A diet plan that has been sweeping the nation and gaining popularity is the ketogenic diet, also known as the keto diet for short.
This diet allows for people to take in an adequate amount of the protein that they need to stay healthy while cutting down on carbohydrates and focusing on higher amounts of fat.
How Does Keto Work?
Simply put, the body transitions into a state of ketosis by burning fat instead of carbohydrates. When the body does take in carbohydrates, these are converted to glucose.
However, when an individual does not take in carbohydrates, or a very little amount, the liver turns fat into ketone bodies/fatty acids.
These replace glucose as a source for energy for the brain. Being in a state of ketosis can aid tremendously in losing weight, as well as reducing the frequency of epileptic episodes, according to research.
Regardless of the reasons for your interest in the keto diet, there are times when it is very difficult and even impossible to cook a meal that falls in line with the diet at home.
Fast food is a very popular means of on-the-go eating, but fast-food restaurants have received a bad reputation over the years because of the nutritional value of their menu.
One such restaurant, which is the most popular establishment for fast food, is McDonald’s. Fortunately, the McDonald’s crew has listened greatly to the voices of their customers and introduced many healthy options and substitutions for the convenience and health of their guests.
And, let’s face it – sometimes McDonald’s is just what we need to hit the spot, so-to-speak. But what if you are on the ketogenic diet, and not looking to deviate from the plan?
In this article, we will discuss McDonald’s menu items that are safe to eat for an individual on the ketogenic diet.
How to Go Keto at McDonald’s
Key Things to Going Keto at McD’s:
Ditch the Bun, Bread, & Croutons
Say No to Ketchup
Watch Your Condiments
Pay Attention to Salad Dressing
No Sugary Drinks
No Ice Cream
When an individual is following this diet plan, the guidelines state that approximately 75% of calories should be from fat, 20% from protein, and a mere 5% from carbohydrates. That equals out to 30 – 50 grams of carbs per day.
Of course, calculating your specific carbohydrate needs is another matter, but generally, you can plan to eat poultry, meat, and seafood, especially options such as salmon or sardines.
Eggs, too, are approved in the keto diet, as well as cheese, butter, and other dairy items that contain the full amount of fat.
These allowances will be your friend when you are deciding to eat at McDonald’s.
On the other hand, you are able to eat vegetables containing low amounts of carbohydrates, but you want to do so sparingly, as these do add up if you aren’t careful.
Keto Breakfast at McDonald’s
Order the Egg McMuffin without the muffin, and suddenly you’re keto. Image via McDonalds.com
Typically, most people stop at McDonald’s for breakfast to begin their day. Perhaps this is you! If you want a quick and yummy bite to eat without deviating from the keto diet, consider these options.
Remember, you are trying to eat a mostly fat diet without taking in more carbohydrates than needed so that you can stay in a state of ketosis.
Egg McMuffin – Minus the McMuffin
McDonald’s has a few breakfast sandwiches on their menu, but if you are on the keto diet, the word “sandwich” may make you cringe. This is due to the fact that “bread” and “carbs” are practically synonymous.
Consider the Egg McMuffin.
This is a breakfast sandwich that is McDonald’s best selling option, but if you eat it as is, you will be ingesting 27 grams of carbohydrates. This leaves very little room for the rest of your day to stay within your diet plan.
Removing the muffin, however, leaves the sandwich with only 3 grams of net carbs.
In other words, you can’t go wrong with the breakfast sandwiches so long as the bread is removed. That means no bagel, muffin, or biscuit. But what you have left, which is meat, cheese, and egg (depending on what you select). These are perfectly acceptable low-carb options that will not derail you for the rest of the day.
Of course, if you don’t feel like ordering a “sandwich, hold the bread”, you can simply order a sausage patty, bacon, or eggs.
Breakfast Foods to Avoid
Hotcakes are a breakfast food you’ll have to avoid. Image via McDonalds.com
What you do want to avoid are the breakfast options such as Fruit & Maple Oatmeal, the Fruit ‘N Yogurt Parfait, and hotcakes. These simply can’t be saved in such a way that you have a decent meal without carbohydrates.
Breakfast Bottom Line
Conclusion: If you plan to eat at McDonald’s, or are simply craving a bite to eat while out and about, breakfast food from McDonald’s is the easiest to consume and stick with your keto diet plan.
Fortunately, many options are available throughout the day, making it easier for you to select something suitable.
You may want to ask for the bread to simply be withheld when you place your order, as attempting to pry your cheese off of the bread may cause more trouble than you need.
Keto Lunch and Dinner at McDonald’s
Order without the bun, or remove it. Image via McDonalds.com
This is when things tend to get just a little tricky. Lunch options typically have much more ingredients added into the mix than breakfast items.
But, fortunately, you can still eat a low-carb meal after 10:30 AM.
Keto Quarter Pounder
Consider the iconic menu item popular at lunch and dinner at McDonald’s, the Quarter Pounder with Cheese, which also happens to be one our top-rated keto fast foods.
This burger, with the bun, contains nearly 40 grams of net carbohydrates. Of course, this won’t work for your diet plan, as this leaves very little wiggle room for the rest of your day, or worse, will cause you to actually go over your allowance.
Just like with the breakfast options, though, deciding to skip the bun will help you to stay on track.
A cheeseburger, for example, will give you 33 grams of carbs if you eat it with its bun intact. Removing the bun and eating the insides, which are delicious and filling, will remove a whopping 30 grams of carbohydrates!
Salads are Key
Another option when you are eating lunch at McDonald’s or grabbing a quick fix for dinner is to order a side salad. The addition of these greens can help you to stay full until you are able to get home and fix your next meal. Just be sure to skip any croutons the salad may come with.
Ranch dressing is often keto-compliant – just check the nutrition facts on the salad dressing McDonald’s provides you to make sure it’s legit. If it doesn’t look keto, then you’ll want to go with a dry salad.
In fact, this is an excellent moment to speak about the dressings and sauces at McDonald’s. Simply put, most these are not healthy nor are they acceptable in the keto diet. They are made with lots of sugar and flour and contain the empty calories that can easily kick someone out of ketosis.
When it comes to sides, such as french fries, these may be tempting to consume due to the fact that they come with most meals at McDonald’s and are inexpensive when ordered off of the Dollar Menu.
Bear in mind, though, that these are not keto-friendly. Skip the chicken, as well, as these are breaded and not low-carb.
Bottom Line on Lunch & Dinner
Conclusion: Lunch or dinner at McDonald’s is possible, but your best bet is to stick with a deconstructed burger, bun excluded. In addition, sides and other items that are breaded should be passed over in favor of a side salad which can aid you in feeling full. Be wary of sauce, and additions such as tomato.
So you want to enjoy a ketogenic diet-friendly meal from McDonald’s. And you can! We recommend eating at this restaurant for breakfast so that you can plan the rest of your meals for the day.
In addition, if you know that you will be eating at McDonald’s in the near future, you can come equipped with the knowledge of what you will have to better stay on track.
Mark was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, but moved out west to attend Chico State University. He's been in NoCal ever since and currently resides in the Bay Area with his wife and kids. His current passion is the ketogenic diet, and he's eager to share his diet and health expertise with DadQuarters readers. He currently heads up the DadQuarters editing team, and also contributes to the site as a researcher and writer. Learn more about Mark and the DadQuarters team on our about page.