on October 31, 2019
You’re driving on the highway, tired from a long time behind the wheel. That’s when you see them: the bright, beautiful golden arches looming at the next exit. Should you stop for a bite and give in to your cravings, or will you ruin your hard-earned ketosis?
Thankfully, this isn’t a hard decision. There are several keto-friendly options on the menu at McDonald’s and endless combinations you can put together to make a satisfying, hunger-busting meal without getting kicked out of ketosis.
All of the nutrition information cited in this guide was sourced from McDonald’s nutrition calculator.
For starters, it’s everywhere! There are more than 35,000 McDonald’s locations in the world, 14,000 of which are in the United States. The chain has a global presence, with locations from Cyprus to Samoa and more than 100 other countries. While Mickey D’s might not be the fine dining experience you’re looking for while traveling, it’s nice to know that no matter where you go, you at last have one option for grabbing a quick keto meal.
Which brings us to our next point: it’s fast. It’s hard to beat McDonald’s in the speed department, with the average drive thru visit there taking just 189 seconds, or a little over 3 minutes. It would take almost as long to make your way to the office vending machine, which will usually have much fewer keto-friendly options, so McDonald’s is a great choice when you need to stop your stomach from growling quickly.
McDonald’s menu is filled with high fat and high protein items, both of which are essential for keto dieters. One regular McDonald’s hamburger patty, for example, contains 6 grams of fat and 7 grams of protein, while a grilled chicken patty yields 2 grams of fat and a hearty 25 grams of protein.
The chain also has a huge perk for keto followers and breakfast lovers alike in that it offers breakfast all day. The breakfast menu is filled with keto appropriate options like scrambled eggs, bacon and sausage patties.
You won’t find all breakfast items available around the clock at every McDonald’s location, since each restaurant gets to choose which breakfast items it serves after 2 p.m., but you can bet that most of the popular breakfast options like the egg mcmuffin will be included on the roster.
While McDonald’s has historically gotten a bad rap for being the picture of unhealthy eating (remember the 2004 documentary Super Size Me?), it’s come a long way in recent years. The chain recently committed to sourcing more sustainable ingredients, like cage free eggs and chicken raised without antibiotics. The restaurant is working on developing a more responsible supply chain, including environmentally sound beef production practices. And it’s slowly updating its menu with in-demand, healthy choices like avocados, turkey sausages and food with fewer artificial preservatives overall.
When you know what you’re looking for, you can actually do pretty well eating keto from the McDonald’s menu.
To stay in ketosis while dining under the golden arches, follow these guidelines.
As a keto follower, you already know that buns are a big, glaring no-no. The standard hamburger bun at McDonald’s contains 28 grams of carbs, the quarter pounder bun, 34 grams of carbs, and the artisanal roll a hefty 37 grams of carbs. So be sure the ditch the bun when you order. The same goes for other bread components like mcmuffins and biscuits.
If you want to keep a tight lid on your carb intake, most of McDonald’s signature sauces should be avoided. This includes ketchup, BBQ sauce, honey mustard, hot mustard, sweet n’ sour, and more.
There are a few sauces that aren’t a keto danger: the spicy buffalo sauce has 1 gram of carbs and the creamy ranch and Big Mac sauce both have 2 grams of carbs. Plain mustard is always a safe bet, too.
Breading is the enemy, especially at McDonalds. Most of the chicken menu items are covered in it, especially those labeled ‘crispy.’ Even a 4-piece McNugget will set you back 10 grams of carbs. It’s best to avoid these items entirely.
There’s some good news in the toppings department. In addition to cheese, most of the toppings that come standard on McDonald’s sandwiches are fine to enjoy. Pickles, onion and mustard all add a negligible amount of carbs. Tomatoes add about a gram of carbs, so unless you’re really looking to trim your carb count you can safely leave those on, too.
You can’t go wrong ordering these five keto-friendly McDonald’s items.
This amounts to a solid breakfast of sausage and scrambled eggs. When ordered without a biscuit or hash browns, it contains 260 calories, 19 grams of protein, 29 grams of fat and just 2 grams of carbs. If you want to beef it up a bit, order it with an additional sausage patty for an added 7 grams of protein and 18 grams of fat.
When it’s lunchtime and you need fuel to power through the rest of your day, opt for this McDonald’s classic made with 100% ground beef, hold the bun and ketchup. It’ll provide 590 calories with 45 grams of protein, 43 grams of fat and only 5 grams of total carbs.
If you’re craving some greens, this is your best bet on the McDonald’s salad lineup. With mouthwatering bacon, protein-rich chicken, cheese and healthy greens, it’s a salad that’s both satisfying and safe on keto. It contains 300 calories, 39 grams of protein, 13 grams of fat and 8 grams of carbs. You can remove the tomatoes to save an additional gram of carbs.
This McDonald’s item isn’t available everywhere, but if you spot it on your local menu it’s definitely worth a try. Guacamole made from Hass avocados, pico de gallo and white cheddar cheese add a south of the border flair to their standard grilled chicken sandwich. Order it with no bun for 270 calories, 34 grams of protein, 13 grams of fat and 6 grams of carbs.
When in doubt, keep it simple with a good old fashioned egg mcmuffin with no bun. Canadian bacon is topped with scrambled cage free eggs and a melty slice of American cheese to satisfy your cravings in 160 calories with 12 grams of protein, 11 grams of fat, and 3 grams of carbs.
We’ve already talked about skipping buns, breading and ketchup, but there are a few other dangers lurking on the McDonald’s menu that you’ll need to avoid to stay in ketosis.
We’re sorry to say that McDonald’s famous french fries ae off the table. Delicious as they may be, even just a small serving will skyrocket your carb count with 29 grams. The large size contains a soaring 69 grams of carbs. In fact, pretty much all of McDonald’s side items should be avoided on keto, including the apple slices.
Like french fries, these potato based breakfast items are off-limits for keto followers. A single order has 16 grams of carbs. If it’s breakfast time and a craving strikes, opt for a plain sausage patty or an order of bacon instead.
Oatmeal with fruit sounds pretty nutritional, despite the fact that oats are mostly carbs. But this breakfast option is bad news even for non-keto McDonald’s eaters. A whopping 33 grams of sugar negates any nutritional value you’d get from this meal, and 62 grams of carbs means it’s squarely out of the question if you’re on the keto diet.
This one may fool you, because a grilled chicken salad sounds safe at face value. But look a little closer at the menu and you’ll see this salad is topped with corn and black beans--keto busting ingredients that add up to a total carb count of 26 grams. It’s much better to stick to a side salad or the bacon ranch grilled chicken salad we mentioned above.
This indulgent list of caffeinated drinks may entice you, but don’t fall victim to it when you need an afternoon pick-me-up. Even a seemingly harmless small latte has 11 grams of carbs, while a large mocha will set you back 58 grams of carbs.
Don’t be fooled by the flavoring syrups labeled “sugar free;” the sugar free vanilla syrup still contains 8 grams of carbs. If you need to put some pep in your step, it’s best to stick with a plain hot coffee.
McDonald’s employees are no stranger to hearing custom requests, so you can make the keto modifications we’ve covered here with ease. For more ideas for eating fast food while maintaining ketosis, check out our guides to eating keto at Wendy’s, Burger King, Taco Bell and Chipotle.
From fast food recommendations to keto-friendly swaps you can make in your own kitchen, we cover it all on the Left Coast Performance blog. You’ll find shopping lists, answers to common keto questions and tips for sustaining the keto diet in the long term.
To support your keto lifestyle, check out the selection of premium products in the Left Coast store. What you will find: high quality offerings with free shipping every day. What you won’t find: artificial flavors, colors or fillers. Shop now and get on the path to feeling and performing your best.