With over 36,900 outlets spread across 100 countries, it's really hard to avoid McDonald's, especially when your stomach starts churning in the middle of the day, and it’s the closest fast food place to work. But you know that McDonald's is all about fries and burgers, so you don't even give it a thought because you want to stay true to your diet.
Well, in case you didn't know, McDonald's actually has a range of options that are low enough in carbs to make them keto friendly. With customizable orders now being a thing, you can also tweak most orders to fit into your keto macros. Besides that, McDonald's has recently included salads, fruit, and fish to their menu in response to the growing public interest in healthy food.
Although every keto advocate will encourage you to make most of your meals at home, we also know that this is sometimes not possible. So, heading to the closest and cheapest fast food place now and then is necessary to stay well fed. To help you make a keto-friendly order at McDonald's, follow our tips below. All examples have less than 10 grams net carbs per serving and most have lots of fat.
How to Order at McDonald's
First, you'll need to know what you should and shouldn't have on your keto McDonald's order. Anything with loads of carbs in it is off limits. Think buns, fries, biscuits, pancakes, hash browns, and donuts. On the other hand, protein and fatty meat, eggs, and salad-based meals are what you need to look for.
Secondly, once you know what to look for, make sure to stay weary of ingredients that look good but could have carbs. Sauces, dressings, and beverages can have carbs in the form of added sugar and starches. Reading the brochure helps in avoiding these sneaky carbs. Optionally, do your research online using the McDonald's website or app – you'll find all the nutritional info in there.
With all that in mind, it's time to place your order. Either go for low-carb meals already on the menu, or ask for bunless everything and skip the fries and soda. Because McDonald's serves 70 million customers daily, we assure you that you won't be the first to ask for a bunless burger. No need to feel self-conscious about it.
Now, let head to the actual orders you can go for at McDonald's.
The breakfast section on the McDonald's menu offers the following keto-friendly options:
- Egg McMuffins– Without the muffins, you get around 200 calories, 12 grams of fat, 18 grams of protein, and 3 grams of net carbs.
- Bacon, Egg, & Cheese Biscuit – Skip the biscuit and you'll get around 300 calories, 23 grams of fat, 18 grams of protein, and 5 grams of net carbs.
- Sausage Biscuit with Egg– Made with a sausage patty and folded eggs, this simple meal comes at around 380 calories when you exclude the biscuit. You'll also get over 30 grams of fat and 16 grams of protein.
- Steak, Eggs, & Cheese Biscuit– When you skip the biscuit, you're left with fluffy folded eggs, a steak patty, grilled onions, and American cheese. You'll get 380 calories from this meal along with 30 grams of fat and 25 grams of protein.
- Big Breakfast – Just state that you don't want the hash browns and biscuits and you'll be left with scrambled eggs with a sausage patty. You'll get around 500 calories from this coming from the 50 grams of fat and 25 grams of protein.
McDonald's staff will serve your order in a box and maybe even offer lettuce leads to replace the buns. If your order feels skimpy on the calories, simply double your order to get more nutrition.
McDonald's is most famous for burgers complete with their famous buns. McDonald's buns are usually artisan rolls, some topped with sesame seeds. One artisan role has a whopping 28 grams net carbs, so you definitely need to avoid these when eating low-carb.
Thankfully, most fast food places, McDonald's included, now allow customers to order bunless burgers. These are served either in boxes or tightly wrapped in lettuce. If you order a bunless Big Mac, you'll get around 380 calories, 27 grams of fat, and 25 grams of protein. This keto McDonald’s order also provides a decent amount of calcium, iron, and vitamin A.
But feel free to order their other specialties such as:
- Quarter Pounder with Cheese – Without the bun, the burger comes at around 400 calories. It has 28 grams of fat, 31 grams of protein, and 11 grams of carbs. You can lower the carb content even further if you skip the ketchup. Keep the onions, pickles, and mustard. Mustard is a low-carb, nutrient-dense condiment that studies show mustard burns calories .
- Triple Cheeseburger – When you're feeling particularly hungry, have a keto McDonald’s cheeseburger. It has around 490 calories, 28 grams of fat, 32 grams of protein, and 7 grams of carbs. Again, avoid the ketchup and go for mustard instead. The three beef patties and two slices of melty cheese are sure to make you enjoy it even more.
- Bacon McDouble – Bacon makes everything taste better, including this burger. One Bacon McDouble will provide you with 420 calories, 23 grams of fat, 28 grams of protein, and just 6 grams of carbs. Besides the added bacon, this burger also comes with American cheese, pickles, onion, and mustard.
- Hamburger – And if you're not too hungry, a simple Hamburger is all you need to curb mid-day slumps. One serving comes with only 240 calories, 8 gram of fat, 13 grams of protein, and 3 grams of carbs. It's also perfect if you have milk allergies since it doesn't come with American cheese.
- Cheeseburger– However, if a plain old hamburger doesn't satisfy your craving for a decadent meal, then get this Cheeseburger. It's a hamburger with a slice of melty cheese. The extra layer of cheese gives it an additional 80 calories.
There are even more burger options that you'll find on a McDonald's menu. Whichever you choose, make sure it doesn't contain Big Mac Sauce, fried onion strings.
McDonald's offers a range of healthy salads for the particularly health conscious. Most of these salads are made using a blend of different greens instead of plain lettuce. They're also quite nutritious and packed with antioxidants. Here are a couple of examples you can order:
A McDonald's Side Salad has only 15 calories. There are also only 2 grams net carbs in one serving and lots of vitamins A, C, folate, and the minerals calcium and iron. The salad contains a blend of romaine lettuce, baby spinach, kale, and other lettuce varieties. It also has grape tomatoes. When ordering, you can choose any Newman's Own Dressing of your liking.
Bacon Ranch Grilled Chicken Salad
For a heartier meal, go for this full-bodied grilled chicken salad. It has all the nutrition you need at 320 calories, 14 grams of fat, and 42 grams of protein. The salad also comes with 7 grams of net carbs. Make sure to use Newman's Own Ranch Dressing to boost the salad fat content; research shows that high-fat dressings increase antioxidant absorption from salads .
Other salads offered at McDonald's are too high in carbs, usually containing around 28 grams. These carbs come from the added legumes, high-carb sauces, crispy chicken, and corn.
For a little bit of refreshment, you want to order a low-carb drink. McDonald's offers a couple of options to keep you hydrated while eating out:
Diet coke has no calories and no sugar. It doesn't really offer anything in terms of nutrition, but it does keep you hydrated. Diet coke is sweetened with artificial sweeteners and contains natural flavorings. Still, do keep your intake of diet coke moderate. Studies show that many artificial sweeteners used in popular drinks can be bad for your health .
Pure H2O is the best low-carb drink to keep you hydrated. McDonald's serves Dasani water from the Coca-Cola company. It's simple filtered tap water but some varieties are enriched with minerals.
Sugar Free French Vanilla Iced Coffee
This keto McDonald's McCafé offers a sugar-free decadent iced coffee. It still contains 9 grams carbs, though, so keep that in mind when planning your daily macro intake. On the plus side, the drink comes with 5 grams of fat.
Plain old coffee is also allowed on keto. McDonald's offers freshly brewed, unsweetened coffee made with Arabica beans. There's evidence that certain compounds from Arabica coffee protect the skin from sun-induced aging .
You can also order a range of keto McDonald’s unsweetened teas. They offer Orange Pekoe, Earl Grey, Peppermint, and Green Tea. Countless studies prove that regular tea drinkers have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, and other illnesses [5,6]. Most of these studies focused on tea from the Camellia sinensis plant, so keep that in mind.
5. About the Sauces & Condiments
Sauces make a huge difference in keto Mcdonald’s meals. They enhance flavors, improve taste, boost the food's fat content, boost nutrients, and some have added health benefits. However, as already mentioned, many McDonald's sauces are high in carbs so caution is necessary.
The sauces you can freely add to your burger or salads include:
- Mayonnaise – One package has 90 calories. All these calories come from fat of which may has 10 grams – great for hitting your keto macros.
- Tartar sauce – Tartar sauce is simply mayonnaise with pickles, dill, lemon juice, and other flavorings. It goes best with seafood, but is suitable for meat-based meals as well. You'll get 140 additional calories from 15 grams of fat in a keto McDonald's tartar sauce cup.
- Mustard – Great for beef patties and salads. It's low in calories and carbs but is rich in bioactive compounds that have anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, and cancer-preventive properties .
- Spicy Buffalo Sauce– At just 1 grams of carbs per package, this spicy sauce is definitely safe on keto. It also has only 30 calories and 3 grams of fat – perfect if you're looking to lose weight.
- Creamy Ranch Sauce– An all time favorite, ranch sauce has only 1 gram of carbs, but 12 grams of fat which is perfect for keto. You get 110 calories per package and a bit of calcium for healthy bones. In case you were wondering, ranch sauce is made with buttermilk, vinegar, egg yolk, and various flavorings.
- Newman's Own Balsamic Vinaigrette– Of the Newman's Own products, this one contains the least carbs at 4 grams per serving. Use it sparingly to keep carb intake low.
On the other hand, you need to steer clear of these carby condiments:
- Ketchup– Ketchup is sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup, so it's not particularly keto-friendly even though it has 2 grams net carbs per one small packet.
- Honey Mustard Sauce – Not to be confused with plain mustard sauce.
- Honey – McDonald's also offers honey to sweeten your tea and shakes. Skip the honey while eating low-carb as it's pure sugar.
- Tangy Barbecue Sauce – One of the carbiest of them all, a packet of this sauce contains 11 grams of net carbs from high-fructose corn syrup. This type of sweetener is very damaging to your metabolism and liver .
McDonald's offers a range of keto-friendly options for on the go. All you have to do is research the restaurant's menu, read the brochures, and make your order. Always skip the bun and be careful with the sauces. Following these simple steps makes eating keto at one of the world's fast food giants easy peasy.
What's best about eating at McDonald's on keto is convenience and price. You'll find an outlet in every town and can order meals for as little as $1. McDonald's has added plant-based specials to for its health-conscious customers as well which makes eating there better than ever.
Still, it needs to be said: McDonald's and other fast food places can't offer keto dieters all the nutrition they need. So do make fast food an occasional treat for when you're in a hurry and base your diet mostly on homemade stuff.