There’s a lot to like about a low-carb, moderate-protein, and high-fat diet like keto. According to The New York Times, the keto diet has proven to be an effective method for weight loss. What’s more, keto dieters can load up on foods typically forbidden in other diets, like cheese, red meat, and even butter. Tons of A-list celebs like Vanessa Hudgens and Alicia Vikander are keto fans, too, per US Weekly.
But with all the keto myths circulating on the internet about America’s latest dieting trend, it can be tricky to know what you can and can’t eat — especially when eating out. Not to mention the added challenge of avoiding your restaurant favorites like breadsticks and french fries whilst your family or friends help themselves. So, how do you know which restaurants will have keto-friendly options for you to dig into guilt-free?
Like the Boy Scouts say, always be prepared. Thankfully, there are heaps of keto-friendly meals at popular restaurants, but it helps to do your research ahead of time. Check out the chains below for tons of ideas on meals you can have the next time you go out to eat. Just keep in mind that a lot of the time you’ll have to exercise a little creativity and ask your server to nix certain non-keto ingredients from your order.
Admittedly, the lunchtime favorite Panera Bread sounds like the last place anyone on the keto diet should patron — carb-dense bread is (sadly) verboten among keto dieters. However, it’s easy to hack the restaurant’s bread-heavy menu by simply ordering one of their savory sandwiches sans bread. Voila! Some items require little to no modifications at all, such as the Greek salad with chicken, Caesar salad without the croutons, Homestyle Chicken Noodle Soup, and the Ten Vegetable Soup. Bonus: The bakery-café’s website includes a breakdown of all its nutritional information, so you can double check to make sure any customizations you make are keto-friendly.
Disregard the sea of tacos and burritos (easier said than done, we know), and you’ll find that the menu at Taco Bell is easy enough to tailor to suit your low-cab diet. The best way to eat a keto-friendly meal here is to load up on keto items a la carte, such as crunchy romaine lettuce, protein, cheese, veggies, guac, sour cream, and low-cab sauces. In other words, skip the tortilla shell, rice, and beans. The Mini Skillet Bowl is a solid choice if you swap out the potatoes for marinated steak. You can also order other menu items in bowls, such as the Beefy 5-Layer Burrito, Fiesta Salad, and the Power Bowl.
Yes, the home of the Baby Back Ribs has keto-friendly options, though we recommend getting a half-rack here and skipping the sugary BBQ sauce. You can also sink your teeth into Chili’s Classic Sirloin, which comes with a side of steamed broccoli. Just skip the mashed potatoes that also come with it. We suggest topping the dish off with olive oil, which is rich with healthy fats. You might also try the chili-rubbed Ancho Salmon or the Steak Fajitas, without tortillas or rice, of course.
Bad news, folks: Red Lobster’s ever-popular Cheddar Bay biscuits won’t fit your low-carb or keto diet, but thankfully the classic seafood restaurant still boasts quite a few diet-friendly items on its menu you can munch on.
Crack into the Wild-Caught Snow Crab Legs, which has zero carbs, so you don’t need to stress about portion size with this dish. Served with a choice of two sides, we suggest you nix the baked potato, fries, and rice and go with veggies or an order of shrimp scampi instead. The butter-dipped crab legs are also a savory choice.
If seafood isn’t your thing, the Filet Mignon is sure to ignite your taste buds. You may also enjoy the Buffalo Chicken Wings with blue cheese dressing.
Despite the fast-food chain’s notoriously unhealthy menu — remember the 2004 “Super Size Me” documentary? — it’s actually pretty doable to order a keto-friendly meal at McDonald’s. Okay, so you should steer clear of the starchy french fries and carb-loaded chicken nuggets, but most of the burgers, including the infamous Big Mac, are fair game. The secret? Just order your burger with no bun and no sauce or ketchup. Feel free to indulge in the breakfast menu, too, such as the chain’s sausage, egg, and cheese McMuffin sandwiches — just do so without the English muffin.
Even though Au Bon Pain means “from good bread” in French, it’s precisely the food group keto dieters are instructed to avoid because of — ahem — carbs. It’s no easy feat to navigate a menu filled with sandwiches and wraps when you’re on the keto diet, but with a few simple tweaks, you can find meal options at Au Bon Pain that won’t stray from your diet.
For example, you can certainly opt for the restaurant’s Chef’s Salad, which features fresh diced turkey and ham, smoked bacon, asiago cheese, and grape tomatoes on a bed of romaine lettuce and field greens. Just be sure to choose a low-carb dressing option. You could also order one of their breakfast sandwiches, such as the egg, cheddar, and sausage option, but without the bagel.
Enjoying a burger at Shake Shack while limiting your carb intake may sound like an impossible feat, especially if you’ve previously tasted the buttery goodness that is the gourmet burger restaurant’s potato buns. The trick is to order a bunless burger. This may seem like a sacrifice, but we promise the ShackBurger’s perfectly juicy patty, layered with cheese, tomato, and the company’s proprietary ShackSauce, more than make up for it. Ask for a lettuce wrap instead of a bun for a pleasant crunch. You could also order a bunless version of their SmokeShack, which comes with cheese and bacon.
It’s rare for restaurant establishments, especially fast-food chains, to cater to specific dietary restrictions, but Chipotle is a cut above the rest. In 2019, the build-it-yourself burrito and bowl eatery found a way to allow health-conscious diners to enjoy Mexican cuisine, which is traditionally high in carbs, with the introduction of its Lifestyle Bowls. This collection of specialty bowls was designed so diners on specific diets could dig in with some peace of mind and not have to worry about crunching the numbers on the nutritional labeling. The flavorful Keto Salad Bowl features lettuce, carnitas, red chili salsa, Monterey jack cheese, and guacamole. In other words, it’s the perfect meal for any keto dieter.
Its locations are on the limited side — this fast-casual eatery has restaurants in New York, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania — but Dig’s menu options are endless for those on the keto diet. Its build-your-own-bowl sensibility lets you customize your order to your specific needs. Plus, Dig breaks down the nutritional information of its menu, which rotates on a seasonal basis, so you can always be sure your meal is made with the freshest ingredients. What makes Dig special is its talent for taking terrific keto items like wild-caught Alaskan salmon, carrots, and broccoli and taking them up a notch with delicious seasonings for a standout keto meal.
One thing’s for sure, there’s no shortage of keto options at the family-friendly and casual restaurant Applebee’s. From grilled protein to veggies and seafood, you may need a few extra minutes to decide what you want.
The Shrimp ‘n Parmesan Sirloin dresses up a tender cut of steak with buttery shrimp and Parmesan sauce for an inventive spin on surf ‘n turf. It comes with steamed broccoli and mashed potatoes, though we recommend swapping the latter for a side of veggies. You can also go for the Grilled Chicken Breast and top it off with a dollop of guacamole for some healthy fats that are keto-approved.
We know what you’re thinking: Keto options at a carb-heavy Italian restaurant chain? Rest assured, there’s more to Olive Garden than pasta and breadsticks. For starters, the Herb-Grilled Salmon, which comes with Parmesan garlic broccoli, can be ordered as-is with no modifications. You can also add a side salad to this order, though go easy on the dressing, as this can fill up your carb quota real quick.
Other keto-friendly entrées include the Chicken Piccata, Grilled Chicken Margherita, and Famous House Salad, though you should order that last one without croutons. Bonus: Most menu items can be topped with olive oil, which is a very healthy fat. Who needs breadsticks, after all?
Usually pizza is a no-go for keto dieters, but Blaze Pizza make dieting look easy with its keto-friendly pizza crust, which debuted in 2019, making the pizza chain the first to do so, according to Business Insider. The gluten-free crust successfully mimics traditional wheat crusts and is made from a combination of cauliflower, mozzarella cheese, flaxseed, and eggs (via KetoConnect).
From there, the pizza comes topped with spicy red sauce, more mozzarella, bacon, cherry tomatoes, mushrooms, and spinach, though you can customize the toppings to your liking. Drizzle olive oil and pesto on top for an extra dose of keta-approved healthy fats. Each slice contains 15g of carbs. Plus, each offers 2g of fiber. Color us impressed!
Steakhouses are always a great option for keto dieters, and Outback Steakhouse is no exception. The key is to keep meals simple and skip any of the starchy sides like potatoes and fries. Any of the steaks are fair game, such as the Slow-Roasted Prime Rib or the Ribeye but opt for smaller cuts. To up your keto-approved fat, add a dollop of olive oil or butter.
Outback also offers several low-carb vegetable options, such as grilled mixed veggies and rotating seasonal vegetables like zucchini and broccoli. Fish entrées like lobster and salmon are solid picks as well.
Don’t let the word “pancakes” in the name fool you. IHOP boasts several keto-friendly dishes. After all, it’s primarily a breakfast spot, and eggs are an easy way to boost your protein intake. For example, you can build your own omelet with avocado, bacon, and cheese. You can also add spinach and a drizzle of olive oil for an extra punch of nutrients. A word of caution: IHOP adds a splash of pancake batter in their omelets. Although this helps save time in the kitchen and makes their omelets extra fluffy, be sure to ask them to use fresh eggs instead.
Good news: The Cheesecake Factory offers heaps of keto-friendly meals on its expansive menu — even if those offerings don’t include actual cheesecake. Save time by skipping straight to the “Skinnylicious” section of the menu. The grilled salmon, served with mixed veggies, is your best bet. Drizzle olive oil on top to amp up your healthy fat game. You can also go with the California Omelette, which comes with avocado, mushrooms, sour cream, cheese, tomato, garlic, and green onions. The Cheesecake Factory may be on pricier side, but it’s worth it.
Chicken wings are one of those high-protein, low- to no-carb dishes that make for an excellent option for keto dieters, so where better to enjoy a filling meal and catch the game than at Buffalo Wild Wings? Help yourself to a plate of Traditional Wings, but instead of sauce, you’re better off with the dry seasoning to keep your carb count low. That said, some of the sauces are surprisingly low in carbs, such as hot sauce and Thai Curry Sauce.
Skip carb-loaded fare like cornbread and mac & cheese at Boston Market and opt for chicken and veggies on the menu. Give the three-piece dark meat entrée a whirl for a meal that balances protein and fat — dark meat is more nutrient-dense than white meat. Side dishes include creamed spinach, cucumber salad, and steamed vegetables. The Caesar salad (minus croutons) pairs well with the rotisserie chicken as well.
Cut out the bread on any of Pret a Manger‘s menu of sandwich items and you’ll find yourself with a tasty keto-friendly meal that balances protein, fat, and veggies. For example, the Chicken Salad and Avocado Sandwich makes for an easy lunchtime bite. The Chipotle Chicken Salad, which features avocado, pickled red onions, chili salt, and herb lime dressing on top of a layer of romaine lettuce is a solid option as well. Just skip the corn that comes in it. If you’re in a hurry, it works as a convenient grab-and-go selection.
Low-carb dieters often avoid grill-style restaurants because fries, burger buns, and other bread products aren’t keto-approved. But TGI Fridays has found a workaround solution with their “green style” burgers. What does that mean exactly? It means your burger bun will be substituted with lettuce (like in the example burger above). For a dose of healthy fat, you can also add avocado and olive oil. But try to avoid sugary condiments and sauces. You can also enjoy items like the Caesar Salad with Grilled Chicken, the Million Dollar Cobb Salad with Grilled Chicken (lunch portion), and wings.
“Hou” says you can’t eat out while on the keto diet? Houlihan’s makes it easy with its carefully curated menus, including dedicated appetizers, entrées, and sides for vegetarian and gluten-sensitive diners. Head for the entrées, where you’ll find the healthiest options. The Grilled Atlantic Salmon is your best bet, which only has 3 grams of carbs. You can’t go wrong with the Top Sirloin, either, which is a 5-ounce cut so you won’t go overboard on protein. Houlihan’s also serves up fat-rich veggies like mashed cauliflower, along with tasty greens like green beans and broccoli. Avoid starchy sides like potatoes and tortilla chips.
Chinese food can be challenging to fit into your keto diet since many of the cuisine’s staples — egg rolls, rice, and noodles, to name a few — exceed your carb allotment. Many sauces, such as hoisin, are out of the question since they’re packed with sugar. But at P.F. Chang’s, you can make it work if you look for low-carb options among the appetizers and sides.
Northern Style Spare Ribs and Edamame are tasty low-carb options that are also rich in fat, making them perfect for keto dieters. Nix the croutons and the Asian Caesar Salad (with or without salmon) will do the trick, though keep in mind, at 17 grams of net carbs, it’s pushing your carb quota, so you may want to eat only half and save the rest for later.
Jimmy John’s knows how tough it can be to eat out when you’re avoiding carbs, which is why the sandwich chain has devised a solution that’s perfect for keto dieters: The Unwich. What is that exactly? It’s a sub wrapped in lettuce instead of bread. According to the company website, all Unwich sandwiches are 10 carbs or less, which means they’re a keto dieter’s best friend. Just don’t go wild with cured meats since they’re often loaded with sodium and so not the healthiest meal. But for an occasional treat? Go for it! You can’t go wrong with any option, but an Unwich with tuna salad, mayo, and cheese will give you a high dose of fat.
Maintaining a keto diet at a burger joint may sound impossible, but Red Robin offers a diverse menu, so even low-carb dieters can enjoy a tasty meal. Salads are your friend here, such as the Avo-Cobb-O, which is loaded with keto-friendly goodness like grilled chicken, bacon, Bleu cheese, hard-boiled eggs, tomatoes, mixed greens, and of course, avocado. Just skip the croutons and opt for low-carb, low-sugar dressing or sauce.
Burgers aren’t out of the question, either. Just order one “wedgie-style,” which translates to a burger wrapped in lettuce instead of a bun. We especially love the Royal Red Robin Burger, which adds a fried egg to the mix for a perfect protein-high meal, as well as the Guacamole Bacon Burger.
The casual dining restaurant Ruby Tuesday is a keto dieter’s paradise since many of the dishes rely on dried herbs and spices as opposed to breaded or fried ingredients. What’s more, the American restaurant boasts a diverse menu, so you’ll have tons of options to pick from. The New Orleans Seafood platter combines tender and flaky tilapia, seasoned with Cajun-style spices, with sautéed shrimp and creamy Parmesan sauce. You can also choose the Asiago Bacon Chicken, which is as delicious as it sounds. Even the decadent-sounding Hickory Bourbon Chicken, smothered in a bourbon glaze, will fit your keto diet, though just barely, at 18 grams of carbs. Polish off your meal with scrumptious veggies like zucchini and broccoli.
As long as you’re willing to go bunless, Chick-fil-A has tasty picks for keto dieters. Spoiler alert: The fast -food chain’s famous breaded chicken isn’t included, but their grilled chicken options are just as delicious and totally keto-friendly. Give their Grilled Nuggets a whirl. You can also order their Grilled Chicken Sandwich without a bun, and the pickles add a nice punch of flavor. Plus, their low-carb and low-sugar sauces like Garden Herb Ranch, Honey Roasted BBQ, and Zesty Buffalo are perfect for dunking.
When you’re on the keto diet, you learn pretty quickly that seafood is your best friend, and restaurant chain Bonefish Grill serves up a plethora of fresh, fishy dishes that are bound to reel you in. One of the most keto-friendly options is the Grilled Atlantic Salmon, which is loaded with fat and protein. You also can’t go wrong with Chilean Sea Bass or Grilled Rainbow Trout. Add lemon butter, pesto, or olive oil or top for an extra helping of healthy fats. For non-seafood entrées, give their Fontina Pork Chop or Chicken Marsala a try. Round out your meal with keto-approved asparagus and mixed veggies.
Lettuce-wrapped burgers are a delicious alternative to carb-loaded buns, be it’s totally understandable if you’re looking to mix things up. Thankfully, there’s Barebuger, a restaurant chain that’s known for its organic and all-natural burgers made with free-range, grass-fed, and antibiotic-free ingredients. You can even score less common meats like bison. But the real treat for keto dieters is the chain’s burgers wrapped in collard greens. Plus, you can add yummy keto-friendly toppings like smoked bacon or egg for extra protein or veggies like red onions, pickles, wild mushrooms, pickled jalapenos, pico de gallo, guacamole, and more. There’s no doubt about it: Barebuger has obviously cracked the code to healthy yet scrumptious cuisine.
Skip the pizzas and pastas at California Pizza Kitchen and make a beeline for the salad section of the menu for keto-friendly foods. The California Cobb, which combines avocado, chicken, eggs, basil, and blue cheese, will treat you right. The Roasted Veggie salad and Power Bowls are great, too. Add more fiber and fat with a drizzle of olive oil.
The classic diner Denny’s is known for its breakfast staples, but there are more meal options to choose from, including keto-friendly ones, than you might expect. Their Build Your Own Omelette option allows you to customize your omelet with keto-approved foods like whole eggs, cheese, and avocado. Throw in fillings include bacon, sausage, bell pepper, and spinach. You can also modify the Grand Slam entrée by skipping the pancakes and upping the eggs and bacon. If you aren’t feeling the breakfast options, go with a sirloin steak or wild-caught Alaska salmon.
Roast beef rules the roost at fast-food chain Arby’s, along with chicken, turkey, and other deli-style meats, which means it’s easy to tweak the menu to fit your keto diet. As with most sandwich and burger joints, you can go bunless or ask for a lettuce-wrapped version of one of Arby’s sandwiches. The Roast Chicken Salad is a tasty option as well.
If you can resist the warm, slightly sweet aroma of its freshly baked bread, Subway has a few low-carb salads that are perfect for anyone on the keto diet. The Chicken & Bacon Ranch boasts the perfect fat-to-protein ratio. The Steak & Cheese salad is another tasty yet filling option. You can also convert any of their sandwiches into a salad. Just pay special attention with picking a dressing since one packed with sugar won’t fit your diet.
Even though smoothies are typically thought of as healthy meals, they often aren’t easy to incorporate into the keto diet because of their low fat content and overabundance of carbs from milk, yogurt, fruit, and juice ingredients. Thankfully, Smoothie King offers several specialty smoothies designed for keto dieters, which contain as little as 2 grams of carbs. The Keto Champ Coffee is made from almond milk, almond butter, cocoa, a keto protein blend, and of course, coffee, which gives it a sweet flavor. Plus, it’s also filling, making it a great grab-and-go choice. If you’re looking for a more traditional smoothie, go with the Keto Champ Berry, which is creamy and berry sweet. Ask for Stevia if you’re looking for extra sweetness. Steer clear of the “Get Fit” smoothies, which aren’t as keto-friendly as they might sound.
Fast-casual Chinese spot Panda Express might not be the first thing to come to your mind when you envision keto-friendly restaurants (hi, noodles, egg rolls, and fried rice). But there are actually several low-carb options available that are also super tasty, like the String Bean Chicken, which features grilled chicken, green beans, onion, and ginger soy sauce. The Broccoli Beef Bowl is another keto-approved dish. Plus, you can’t go wrong with the Kung Pao Chicken, which in addition to being an Asian takeout classic, totals 14 grams of carbs.
If you’re craving a takeout fix, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more satisfying and keto-friendly option than chicken restaurant chain Wingstop. For starters, Wingstop is super upfront about its nutrition information for all the foods on their menu, which makes it easy to stick to your diet. Their Classic Wings with Lemon Pepper sauce has 0 grams of carbs. Other keto-friendly sauces, include the Original Hot, Garlic Parmesan, and Cajun. The sides leave something to be desired, but the menu does have celery and carrot sticks.
A steakhouse chain that dishes out affordable yet great-tasting steaks, chicken, and seafood, it’s easy to find a keto-friendly meal at Texas Roadhouse. Obviously, any of the steaks are fair game. To add bulk to the meal, ask for a side of sauteed mushrooms or green beans. Their slow-cooked Killer Ribs are to die for, though you’ll want to substitute the fries with veggies instead. Plus, they have a couple of chicken entrées like the Herb Crusted Chicken and Smothered Chicken that will taste even better with the restaurant’s signature whipped butter. Just do your best to resist the steakhouse’s infamous rolls in the process.
True Food Kitchen is probably the healthiest keto-friendly restaurant chain on this list, and since it goes out of its way to let diners customize dishes to suit their dietary needs, it’s basically a keto dieter’s dream. The restaurant even has a dedicated keto menu (as well as a paleo menu), which makes it easy to eat out and stick to your diet at the same time. Bonus: The menu changes seasonally so fruits and vegetables are as fresh as possible.
Start your meal with Charred Cauliflower or Roasted Brussel Sprouts, which you can top with kale salad dressing. As for entrées, the options are incredibly diverse, from the Poke Bowl and Grilled Chicken Parmesan to Grilled Salmon and Spaghetti Squash Casserole. Ramp up the healthy fat with add-ons like olive oil, lemon ricotta, cheese, avocado, or pesto.
Fast-casual restaurant chain Yard House is a great place to score lots of scrumptious keto-friendly dishes. The company website provides detailed nutritional information, which helps take the guesswork out of ordering. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a meal that doesn’t ignite your taste buds on Yard House’s extensive menu. They offer bunless burgers, fish entrées, and fresh salads. The Shrimp Zoodle Bowl, in particular, is an innovative way to eat out while keeping your carb count low. The Cobb Salad with Salmon is another solid option.
Smashburger is another fast-casual burger restaurant offering keto-friendly bunless options (as in the example above) for the win. For example, the Smoked Bacon Brisket Burger (sans bun) at Smashburger is especially mouthwatering, featuring a mountain of fatty brisket, smoked aged cheddar cheese, applewood smoked bacon, and pickles. Just skip the BBQ sauce for a truly low-carb meal. The Double Bacon Smash Burger provides a hefty dose of protein, too. Round out your meal with one of their veggie sides.
In-N-Out Burger has amassed a cult-like following for its juicy burger patties, and there’s no reason keto dieters can’t enjoy this burger joint, too. As long as you order one of their burgers “protein-style,” (In-N-Out’s in-house term for lettuce-wrapped burgers) or bunless, you’re in the clear to indulge yourself. Skip the fries and shakes. Give the protein-style Cheeseburger with Onion a whirl. If you want to lower your carb intake even more, nix the special sauce and replace it with a low-carb sauce option like mustard instead.
The shakes may be off-limits to those on the keto diet, but this nostalgic restaurant chain has plenty else to offer on its menu. Steak ‘n Shake is happy to customize its high-protein steakburgers for keto diners by serving them bunless or wrapped in lettuce. You can also dig into the Grilled Chicken Salad or the Sausage, Egg n’ Cheese Breakfast Bowl (no hash browns) with zero guilt.