So you're on the keto diet. Eating breakfast at home is pretty easy with all the amazing recipes (smoothies, pancakes, omelets, egg cups) but what if you are on the go? Thankfully a ton of fast food restaurants have jumped on the low carb train and offer some great keto-friendly options whether its 8 am or 6 pm. Interested in how good these fast food options are, I decided to take on a week-long keto fast food breakfast challenge. And let me tell you, some of these fast food chains really know how to cater to the ketogenic diet.
What is the Keto Diet
Like the Atkins diet of the 90s, the Keto diet is a high-fat, low carbohydrate diet that forces the body to burn fat rather than carbs. Invented in the 1920s and 30s, the ketogenic diet was originally created to treat epilepsy in children before anticonvulsant medication was made. Most recently the diet has shifted to weight loss, letting adults follow a low-carb diet. Today the diet is totally trendy, with recipe books, apps, protein powder, and snacks hitting the shelves every single day.
The fast food industry has even started creating low carb fast food to appease their health-conscious consumers and I was one of them this week.
The Keto Fast Food Breakfast Challenge
I love food. I love biscuits, homemade bread, and bagels. I go to the gym and eat relatively healthy but I've never cut foods completely out of my diet in the name of dropping pounds. So if I was going to test and critique keto fast food breakfasts, I was gonna do it right. For one week I only ate keto fast food breakfasts to find the best and worse.
Eating a keto meal later in the day at fast food restaurants is relatively easy because everywhere from Chipotle and Wendy's to KFC and Five Guys offer menu items like burgers and salads without any kind of bread. Breakfast, however, is a different story. Most fast food breakfasts include things like hash browns, cheese biscuits or pancakes. Here are the chains that made it possible to eat a great breakfast and still be keto.
Day one! Right before the breakfast menu closed (yes, although McDonald's has all-day breakfast this location ends breakfast sandwiches at 10:30) I ordered an Egg McMuffin without the English muffin. Coming in at 160 calories, 12 grams of protein, and 3 grams of carbs, the bunless McMuffin is a great low-carb option for breakfast lovers. The sandwich does contain 81% of your daily cholesterol, but being meat and cheese heavy, it's pretty understandable that the keto diet usually pushes over this limit every day.
The sandwich was presented in a large take-out box which seemed almost comical. It was good but I would have loved to have the sandwich in a small bowl or container.
Day two brought me to Burger King where I ordered a Fully Loaded Croissan'wich without the croissant. Topped with black forest ham, sausage, bacon, American cheese, and eggs, this keto breakfast option is packed with protein (23 grams) and only contains 3 net carbs.
Like McDonald's, the fast food meal came in a large container, making it look less than appetizing.
Hardee's / Carl's Jr.
When starting this challenge I was most excited to visit Hardee's because of their dedicated low carb breakfast menu. I ordered the Low Carb It Breakfast Bowl complete with folded eggs, a sausage patty, swiss cheese, and a loaded omelet filled with shredded cheddar and bacon bits. The bowl I got switched out the bacon for bacon bits and a slice of cheddar for shredded, and an extra egg was added.
Weighing in at 660 calories, this 38-gram protein monster kept me full until dinner. However, the bowl also contains 10 grams of carbs, more than three times the amount of carbs than the other two keto-friendly fast food options I tried the days prior. I couldn't finish the entire thing.
I did love that it came in a bowl and it was easy to eat. So there's that.
Jack in the Box
Day four. I've already visited all the fast food places near my house so I have to drive 15 minutes to reach this Jack in the Box. I decided to order the Ultimate Breakfast Sandwich (no bun) topped with two eggs, two slices of American cheese, ham, and bacon. With 540 calories and 4 net carbs, the sandwich packs a big protein punch.
The sandwich came in a bowl (score) and was pretty tasty. It was at this point in the week I was starting to get extremely tired of essentially the same breakfast every day. I was craving veggies. Hard.
The finale. I ended my fast food joint challenge with a breakfast grilled chicken sandwich topped with egg whites and American cheese. Opening the bag, I realized they didn't remove the biscuit from the sandwich. I removed it myself, but all of the cheese stuck to the biscuit. And after spending a week without bread I felt the cravings kick in hard as I tried to chisel away the cheese from the bread. The lowest carb count of the week (just 1!) and the lowest calories, I would have to say this was the best keto item I had all week. It might be just because it was different than the bacon and egg sandwiches I had been chowing on, but I stand by my choice.
Which keto fast food breakfast won? I'd have to say the Egg White Grill from Chick-fil-A. The breakfast was filling and delicious, not to mention it had the least amount of carbs.
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Chick-fil-a breakfast option! Order the egg white grill, add bacon, no bun. I added tomato to mine as well. $3.74 @chickfila #chickfilaketo #ketolife #keto #ilovebacon #70lbs #70poundsdown #notplussizeforlong #goals #dirtyketo #lchf #hflc #chickfila #ketoforone #ketobreakfast
If I had done this any differently I would have added Taco Bell or Starbucks into the mix to see if they had any better selections than what I tried this week. Taco Bell would have included pico de gallo (yes, veggies!) and sour cream into their breakfasts and the Starbucks sous vide egg bites would have been a welcome change.
Am I going to switch to lettuce wraps from now on? Not likely, but it did influence me to eat more protein for breakfast and skip out on the sugary cereal.
This article was originally published on February 18, 2020.