There isn’t much space for fast food on the ketogenic diet.
On the bright side, ”not much” doesn’t mean ”none at all.”
That’s right, you can enjoy a quick meal at any fast-food restaurant if you prepare beforehand and get through a short session of boring math.
To illustrate the matter, today we’re going to take a good look at what you can order at Wendy’s without compromising your ketosis.
Strictly speaking, there’s nothing wrong with fast food on the keto diet.
The only reason why you won’t be able to eat the lion’s share of any restaurant’s menu is that most items there will have an absurd amount of carbs while you can eat just 5% of your daily calories from carbohydrate if you want to stay in nutritional ketosis.
But how much is 5% exactly? You can’t rely on your intuition in this matter, as a single bite of the wrong food will send you out of ketosis faster than you can imagine.
Here’s a step-by-step process you should follow to determine what exactly you’ll be able to enjoy at Wendy’s.
Step 1: Calculate your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)
The Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) is an estimate of the amount of energy (in kilocalories) you’ll likely burn on an average day if you don’t engage in any physical activities. Basically, a day in bed.
Although there are many ways of calculating your BMR and you can use any approach you trust, we’ll use the Harris-Benedict equation to illustrate the case. The formula goes like this:
Metric:BMR = 66 + (13.75 * weight in kg) + (5 * height in cm) - (6.8 * age in years)
BMR = 66 + (6.2 * weight in pounds) + (12.7 * height in inches) - (6.8 * age in years)
Metric:BMR (kcal) = 655.1 + (9.563 * weight in kg) + (1.850 * height in cm) - (4.676 * age in years)
BMR (kcal) = 655.1 + (4.35 * weight in pounds) + (4.7 * height in inches) - (4.7 * age in years)
For example, let’s imagine a 37-year-old man with a height of 189 cm and a weight of 92 kg. Using the equation above, we can estimate his BMR would equal:
66 + (13.75 * 92) + (5 * 189) - (6.8 * 37) = 66 + 1265 + 945 - 252 = 2024 kilocalories per day.
Step 2: Adjust your estimated BMR for physical activity
The BMR is an estimate of how many kilocalories you’d burn on any given day if you decided do just lay in bed without doing a thing. However, that’s not how most people live, so you’ll have to adjust this estimate for daily activities and physical exercise.
After all, just walking around the house burns a bit of calories. You have to be accurate in this matter.
Your BMR adjusted for physical activity is known as TDEE - Total Daily Energy Expenditure.
To calculate your TDEE, just multiply your BMR by one of the following numbers depending on how often you engage in physical activity.
None or little physical activity (1-2 times per week) - BMR * 1.38Sports aren’t really your thing and you lead a sedentary lifestyle with rare physical activity besides the occasional walk around the block.Regular physical activity (3-5 times per week) - BMR * 1.55Your lifestyle is generally sedentary, but you do your best to exercise regularly - be it at the gym, at home, or just going for regular runs in the morning.
A lot of physical activity (6-7 time per week, manual labor) - BMR * 1.72Your main job is physically demanding but you still engage in extra physical exercise many times per week. Alternatively, you are a professional athlete or bodybuilder who practically lives at the gym.
For example, imagine that the man from our BMR example usually visits the gym 4-5 times per week to hit the weights.
TDEE = BMR * 1.55 = 2024 * 1.55 = 3137 kilocalories.
Step 3: Calculate your daily carb limit
Remember that no more than 5% of your daily calories should come from carbs if you want to reach and maintain nutritional ketosis.
Naturally, this 5% will vary from one person to another depending on their TDEE, so calculate your personal limit by multiplying your TDEE from the previous step by 0.05.
We also recommend converting the resulting kilocalories into grams of carbs, as this will make the process of picking your meals so much easier a bit later. To do that, just remember that 1 gram of carbs makes about 4 kilocalories - divide your 5% estimate by 4 to get your number.
For example, as our calculated TDEE is 3137 kilocalories, 5% of that would be:
3137 * 0.05 = 157 kilocalories
To convert that into grams, divide the number by 4:
157 / 4 = 39 g
To summarize, 39 grams would be the maximum daily carb limit of this imaginary man from our example.
Step 4: Leave some ”safe carb space”
A common mistake many beginner keto-dieters do when ordering fast food in any restaurant is eating as many carbs as they can stuff into their daily limit.
In other words, if their limit is 40 g they go for 39 g, if their estimate is 32 g they aim for 31-32 g, and so on. This is an extremely risky attitude, as then a few extra leaves of salad later that day could wreck their ketosis even though the salad itself is keto-friendly.
The solution is simple: leave yourself about 20% of ”safe carb space” and enjoy just 80% of your daily carb limit at a fast-food restaurant. Multiply your daily carb limit by 0.8 to discover your recommended limit for fast food.
Example: for a daily limit of 39 grams of carbs, the recommended maximum to eat at a fast-food restaurant would be 39 * 0.8 = 31 g
Finally, let’s get to the tasty part!
Step 5: Find the restaurant’s nutrition facts and pick your meals
Of course, only the information on the company’s official website will be reliable enough.
For this article, we’ll be using the US Wendy’s menu.
Let’s see how many keto-friendly meals we’ll be able to find for the man from our example above!
Example limit: 31 g
Jr. Cheeseburger Deluxe - 27 g
Double Stack - 26 g
Jr. Cheeseburger - 26 g
Jr. Bacon Cheeseburger - 25 g
Jr. Hamburger - 25 g
** You can also request a lettuce wrap burger which will probably reduce the carb intake by 90% **
Chicken Wraps & More
Spicy Chicken Wrap - 31 g
Grilled Chicken Wrap - 26 g
Chicken Nuggets (10 pieces) - 24 g
Chicken Nuggets (6 pieces) - 14 g
Chicken Nuggets (4 pieces) - 10 g
Apple Pecan Chicken Salad - 29 g (half) (remember that the sugars in the apple and pecan may know you out of ketosis, usually people deep into keto can deal with this small amount of sugar intake, but not continuously.)
Berry Burst Chicken Salad - 23 (half)
Caesar Side Salad - 21 g
Garden Side Salad - 19 g
Southwest Avocado Chicken Salad - 10 g (half), 18 g (full)
Parmesan Caesar Chicken Salad - 9 g (half), 14 (full)
Fries & Sides
Fries - 30 g (junior)
Chili - 19 g (small), 29 g (large)
Strawberries & Blueberries - 8 g
Apple Bites - 8 g
Unsweetened Iced Tea - 1 g (small, medium), 2 g (large)
Fresh Brewed Coffee - 0 g
Diet Coke, Coca-Cola Zero - 0 gWater - 0 g
Meal combination examples
Jr. Hamburger + Diet Coke = 25 g
Garden Side Salad + Chicken Nuggets (4 pieces) + Unsweetened Tea (medium) = 30 g
Chili (small) + Chicken Nuggets (4 pieces) = 29 g
Eating at Wendy’s on keto has a whole lot of limitations, but it’s still possible if you count your calories and keep an eye on your carbs. You won’t be able to order many items from the menu, but that’s a necessary restriction to stay in ketosis.
And guess what? It’s 100% worth it!