A Guide To Keto-Friendly Fast Food For Your Post-Thanksgiving Diet

Getty Image

The holiday season is notorious for being the season that expands waistlines and adds a whole lot of stress to your life. So you may already be planning a change in your diet for 2019. Or even right after Christmas. But hell, why wait until then. Start Friday and you can feel good about yourself by December 22nd, when you officially start mainlining Christmas cookies.

Among all of 2018’s big buzzworthy diets (a diet getting buzz? what a time to be alive!), you’ve probably heard a fair bit about keto. It’s a disciplined, rules-based way to make your life miserable and potentially lose weight. More specifically, keto is a low-carb/ high-fat regimen aimed at consuming so few carbs and sugars that it puts your body into a ketogenic state — in which your liver begins breaking down your body’s stored fat to provide you with energy. Adherents report a wide swath of benefits, from weight loss to increased mental focus to lower blood pressure and cholesterol counts.

With a diet this strict, a quick fast food pit stop seems like it would be off limits. Fast food’s best quality is its convenience, but that convenience typically comes at the price of carb-rich food. But dig deep enough and you’ll find that there are still a few menu items that can fit into your keto dieting. Literally, just a few. And we’ve outlined them below.

Note: Because everyone’s body and nutritional needs are different, the best way you can figure out what your specific keto-nutrition breakdown should look like is to consult a keto-calculator.

Protein Style Burgers

Whether overhyped or not, In-N-Out’s simple menu makes it perfect for keto customization. But if you live in an In-N-Out-free state, a bunless burger can be served at most fast food joints upon request. Wrapped in lettuce, it’s easy to assume a bunless burger doesn’t match up to its bunned counterpart carb or flavor-wise, but the taste of the meat patty is accentuated when you don’t have a bun distracting you, making for a lower carb iteration that doesn’t feel like you’re cheating yourself out of the joy of eating a burger.

A few things to keep in mind though: Spread and ketchup is not keto friendly, due to their high sugar contents. Opt instead for mustard, assuming you can’t bring yourself to go sauce-less.

Nutritional Breakdown

33g protein, 39g fat, and 11g of net carbohydrates for your standard protein style Double-Double from In-N-Out. Attack those 11g’s of carbs by opting out of the spread, and going light on onions and tomatoes. These numbers will vary amongst different fast food burgers so treat these as a ballpark if you aren’t grabbing a burger from In-N-Out.

Find protein style burgers at In-N-Out, Carl’s Jr/Hardee’s, Wendy’s, McDonald’s, Burger King, Five Guys and Jack in the Box.

Grilled Chicken

Grilled Chicken is a keto dieter’s best friend, because it’s one of the only meals that doesn’t feel like some type of compromise on your part. KFC is probably your best bet because of the variety of healthy side-dish options allowing for a complete meal without having to go overboard on the meat in order for it to satisfy your appetite. But beware, you may find yourself switching over to grilled chicken rather than fried permanently. The stuff is tasty. If you love Chick-fil-A, their grilled chicken is also pretty solid.

Nutritional Breakdown

10g fat, 48g protein, 4g of net carbohydrates for a breast, wing, and side of green beans at the Colonel. The low carb count here will be much appreciated because it will leave you well under your carb-threshold. KFC has a great nutrition calculator that will help you keep track of exact values and allow you to try out different meal combinations.

Find Grilled Chicken at Kentucky Fried Chicken, Popeyes, El Pollo Loco, Chick-fil-A, Wendy’s, McDonald’s, Burger King, and Jack in the Box.

Breadless Sandwiches

You may think that you just can’t sandwich without bread, but at the end of the day it is a mere vessel for what’s inside. So ditch the bread to make things keto-friendly. Plenty of sandwich chains have a name for their particular brand of breadless sandwich, from Jersey Mike’s “Sub in a Tub” to Jimmy John’s “Un-wich.” If, for some reason, your favorite sandwich chain doesn’t have a breadless option, a plate works just as well, so feed your bread to some ducks or something, or better yet, throw it at your sandwich place for not offering a breadless option.

Nutritional Breakdown

This will vary because of the vast variety of ingredient combinations for a sandwich, but this truly puts the power in your hands. For our example, we will use the Jersey Mike’s Philly Cheesesteak featured above.

27g fat, 35g protein, 13g of net carbohydrates. If you really want to attack those carbs consider cold-sandwich options rather than hot as they tend to carry fewer carbs. The big sandwich chains are sure to have nutritional info for each sandwich, this will allow you to really get into the details before ordering. Sure it’s a little more work but so long as you are staying away from sugar-heavy dressings, opting for bread-less is a pretty safe bet on most combinations.

Find breadless sandwiches at Jersey Mike’s, Jimmy John’s, Subway, Quiznos, Which-Wich, and Arby’s.

Low-Carb Salads

Salads are tricky when it comes to the keto diet. You’d think any salad is a fair game and fairly healthy and you’re right, salads are quite balanced. That’s the problem. Whether it’s the presence of sugar-heavy dressings or carb-rich add-ons, salads can be packed with well over your daily allowance of net carbohydrates, so you want to aim for a salad that is high in fat but doesn’t contain any fruit, croutons, breaded meats, or tortilla strips.

Chipotle is a solid choice here. Unlike a lot of the pre-packaged fast-food salads, at Chipotle you’ll have direct control over how your salad is built and while you’ll miss the beans, the guacamole does enough to make you forget you passed up on those carb-rich pintos.

Nutritional Breakdown

18g fat, 44g protein, 12g of net carbohydrates for a Chipotle salad bowl with chicken, fajitas, sour cream, cheese, guacamole, and salsa. If you want to cut into those carbs ditching the fajitas is a good option. Chipotle has a pretty great nutritional calculator so feel free to experiment building your own bowl – double meat is a great way to help you forget about those beans and side of chips you’ll be missing out on.

Find low-carb salads at Chipotle, Panera Bread, Wendy’s, McDonald’s, Burger King, and Jack in the Box.

Buffalo Wings

Buffalo wings are also a solid choice but there are a few things to keep in mind. The wings can’t be breaded — which means boneless wings aren’t going to work, and you’ll have to stay away from sugar-heavy sauces, too.

If you love teriyaki wings or sweet bbq, you’ll be sad to hear these also won’t work with your keto diet. But that opens up a whole world of dry-rub style wings, and lovers of spice will still be able to reach for their ultra-hot sauces. Just be sure to check if there is any hidden sugar as using sweetness to counteract spice is a common practice in the wing-sauce world. For wings, we love Wingstop because of their large variety of sauces and readily available nutritional information.

Nutritional Breakdown

56g fat, 60g protein, 6g of net carbohydrates for an eight-count order of bone-in Louisiana Rub wings from Wingstop. Be sure to stay away from flavors like Mango-Habanero or Spicy Korean — despite being on the spicier spectrum, these sauces are packed with sugar. Most of the sauces from Wingstop are low in carbs and sugar so it’ll quickly become your go-to stop when you don’t feel like preparing your own meal.

Find Buffalo Wings at Wingstop, Buffalo Wild Wings, and The Buffalo Spot.


Breakfast is almost exclusively full of carbohydrates! From French toast to morning muffins to scones, the modern breakfast menu was crafted to load you up with carbs and give you a morning sugar boost. But there are a few keto-friendly foods in the mix — eggs, sausage, and bacon come to mind. Be wary though, bacon can sometimes contain hidden sugars so consult a nutritional guide if the fast-food restaurant of your choice has one.

You will have to customize your order a great deal to get a good keto brekky. McDonald’s has some great breakfast options but you’ll have to toss the bread in everything. Give your unwanted bread to a non-keto friend, they’ll be offended you’re giving them just bread and they’ll probably eat it in front of you just to spite you, but still… everyone wins!

Nutritional Breakdown

55g fat, 32g protein, and 4g of net carbohydrates for the double sausage egg McMuffin pictured above. Sure you won’t have any of the sides that make breakfast feel truly excessive, but you’ll have more opportunity to stock up on wonderful sausage and bacon so it’s hard to complain. Breakfast food can clearly be very keto-friendly so if you’ve always been a lover of breakfast-for-dinner then the keto diet will ensure you’re happy and swimming in decadent breakfast meats.

Grab keto-friendly breakfast at Carl’s Jr/Hardee’s, Wendy’s, McDonald’s, Burger King, Five Guys and Jack in the Box.


Some Final Notes On The Ketogenic Diet

Please note that if you attempt to truly be successful with the keto diet, fast food is not some type of diet-hack that’ll make the process easier for you. Keto takes discipline and this list is merely a guide to help in cases where fast food can’t be avoided. Always triple-check nutritional information if you aren’t sure about a certain dish you’re about to order and beware of hidden sugars. Also, please diet responsibly, the keto diet is not intended to replace your permanent diet and you should do a fair amount of research about the long-term effects of any diet before diving in.

With that being said, grub on!