6 Keto-Friendly Restaurants for When You're Too Beat to Cook
There's no question the keto diet works. (The U.S. News & World Report 2019 diet rankings just put it the no. 2 spot in the Best Fast Weight-Loss Diets category.) But the eating regimen can be super challenging to follow—especially when you're too busy or burned out to whip up a low-carb, high-fat meal at home. Those are the days you crave a quick bite and luckily, you've got plenty of options at the keto-friendly restaurants below. They all serve up tasty, filling fare that'll help your body stay in ketosis. Here's what to order at each of the six popular chains.
This fast-casual chain known for its commitment to fresh, sustainable ingredients just took the guesswork out of ordering a keto-friendly meal by launching a Keto Salad Bowl as one of its new “Lifestyle Bowls.” (The others are the Paleo Salad Bowl, the Whole30 Salad Bowl, and the Double Protein Bowl). Hustle over to your nearest Chipotle and try it out!
- The Keto Salad Bowl (carnitas, romaine lettuce, red salsa, cheese, and guacamole): 585 calories, 42g fat, 15g carb, 8g fiber (so 7 net carbs), 32g protein
Perhaps the most convenient, this fast-food stop has many keto choices so long as you skip the bun. Our two recs win for their fat-to-protein ratio; many other no-bun choices have significantly more protein than fat, which makes meeting your daily fat target that much harder.
- Quarter Pounder with cheese, no bun, no ketchup: 340 calories, 25g fat, 4g carbs, 1g fiber (so 3 net carbs), 25g protein
- Big Mac, no bun: 330 calories, 25g fat, 7g carbs, 1g fiber (so 6 net carbs), 18g protein
If you want a little extra sauce, go for the Spicy Buffalo Sauce and Creamy Ranch, as each only has 1 gram carb. (The other dipping sauces are fairly carb-laden given their serving size.)
Not in the mood for beef? McD’s Filet-O-Fish with no bun is also a decent choice (240 calories, 17g fat, 10g carbs, 12g protein).
At the fast-casual restaurant with the word “bread” in its title, finding something keto-friendly is slightly more challenging. But, alas, here are two top-notch, tasty options.
- Greek Salad, whole size, with red wine salami, light feta, light tomatoes: 440 calories, 41g fat, 9g carb, 4g fiber (so 5 net carbs), 11g protein.
- Caesar Salad with Chicken, whole size, extra parm, no croutons: 400 calories, 29g fat, 7g carb, 2g fiber (so 5 net carbs), 39g protein.
The grilled chicken breast and nuggets are keto-safe choices—neither deliver more than 3g carbs per serving and some are a mere 1 or 2 grams per serving. But from a taste—and fat content—standpoint, the original chicken breast (no bun, of course!) is the way to go.
- Original Chicken Breast, no bun: 230 calories, 11g fat, 10g carbs, 23g protein
Ask for either of these sauces: Garlic & Herb Ranch (only 1g carb and 14g fat), Zesty Buffalo (also only 1g carb). But skip these: Chick-fil-A Sauce, Polynesian, Honey Mustard, Barbeque, and Sweet & Spicy Sriracha Sauces.
Another keto-friendy option, from the sides menu, is the Chicken Salad cup. It has 360 calories, 24g fat, 7g carbs, 2g fiber (so 5g net carbs), and 28g protein.
This one's easy: You can't go wrong with a cheeseburger wrapped in lettuce. If you're not terribly hungry, there's a "little" version with one patty instead of two.
- Cheeseburger in a lettuce wrap: 580 calories, 46g fat, 1g carb, 40g protein.
- Little Cheeseburger in a lettuce wrap: 294 calories, 23g fat, 1g carb, 20g protein
Add any of these low-carb toppings (all are 0 or 1g carb): green peppers, grilled mushrooms, hot sauce, jalapeno peppers, mayo, mustard, pickles. And skip these toppings: ketchup, Bar-B-Q sauce (there are 15g carbs in one serving!), and relish.
Similar to Panera Bread, this restaurant with a carb-loaded food in its name is lighter on keto-friendly menu items. However, the chain's protein-rich items can be ordered sans carbs.
- Sausage, Egg & Cheese Croissant, no croissant/muffin/bagel: 370 calories, 33g fat, 3g carbs, 16g protein
To shave a few calories (mostly via fat), order the bacon and cheese or ham and cheese combinations—you'll still get the same amount of carbs and protein.
Nothing tempting you here?
Use these tips to make a keto-friendly choice wherever you decide to go.
1. Make sure the menu offers nutrition info. Most people lose weight on a 1,500-calorie diet. Pair that with the typical keto macronutrient parameters, and you've got a loose estimate of what to aim for per meal: 500 calories, 42g fat, 25g protein, and 6g carbohydrate.
2. Choose add-ons carefully. In general, tacking on lettuce, pickles, and mustard are safe choices when you’re on keto. Adding some mayo or bacon will keep carbs in check, and boost your fat count. Cheese has similar fat-adding qualities, but it comes with a few grams of carbs.
3. Don't discount roadside options. As more gas stations fall into the well-stocked category and rest areas expand their offerings, finding keto-friendly snacks isn’t nearly as difficult as it once was. Jaime Ritter Milan, associate editor of CookingLight.com, can vouch for that: “When I tried keto, I’d load up on things like beef jerky (though skip varieties like Teriyaki or brown sugar, which can have extra carbs), pre-packaged hard-boiled eggs, cheese sticks, kale chips, or a healthy portion of nuts to keep me satiated."
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