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Low-Carb and Keto Diet Fast Food Menu Choices: How to Eat Successfully at Restaurants
For those on low-carb or keto diets, there’s almost always something you can eat at every fast food joint or restaurant. Plan ahead. Before entering a restaurant, check their menu and nutritional information online at home or using your smartphone. It’s always good to know about safe options before being tempted by menu items you shouldn’t have on a low-carb diet.
To make it easier for you to find a keto-friendly fast option, I’ve compiled a list of several restaurants and fast food outlets and those items that I’ve found to be the lowest carb (and most emotionally satisfying) choices. These aren’t all perfect options, but when you’re stuck with no other choices due to time or location constraints, they’ll do it in a pinch.
It helps a lot that fast food restaurants have to post nutritional content. It becomes easier to follow the keto plan every day. The carb count I am listing is approximate and is in NET grams.
In general, there’s usually some salad option wherever you are. At Burger joints, you simply remove the bun and many places offer lettuce wraps instead. The chicken shouldn’t have any breading.
As a side note, it helps to have a knife and fork handy in your car or purse. Big, juicy burgers in tiny bits of lettuce end up on the table or in your lap. Even small and fragile plastic fast food dishes make it difficult to eat. Get out your sturdy tools and enjoy!
Now for the food choices… here are some fairly obvious general rules to follow:
- Skip the bun or wrap
- Skip the pasta, potato or rice
- Salads – no croutons. Stick to the low-sugar dressing options: Caesar, Blue Cheese, Ranch, Chipotle. Look at the name that might give you a clue, things like “honey” in dijon honey or “sweet” in the condiment name — these aren’t usually a good choice. Check the ingredient for items that are higher in carbohydrate content.
- Chicken – Choose grilled or sauteed. Stay away from any breaded chicken.
McDonald’s – opt for any burger (zero g) or grilled chicken (2 g) without the bun and topped with cheese, mayonnaise, mustard, onions, etc. No ketchup. Add a side salad (3 g). Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad or Grilled Chicken Bacon Ranch Salad is 9 oz.
King of burgers – same info as McDonald’s burger: burger (zero g) without bun and topped with cheese, mayonnaise, mustard, onions, etc. No ketchup. The tender grilled chicken sandwich without the bun is 3 oz. WARNING: You may think the veggie burger is low, but it contains 19g of carbs, so that’s a full day of carbs on keto. Add a side salad (3 g). The Grilled Tender Chicken Salad is 8 oz with no dressing or croutons. Crispy tender chicken salad is not an option. Do not try.
BONUS – sweet!?! – fresh apple fries are not fried and contain 5g net carbs WITHOUT the caramel sauce.
Subway – You should probably skip Subway if you can. Sandwiches and wraps are all high in carbohydrates. I guess you could just have them throw the ingredients in a bunless wrap, but that doesn’t sound appealing. I have no information on what the carb count would be for each bun without a bun, but you can probably figure it out: Chicken or pepperoni are fine, but is “sweet onion” chicken okay? No idea. Stick to the salads, but realize you’ll only get iceberg lettuce (4 oz).
Carl and Hardees Juniors – This chain offers “lettuce wraps” — your burger wrapped in a big piece of lettuce for easy low-carb eating. (Like I said, I tried it and didn’t love it. I like to bring my own fork instead.) Non-Bun Options: Six Dollar Burger (7g), 1/2 Thick Burger (5g), Chicken Club sandwich grill (7g/10g from Hardees). Grilled chicken salad without croutons is 10g. The side salad is 3 g.
Jimmy John’s – The unwich – a sandwich wrapped in lettuce – fits the bill here. Meats are fine, just make sure the ingredients aren’t high in carbs.
Wendy’s – Again, you can get your burger in a lettuce wrap or box. Any burger with toppings. Mayo has corn syrup and is 1 g. Grilled chicken fillet is 1 g. It can be ordered in the chicken club sandwich or the ultimate grilled chicken sandwich. Best Salads: Chicken Caesar (7 oz), Chicken Blt Salad with Grilled Chicken. Side salads aer 6g or 2g for Caesar.
Pizza Hut and other pizzerias – You can get used to eating crustless pizza. You have to eat twice as much, but if there’s a party or dinner out you can’t avoid at a pizza place, just slide the cheese toppings away and eat the big messy pile of cheese and toppings. A side salad is a nice addition. Otherwise, opt for making pizza at home with a low-carb crust.
Mongolian barbecue – YES! Load your bowl with chicken, shrimp, onion slices, and mushrooms, then top with Asian black bean dip. I know beans have carbs, but this dip label says 1 gram of carbs per ounce (each dip is clearly labeled). Add some garlic and wait for the griller to do its job. Needless to say, skip the appetizers, tortillas and rice. Ask the waiters not to bring them to the table.
Italian restaurants – These require some cunning, but they can be conquered! Ideas: How about chicken Marsala in an Italian place? Make sure it doesn’t come with pasta. Substitute broccoli or some other keto-friendly side dish or large salad. Chicken piccata is also a possibility.
Mexican and Chinese restaurants are the toughest, because any low-carb options aren’t the reason to go to a restaurant in the first place. At a Mexican restaurant, I tend to get a large burrito with no beans and spread the soft tortilla like a plate. Eat the inside ingredients and toss the tortilla.
If you MUST go to chinese buffet (I attended a 1 o’clock funeral dinner), you can find options, but they probably won’t be your favorite General Tso. How about the salad bar choices? egg? the inside of the rolls, and I’ve even eaten just the inside of the crab rangoons. Unfortunately, these ideas leave a lot of discarded shells and fried outer bits on your plate and make it look like you’re actually wasting food.
Wings everywhere – Standard buffalo sauce is usually fine as is garlic parmesan
Convenience store it can be a good option too! 7-11 has hard-boiled egg cartons, cheese slabs, slim jim, almonds, and pork rinds. The pork rinds have a barbecue flavor and are ZERO carbs.
Remember, whatever you choose, keep the bread, potatoes, rice, noodles, fries, and tortillas. And watch out for the possibility of cornstarch, breadcrumbs, and other fillers. With proper planning and a good attitude, you can find healthy, low-carb keto options when you eat out and stick to your successful keto diet plan.
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