Need a quick bite on the road? There are low carb McDonald’s options that are suitable for a keto diet. You’ll just need to know what to order off the menu.
Are Low Carb McDonald’s Options Healthy?
Sometimes when you’re traveling and you don’t have many options to choose from and the kids are getting cranky, eating McDonalds will have to do. It’s a quick option when you haven’t packed enough low carb snacks.
I’m by no means suggesting that eating at any fast food restaurant is healthy. Even if you’re not eating high carbs. After all, the produce fast food chains use for burgers and salads isn’t organic. Furthermore, some of the ingredients may contain genetically-modified organisms (GMO’s.)
And I’ll give you one more reason why you should limit fast food even if it’s keto friendly. It’s because many of the menu items are cooked in processed vegetable oil. Soybean oil is the most prevalent veggie oil McDonalds uses. It contains a lot of omega-6 fatty acids, which contributes to inflammation in the body.
But once in a blue moon, eating fast food won’t likely harm your health. And on those rare occasions when you find yourself with no other options but McDonalds, here’s how to stay on track with low carb…
Low Carb Breakfast at Mickey D’s
I remember being in Europe when I was a teenager many years ago. I was amazed that you could order an Egg McMuffin for dinner. Well, nowadays, most McDonalds restaurants serve breakfast all day.
For your convenience, I used the food chain’s handy online calculator to determine which foods you can safely eat if you’re following a low carb lifestyle.
There are two breakfast foods which you should avoid. Those are:
- Fruit & Maple Oatmeal: contains 62 grams of carbs (What would be left if you told the cashier to hold the fruit and oatmeal?)
- Fruit ‘N Yogurt Parfait (even removing strawberries and granola from the equation still yields 20 grams of carbs
- Hotcakes & Sausage (you can just ask for the sausage if you’re craving processed breakfast meat)
Currently, there are 12 breakfast sandwiches on McD’s menu. I’m not going to go through all of them but I will highlight it’s best-selling option, the iconic Egg McMuffin.
With all the ingredients in the Egg McMuffin, the sandwich contains 27 grams of net carbs. Remove the muffin, however, and you can stay slim and sexy because now it only has 3 grams of net carbs.
In fact, removing the muffin or biscuit (or bagel, in the case of Bacon, Cheese and Egg Bagel Sandwich) brings the net carb total down to 3 grams. This makes the breakfast sandwiches good low carb McDonald’s options if you remove the bread.
In addition, when it comes to breakfast food, you can keep the carb count low by sticking with meat (sausage patty or bacon) and eggs.
On a side note, I was shocked to learn that the Parfait contains konjac flour. Konjac flour is a good substitute for white flour in desserts.
Burgers Without The Buns & High Carbs
Obviously, just as with breakfast sandwiches, you can drastically cut the carb count by removing the buns.
Let’s use as an example another iconic menu item, the quarter pounder with cheese. With the bun, there’s almost 40 grams of carbs. Don’t want a high carb burger? Of course you don’t.
But if you still want to have your burger and eat it, too, you have 3 options:
- just remove the bun
- ask for extra lettuce so you can have a skinny burger
- bring your own low carb tortilla wraps or buns
As for the first option, that’s not enjoying the full experience of having a burger. And hey, you’re only doing this once in a blue moon, right? So at least have a lettuce wrap burger.
I prefer the third option. I might not always think ahead to bring my own wraps or buns, but I think this is the most enjoyable option.
What does removing the bun do as far as the carb count? It deletes 30 grams of carbs. You’re now at only 9 grams of carbs for a quarter pounder with cheese. Want to get it down to 5 grams? Tell them to hold the ketchup. Burger King’s slogan might be “have it your way” but Mickey D’s will gladly hold the ketchup for you.
A Low Carb Big Mac?
A regular Big Mac contains 25 grams of protein. That’s a nice dose of protein if you’re a bodybuilder. But with the protein comes a whopping 46 grams of carbs. Ok, technically with the 3 grams of fiber the Big Mac has, it’s only 43 grams of net carbs.
Obviously, if you’re on a ketogenic diet, eating a regular Big Mac is sure to kick you out of ketosis. In fact, some people following keto try to stay as low as 12 grams a day.
But ditching that bun, like I did in my version of the Big Mac Salad, the carb count drops dramatically. Just by removing the buns brings it down to 7 carbs. Saying no to the special sauce yields 5 grams. You can shed even one more gram by holding the pickles.
The good news about McD’s beef patties are while they might not be 100% grass-fed organic yet, the chain now uses 100% pure USDA-inspected beef patties with no fillers and no extenders.
And if you’re curious how the American cheese looks so yellow on its burgers, yes, color is added (along with soy lecithin and other additives.) But hey, you gotta pick your battles, right?
Healthy Meal Plan at McDonald’s: Salads
If you’re not looking for a gourmet meal and don’t mind keeping it bland, you can always order a few side salads. A side salad here contains:
- romaine lettuce (and/or up to 5 different kinds of lettuce)
- baby spinach
- baby kale,
- grape tomatoes
Side salads only contain 3 grams of net carbs. If you’re looking to stick to 12 grams, you could still order a few side salads. Remove the grape tomatoes and it’s only 2 grams of carbs per side salad!
If it’s the Southwest Grilled Chicken Salad you prefer, there are 37 grams of protein (mostly of course from the chicken). But if you order off the menu as is, there’s 27 grams carbs. However, remove the tortilla strips 22 grams carbs. Ditch the lime glaze dressing and you’re now down to 15 carbs.
(Interestingly, the chicken is grilled with clarified butter, which is on my best keto foods for fat burning list.)
A healthier option as far as reducing the carbs is the Bacon Ranch Grilled Chicken Salad. It contains only 9 grams of carbs. Remove the tomatoes and there’s only 7 grams of carbs. This one is my favorite low carb McDonald’s meal option.
And make sure you don’t add the Ranch Dressing! It has 11 grams of carbs and contains ingredients you want to avoid like corn syrup and sugar.
Is Crispy Chicken Low Carb at McDonald’s?
It doesn’t matter what kind of chicken sandwich you have. Remove the bun and the carb count plummets. However, if you’re closely monitoring net carbos, the crispy chicken contains more carbs. The buttermilk crispy chicken sandwich contain 18 net carbs and the buttermilk chicken tenders contains 13 total carbs.
Your best bet is to go with the artisan grilled chicken sandwich. With no bun it contains zero carbs! If you’re craving something more flavorful and don’t mind a little more carbos, the pico guacamole grilled chicken contains only 6 net carbs.
Fast Food Low Carb Drinks and Sides
Obviously, the healthiest thing to drink is water. But if you must have something else, you can order unsweetened iced tea. And if you just are in the mood for a healthy snack, most Mickey D’s have apple slices and mandarin oranges (Cuties).
In conclusion, when your dining options are limited and fast food is the only way to curb your hunger, you can make it low carb by:
- removing the bun, biscuit or bread
- ordering with no ketchup
- not using the salad dressing (bring your own bottle of olive oil in the car)
- removing croutons and tomatoes from salads
- no matter how hard, avoid french fries and shakes
- only drink water or unsweetened iced tea
Want more insights on what to eat at these restaurant chains? Check out the Keto Fast Food Survival Guide by Mr. Skinnypants.
How do you stick to low carb diets when you’re on the go and fast food is the only option? Leave a comment.