following a low-carb or Keto Diet, my GUESS would be that you’re doing so for weight loss goals.

What can I say, I’m a mind reader.

Also, you look nice today.

No matter what nutritional strategy you pick for weight loss, navigating your food choices will be critical. As we say in our Guide on Healthy Eating, 80-90% of your success will depend on how you eat. Low-carb or non-low-carb, real food should be at the center of your fitness plan.

If this stresses you out, we can help!

If you find yourself on the road frequently, and constantly finding your health and fitness goals sabotaged by travel, a hectic life, or just being too damn busy, I hear ya.

This is why we launched our own private online coaching program that works with you to meet your goals! We help busy people like you to structure a complete life overhaul: handcrafted workout routines, accountability, mindset changes, and nutritional strategies.

We can help you be successful with Keto, or any other kind of diet. We can build routines and strategies for the weeks you’re traveling, and the weeks you’re home.

If you want guidance from a trained professional, schedule a free call with Team Nerd Fitness by clicking on the image below and see if we’re a good fit for each other!

Save this guide

Use this Guide as a resource. Something you can fall back on for a quick reference when you find yourself in a food court with no way out and your rumbling stomach is leading the way.

Bookmark this page your in phone and pull it up whenever you’re in doubt.

Don’t let a drive-thru derail your fitness goals. Often times what you order can be just as, if not more important, than where you order.

If you are following a low-carb or Keto Diet for a weight loss goal, hitting up a fast food joint doesn’t mean you have to abandon it. Stick to the orders of this Guide. If you find yourself at a restaurant not covered here, fear not! Reference the tips at the beginning of this article and you’ll do just fine.

We’d love to hear from you:

Any other restaurants you want us to cover as part of our Guide?

Interested in other fast food guides, like for paleo?

Let us know in the comments!

-Steve

PS: It should go without saying, that you probably shouldn’t live off fast food. But I get it, sometimes you have to do the best you can, with what you have, where you are. Just don’t consider this Guide as a pass to live life through a drive-thru window.

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All photo citations can be found in this footnote[2].

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