I tried keto meals from 5 fast-food chains and Chick-fil-A’s grilled nuggets came out on top

Here's what happened when I tried keto meals from five fast-food chains.

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Here’s what happened when I tried keto meals from five fast-food chains.
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Erin McDowell/Business Insider
  • The keto diet consists mainly of foods with few carbohydrates and lots of fat and protein.
  • People who choose to go on the keto diet may be surprised that many fast-food restaurants have options that fit within the diet’s strict parameters.
  • I tried keto meal options from five fast-food establishments – McDonald’s, Chick-fil-A, Burger King, Wendy’s, and Shake Shack – to see how they tasted and which ones I would order again, keto or no keto.
  • The Chick-fil-A grilled chicken nuggets were the tastiest keto meal option, followed by the Shake Shack lettuce burger.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

I’m no stranger to the keto diet.

In 2017, I went on the keto diet for six months, giving up carbs and fast food in the process. In those days, I had no idea that I could eat a delicious and keto-friendly fast-food meal.

Though I no longer follow the keto diet, I wanted to see just what I was missing all those years ago.

I tried keto meal options from five fast-food establishments – McDonald’s, Chick-fil-A, Burger King, Wendy’s, and Shake Shack – to see how they tasted, how accommodating the restaurant was, and which items I would order again, keto or no keto.

Chick-fil-A came out on top with its delicious grilled nuggets, which I could pair with two sauces: zesty Buffalo and the chain’s avocado-lime-ranch salad dressing.

Here’s the rundown of every keto fast-food meal option I tried, ranked in order of worst to best.


In my spread of keto fast food, some options certainly looked tastier than others.

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The biggest flop of the bunch by far was the Burger King chicken Caesar sandwich minus the bun. I requested extra lettuce for $0.15, hoping to make a chicken sandwich.

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Alas, that was impossible. I received a chicken fillet, a few strips of crispy bacon, a handful of lettuce and Parmesan cheese, and one lone tomato slice. It was basically a skimpy chicken Caesar salad with no dressing, plus some bacon. The meal comes out to about 485 calories once you nix the dressing and the bun, with only 2 grams of net carbs.

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I truly had no idea how to eat this at first. I cut the chicken and bacon with a knife and fork, and I found the bacon to be overdone and dry. The chicken was moist and tasted fresh, but the meal itself was an overall disappointment. You would be better off ordering an actual salad.

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The only salad I picked up for my keto feast gave its best effort, but it just wasn’t good enough. From McDonald’s, I ordered a southwest grilled chicken salad with no tortilla strips and no glaze, and I added two tablespoons of balsamic vinaigrette. The dressed salad comes to 13 grams of carbs — mostly from the corn and beans — and 350 calories.

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The beans and corn had adequate flavor but provided nothing exciting. The lettuce tasted straight out of a bag, and the chicken was flavorless. Overall, it was exactly what you would expect from a standard McDonald’s salad.

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The Double Baconator burger from Wendy’s with the bun swapped out for lettuce leaves fell in the middle of the pack. The restaurant made this option very easy to order at the mobile kiosk, and I was satisfied with what I was served.

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A Double Baconator with no ketchup and no bun comes out to 760 calories and 2 grams of net carbs. This sandwich got the job done, but it didn’t blow me away.

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The lettuce leaves were large enough to handle the burger with ease, and I thought it tasted virtually the same as a bacon cheeseburger. In fact, I thought I tasted the salty bacon and juicy beef even more without the bun. But despite being sandwiched between two lettuce leaves, the burger tasted greasy and unhealthy.

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The second-best keto item I tried came from Shake Shack. I ordered a single ShackBurger on a lettuce wrap and added pickles and bacon. While a ShackBurger minus the bun comes to 400 calories, adding bacon resulted in an extra 70 calories.

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The Shake Shack lettuce burger impressed me with its leafy, fresh lettuce folds. The lettuce was by far the best of the sandwiches I tried. The bacon was crispy, the beef was juicy, and I honestly didn’t miss the bun. Plus, since ShackSauce has zero net carbs, I was able to load up on the creamy, savory goodness the chain is famous for.

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While the other restaurants made valiant efforts, one came out on top: Chick-fil-A. I thought the grilled-chicken-nugget meal was the best keto option, even though it was incredibly simple. Since the nuggets are packed with lean protein, it was a very satisfying and filling lunch. This meal tasted much healthier than the lettuce bacon burgers I tried but delicious nevertheless.

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An eight-piece grilled-nugget entrée has only 110 calories and 2 grams of net carbs. I chose two low-carb sauce options to pair with the nuggets: zesty Buffalo (1 gram) and avocado-lime-ranch dressing (3 grams).

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Paired with the Buffalo sauce, the nuggets tasted like Buffalo wings, minus the frying. I also loved the avocado-lime-ranch sauce. Having more than one delicious sauce option to choose from felt like a small victory.

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If you’re looking for a delicious, relatively healthy, and filling keto fast-food option that won’t leave you weighed down by greasy bacon and cheese, you might want to make your way over to your nearest Chick-fil-A. Let’s be honest: Lettuce leaves are not, and never will be, the same as bread.

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