Staying honest on a diet is hard, especially when trying to balance it with work, family, and social life. Keto is a great and effective diet, but it’s not possible to always prepare every meal from home. What if you’re on the run and you need to grab a bite to eat from a nearby fast food restaurant? Not many places have options specifically for keto diets. Thankfully, with the rise in popularity of vegan and keto diets, even fast-food chains have begun to carry healthier options. With a few simple menu hacks, almost any food can become keto-friendly.
Things to Consider
Before eating out, there are several things that every person on a keto diet should consider:
- Sauces and dressings often contain high levels of sugar which can turn even a healthy salad into a sugary mess. Tasting a drop of the sauce before adding it can help dieters know exactly how much to add.
- Many restaurants offer add-ons such as croutons that often dramatically inflate a meal’s calorie and carb count. Having employees remove these add-ons can trim a meal down.
Fast Food Salads
Thankfully, many restaurants have begun to carry a range of keto-friendly salad options. Plus, it’s pretty difficult to mess up a salad, so the quality is usually good. Wendy’s, Chipotle, and even Subway all provide a variety of salads with different dressings, meats, and vegetable options. Chipotle’s salad bowl offers steak, cheese, sour cream, and salsa with romaine lettuce and sits at just over 400 calories. Arby’s has a roast turkey farmhouse salad with buttermilk ranch dressing that has a similar caloric content.
One of the biggest parts of following a keto diet is avoiding carbohydrates, but that doesn’t mean that you have to avoid burgers and sandwiches completely. In fact, restaurants such as Hardees, Carl’s Jr., and In-n-Out have introduced delicious lettuce-wrapped burgers that are keto-friendly. In-n-Out Burger specifically refers to these burgers as “protein style.” They also offer the “Flying Dutchman” for those who would rather just have a burger sans bun. Remember, just because a restaurant doesn’t have bunless burgers listed as an option, it doesn’t mean they can’t make them!
“Unwich” or Sub in a Tub
In addition to eliminating bread from burgers, people on keto should remove it from their sandwiches as well. Restaurants may refer to these as “unwiches” or “sub in a tub,” but they’re usually fairly similar. At their core, they are sandwich fillings without any bread. Jimmy John’s has an incredibly popular unwich menu with a variety of meat options; the Gargantuan comes with salami, pork, ham, turkey, roast beef, and provolone cheese.
Restaurants such as Taco Bell provide flexible menu options that allow for a wide range of customization. Customers can reduce the overall calories from Taco Bell menu items by ordering any item “Fresco style.” This replaces many of the mayo-based sauces, cheeses, sour cream, and guacamole with healthy and fresh pico de gallo. Additionally, Taco Bell and several other restaurants prepare naked tacos that replace taco shells with fried eggs.
In the past several years, Chipotle has become one of the most popular restaurants in the United States, and it’s easy to see why. They have a highly customizable menu with alternatives for many different diets and lifestyles. One of the reduced-calorie menu items the restaurant prepares is the burrito bowl. Customers can build their own low-carb burrito bowl by beginning with a leafy green base and adding their preference for protein and fats such as chicken, steak, or guacamole. Even with salsa and cheese, many of these bowls stay between 400 and 500 calories.
Chicken: Grilled vs. Fried
There are plenty of chicken restaurants to choose from, but many of them offer exclusively breaded chicken products. Despite being delicious, fried chicken isn’t healthy for several reasons. Primarily, these foods tend to absorb large amounts of oil during frying. Additionally, the breading can add several carbs to the otherwise healthy chicken. Thankfully, restaurants such as KFC and Chick-fil-A have alternative grilled chicken products which are significantly healthier. KFC also offers keto-friendly side dishes like green beans and coleslaw. However, it’s important to keep an eye on the salt content.
Generally, most Asian dishes are healthy meal choices. Panda Express has recently rolled out super greens as an optional replacement for rice or chow mein. These super greens include kale, cabbage, and broccoli with a hint of garlic. These sides, along with teriyaki chicken or string bean chicken, create a perfect, keto-friendly dish. Another restaurant, Pei Wei, has lettuce wraps and bowls that contain tuna or crab, allowing everyone on keto to meet their protein needs while staying true to their diet.
Most fast food restaurants create egg-based breakfast options, and some have even begun to serve them on an all-day basis. Eggs are great for keto diets because they’re high in protein. Panera Bread, McDonald’s, and Burger King all offer egg menu items. However, many of these items come with hash browns or bread. Ask for a side of fruit, like apple slices, or a yogurt parfait instead.
Coffee and Tea
One of the benefits of a keto diet is that it doesn’t restrict anyone from enjoying coffee and tea. Without cream or sugar, coffee and tea are nearly calorie-free, making them great for people who are adhering to a diet. However, it can be tempting to stop by a Starbucks or Dunkin’ and grab an iced coffee full of sugar and syrup. Starbucks offers a low-carb mocha that allows customers to get their sweet fix while still following their diet. They also offer black teas with fruit infusions, such as the iced pineapple black tea.