Keto Fast Food: How to Keep Low-Carb On the Go

Let’s be honest, having to eat out and occasionally resort to fast food is an inevitable part of life (especially if you travel regularly). While the thought of sticking to your keto regimen at a fast food chain is probably a daunting one, you’ll be amazed at the vast keto fast food options out there.

We realize that statement might come as a shocker, considering that pretty much every fast food restaurant’s menu is based on burgers, fries, pizza, pasta, and/or burritos. Big Mac, anyone? Nope, way too many carbs. How about a Chipotle burrito? Still way too many carbs.

Naturally, very few standard fast food options will fit your keto diet because of the massive carb count. It’s pretty much impossible to eat keto at fast food places then, right? Certainly not!

All it takes is some simple alterations/substitutes to turn a normally carb-laden fast food menu into keto fast food.

What we’ll talk about in this article:

Here are some nifty tricks and tips you can use while on-the-go and fast food is your only option. (These tips also apply to sit-down restaurants as well.)

Keto Fast Food Tips

Choose animal proteins (e.g. beef, chicken, etc.), cheese, and low-carb veggies.

Almost all fast food and sit-down restaurants put excessive sweetener and carbohydrates in their food items. For healthy keto fast food, your best bet is to stick to the most basic options you can find.

Ditch the bread.

Whether you’re buying a hamburger from a drive-thru or a table menu, you’ll definitely want to forgo the bread/bun. Normally, you’ll be able to instead ask for additional sides/toppings like avocado, bacon, veggies, and cheese.

Be wary of foods that are fried/coated in breading, such as chicken wings, chicken nuggets, jalapeno poppers, and mozzarella sticks. Whenever possible, opt for “naked” foods. Some fast food chains even offer grilled chicken “nuggets” now which are a great keto fast food option.

If you get a salad, review the ingredients.

It’s much better to stick with basic salads that consist of meats and ask for the dressing on the side (or simply none at all). While sauces and dressings are a great method to get both fat and taste into your food– they generally are filled with sweetener.

Be quite mindful of any sweet tasting sauces and attempt to choose for fattier salad dressings (that generally consist of no sweetener) like ranch, caesar, and bleu cheese.

Speak up!

Don’t be afraid to make some requests/modifications to something you want to order. While some individuals do not prefer to request specific food, you can definitely do so at greater quality dining establishments.

The menu will typically do an excellent task of breaking down exactly what each meal has; you can ask for to the waiter that the meal is prepared in a specific method (gluten-free, low-carb, and so on).

If you’re unsure, avoid it.

There are tons of additives and carbohydrates/sweeteners in fast foods these days; if you’re left guessing or feel unsure about what a menu item contains, your best bet is to choose something else.

You’re better off choosing something simple that you absolutely know has minimal carbs as opposed to taking a shot in the dark on something that might have 20+ grams of sugar in a mystical “secret” sauce.

Do some online research.

A large number of restaurants and fast-food chains put their dietary info online – some even give you the option to use a custom meal creation app where you can pick exactly what menu items and ingredients you’re thinking of ordering.

This is the best approach for ensuring you know the precise number of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats you eat when dining out.

On-The-Go Keto Fast Food Alternatives

While fast food and sit-down restaurants are the most common options for on-the-go keto fast food, we understand there are times when those are not readily accessible.

If you find yourself in the predicament of being out in the middle of seemingly nowhere (driving through New Mexico, anyone?), or your only option is to run into a grocery store to find something to nosh on, then the sections below will help you find some keto-friendly food choices.

Gas Stations & Convenience Store

We hardly believed we would be the people to munch on a sandwich from a gas station while following the keto diet, yet a lengthy car journey in recent years totally reformed that.

Sometimes appetite strikes when you least expect it and it’s not always convenient to stop at both a gas station and fast-food restaurant.

We bought an egg and sausage breakfast sandwich from a gas station and after removing the bread — it was actually not half bad! Simply sausage, egg, and cheese, similar to what you would find at a McDonald’s.

Be careful though, since some of the meat/pork products that are used in to-go sandwiches have preservatives and fillers that might contain carbs.

Furthermore, a number of gas stations now feature ketogenic alternatives like:

  • Whole eggs (boiled)
  • Deli meat and beef jerky
  • String cheese
  • Almonds/Nuts
  • Pork skins

When you stop at a gas station or convenience store, have a look around; you can quickly make a proper keto meal even when you’re in a hurry. Craving something to drink? Numerous gas station chains have inexpensive coffee along with keto-friendly sugar-free sweeteners, as well as diet sodas and flavored waters.

Just be sure to always check the food labels (when possible) to ensure the carb count is negligible.

Remember: When in doubt, leave it out!

Grocery Stores & Supermarkets

Supermarkets are often going to be your best option for keto food when you’re not around the home. The most convenient and affordable thing to buy is a whole rotisserie chicken, where you can easily store the leftovers in a hotel fridge for supper (or a meal the next day).

Wholesale supermarkets, like Costco, generally have the best bargains on them, yet they normally only run $4-$6 at other supermarkets.

A few other keto foods you can try to find in the supermarket are:

  • Whole eggs (boiled)
  • Canned or prepackaged chicken/tuna/salmon
  • Ready-to-eat meat
  • Cheese
  • Pre-made salads and salad bars
  • Beef jerky
  • Nuts and nut butters
  • Coffee and sugar-free beverages
  • Raw veggies and dips/dressings

There’s often going to be many alternatives in supermarkets for you to select from; heck, even small towns you drive through on the road usually have a decent grocery store in them.

Plus, if you reside in a bigger city where lunch lines can be long, supermarkets usually have self-checkouts that are exceptionally fast and efficient.

Whole Foods/Sprouts/Natural Grocers (Niche Food Stores)

Niche food stores normally have a much larger range of low-carb foods to choose from. Another perk of visiting a niche food store while on-the-go is that you can pick up extra keto-friendly options for later in the week. Some choices that niche food stores generally offer include:

  • Organic Deli Meats
  • Aged cheese
  • Whole nuts
  • Raw nut butters
  • Veggie chips
  • Baked Cheese
  • Pre-made zucchini noodles
  • Riced cauliflower and broccoli
  • Low-carb specialty sauces and condiments

Among these, you’ll find many other specialty low-carb goods and items from both the food stores themselves and other brands across the US.

Just like in standard supermarkets, you’ll find a wide selection of meats and cheese from the deli that you can use as a meal replacement.

Be creative and don’t be afraid to ask an employee where something is (or if they carry certain foods).

More Readings:

Keto Diet Pizza Recipe (Meat Lovers)

Low Carb Potato Substitutes For Keto

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Elliot received his BS in Biochemistry from the University of Minnesota and has been a freelance writer specializing in nutritional and health sciences for the past 5 years. He is thoroughly passionate about exercise, nutrition, and dietary supplementation, especially how they play a role in human health, longevity, and performance. In his free time you can most likely find him lifting weights at the gym or out hiking through the mountains of Colorado. He will also host the upcoming BioKeto podcast. You can connect with him on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/elliot.reimers) and Instagram (@eazy_ell)

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