You’re busy, you’re tired, and frankly, you just don’t give a hoot. The last thing you want to do is to cook a healthy meal. What are your options?
Most likely you’ll pull up to whatever fast food restaurant is closest. Should you eat fast food if you’re trying to get healthy on a keto diet? Probably no. Are you human and does stuff sometimes happen? Yep.
So you’ve decided to get some fast food. It’s ok, here are some low-carb options that won’t blow up your ketogenic diet.
Burgers Without the Bun
One bun and you’re done! Almost everything that comes through a pick-up window is wrapped in bread, whether its burgers, tacos, or chicken sandwiches, they all come wrapped in carbs. Bread is a huge no-no on a keto diet.
Opt-out of the bun! Many fast-food joints are beginning to offer lettuce wrapped burgers. This cuts down significantly. Also, with the rise of healthy eating, no one is going to think twice when you ask for a burger with “no bun”.
Here’s a breakdown of a few of the bunless burgers out there:
- Hardees ⅓ lb Low-Carb Thickburger: 470 calories, 36 grams of fat, 9 grams of carbs, and 22 grams of protein.
- Carl’s Jr. Lettuce-Wrapped Thickburger: 420 calories, 33 grams of fat, 8 grams of carbs, and 25 grams of protein.
- In-n-Out Burger “Protein Style” Cheeseburger with onion: 330 calories, 25 grams of fat, 11 grams of carbs, and 18 grams of protein.
- Five Guys Bacon Cheeseburger in a lettuce wrap and with mayo: 394 calories, 34 grams of fat, less than 1 gram of carbs, and 20 grams of protein.
Low-carb Burrito Bowls
Keep the pounds off south-of-the-border by choosing to go with the bowl instead of a tortilla with your next burrito. Remember, not all burrito bowls are created equal. How you build your bowl (what ingredients you choose to include) will decide it’s nutritional value.
Start with a simple bed of leafy greens, then add your pick of lean protein or fat. Steer clear of high-carb additions like tortilla chips, beans, sugary dressings, and corn. Instead, go for stuff like avocado, veggies, sour cream, fresh salsas, cilantro, cheese, and guacamole.
To put burrito bowls into nutritional perspective, here are few of the better options below:
- Chipotle Steak Burrito Bowl with lettuce, salsa, sour cream and cheese (no rice or beans): 400 calories, 23 grams of fat, 6 grams of carbs, and 29 grams of protein.
- Chipotle Chicken Burrito Bowl with cheese, guacamole and romaine lettuce (no rice or beans): 525 calories, 37 grams of fat, 10 grams of carbs and 40 grams of protein.
- Taco Bell Cantina Power Steak Bowl with extra guacamole (no rice or beans): 310 calories, 23 grams of fat, 8 grams of carbs, and 20 grams of protein.
- Moe’s Southwestern Grill Burrito Bowl with pork carnitas, grilled peppers, sour cream, cheese, and guacamole (no rice or beans): 394 calories, 30 grams of fat, 12 grams of carbs and 30 grams of protein.
Grilled Chicken vs Fried Chicken
Fried chicken is delicious but completely awful for you. That breading is nothing but empty carbs, calories, and greasy oil. Instead, opt for the grilled options that pretty much every fast food restaurant has begun to add to their menus.
By going for grilled, you eliminate the carbs found in floury breading and cut out tons of unhealthy, unneeded oils. Wherever you go anywhere, and you’re in the mood for some chicken, just ask, “Do you have a grilled option?” If they don’t, skip it – if they do, you’re good to go.
As a reference, here’s the nutritional readout for one piece of KFC’s grilled chicken:
- Kentucky Grilled Chicken (1x drumstick): 90 Calories, 4 grams of fat, 0 grams of carbs, and 11 grams of protein
Just like the bun, it’s time to ditch the bread. Jimmie Johns offers “Unwiches”, which are sandwiches wrapped in lettuce. “Unwiches” are a great, quick, and easy low-carb lunch minus the grease of other restaurants. Other sandwich shops will accommodate breadless sandwiches as well, all you have to do is ask.
Below is how your “Unwich” stacks up nutritionally:
- The J.J. Gargantuan (salami, pork, roast beef, turkey, ham and provolone): 710 calories, 47 grams of fat, 10 grams of carbs, and 63 grams of protein.
- The J.J. BLT (bacon, lettuce, tomato, and mayo): 290 calories, 26 grams of fat, 3 grams of carbs, and 9 grams of protein.
- The Big Italian (salami, ham, provolone, pork, lettuce, tomato, onion, mayo, oil, and vinegar): 560 calories, 44 grams of fat, 9 grams of carbs, and 33 grams of protein.
- Slim 3 (tuna salad): 270 calories, 22 grams of fat, 5 grams of carbs, and 11 grams of protein.
Just say no when it comes to pop, soda, Hi-C, Baja Blasts, slushies, mocha frappuccinos, and whatever else. You only have a few keto-ok options with drinks at most fast food places.
If you’re looking to stay in ketosis, you have to stick to the drinks below:
- Unsweetened iced tea
- Coffee with cream
- Black iced coffee
- Hot tea with lemon juice
- Soda water
Salads From Fast Food Places?
You’d be surprised how much better salads have gotten at most fast-food chains. They’re not all iceberg lettuce and ranch dressing anymore. Like burrito bowls, not all salads are created equal. Be careful with your dressings, and make sure you nix any ingredients that are low-carb. Stay away for the croutons!
Here are a few salads on the lower-carb side:
- McDonald’s Bacon Ranch Grilled Chicken Salad with guacamole: 380 calories, 19 grams of fat, 10 grams of carbs, and 42 grams of protein.
- Chipotle Salad Bowl with steak, romaine, cheese, sour cream, and salsa: 405 calories, 23 grams of fat, 7 grams of carbs, and 30 grams of protein.
- Moe’s Taco Salad with adobo chicken, fresh jalapenos, cheddar cheese, and guacamole: 325 calories, 23 grams of fat, 9 grams of carbs, and 28 grams of protein.
- Arby’s Roast Turkey Farmhouse Salad with buttermilk ranch dressing: 440 calories, 35 grams of fat, 10 grams of carbs, and 22 grams of protein.
BYOS (Bring Your Own Snacks)
You don’t always have to order fast food from a giant, glowing menu. There are plenty of ways to deal with your hunger without going to the local drive-in. Planning ahead and pre-packing a few healthy snacks can keep junk food cravings at bay.
While there are some fast food options that are keto-friendly, there are plenty more options in your cupboard or on your grocery list that are far better choices than even the healthiest fast food. Always keep a couple of snacks in your bag or leave them in a cooler in your car. Each time you make the choice to avoid the Golden Arches is a step in the right direction.
Some great snack to keep around are:
- Hard-boiled eggs
- Peanut butter packets
- String cheese
- Sunflower seeds
- Beef jerky
- Meat sticks
- Tuna packets
- Pork rinds
Get Creative With Low-Carb Meals
It’s no shocker that fast food shouldn’t be your first food choice. It will never be as healthy as a well-balanced, home-made meal. But it will do in a pinch as long as you can get a little creative with the menu.
Instead of looking at all of the foods you can’t eat, focus on the ones you can. Find what fits your diet and expand your meal from there. What kind of combos can you put together? Try to make it fun and try as many possibilities as you can. Keep an eye on the good, healthy foods and you’ll be just fine.
Or, instead of guessing what’s kosher on keto or constantly looking up nutritional facts online, you could download an app to save you some struggle. Apps like KetoCycle really take a lot of the guesswork out of a keto diet.