Ordering Low-Carb at Fast Food Restaurants
Let’s be honest. Some days, cooking a meal at home may not be on your agenda - and that’s okay! Having a plan for dining out can help you stay on track with your low-carb lifestyle. In this blog post, we’ll be sharing our picks of low-carb meals and sides that we discovered at common fast food restaurants.
Burger Joins (Five Guys, Burger King, Wendy’s, McDonalds)
Fast food burger chains like Five Guys or Wendy’s can be a good place to try a “bunless burger.” Simply remove the bun before eating or ask the staff to leave it out. Some restaurants like Five Guys will even wrap your burgers or hot dogs in lettuce or serve it in a bowl if requested. Don’t forget your favorite toppings like pickles, onions, lettuce, tomato, bacon, and cheese. You can try going “bunless” for breakfast selections too like the Bacon, Egg, and Cheese McMuffin at McDonalds.
Five Guys’ Lettuce-Wrapped Double CheeseBurger
|At these restaurants||Try These Toppings and Condiments:|
|Five Guys:||grilled onions, green peppers, grilled mushrooms, extra patty, jalapeno peppers, tomato, lettuce, pickles, onion, hot sauce, mustard, mayo, A1 steak sauce|
|Wendy's||Crinkle cut pickles, onion, lettuce, tomato, mustard, mayonnaise, American cheese, blue cheese crumbles, avocado, applewood smoked bacon|
|McDonalds||American cheese, pickles, shredded lettuce, tomato, onion, applewood smoked bacon, mustard, mayo|
|Burger King||Lettuce, onion, pickles, tomato, mustard, mayo, stacker sauce, bacon, American cheese|
Sandwich ‘Sub’ Shops (Subway and Jimmy John’s)
These days, sub shops offer their sandwiches wrapped inside thick slices of crunchy lettuce, like the “Unwich” at Jimmy John’s. Similarly, you can try Subway’s line of “No Bready Bowls” which comes as a salad base with toppings. You can enjoy most of your typical sandwich fixings like meats, cheese, avocado, olives, sliced veggies, and pickles. When choosing your dressing, consider oil and vinegar combos or ranch to avoid varieties with added sugars.
Jimmy John’s Roast Beef Unwich
|Try This at Jimmy John’s:|
|#9 Italian Night Club Unwich |
|#11 Country Club Unwich |
|#12 Beach Club Unwich|
|Or turn any of your favorite JJ’s sub to an Unwich! |Subway’s Italian No Bready Bowl
|Try This at Subway:|
|“No Bready Bowls” - Any style|
|Salads - Any Style|
|Our favorites: Oven Roasted Turkey and Ham; Italian B.M.T; Tuna Salad |
Culver’s offers the flexibility to customize your meal. You can try ordering their burgers and sandwiches without the bun to make it low-carb, including the signature Butterburger, Grilled Chicken sandwich, Grilled Reuben Sandwich, and Beef Pot Roast Sandwich. Culver’s also offers a fair range of salads that can be topped with grilled chicken and additional fixings tailored to your needs. For sides, they have a variety of low-carb offerings like steamed broccoli and Wisconsin cheddar cheese sauce. Coleslaw could also be an option depending on your daily carb goal (due to the added sugar, there are 15 grams of total carbohydrates for the medium size).
Culver’s bunless Butterburger (bottom left); bunless Chicken Sandwich (top); bunless Double Butterburger with Cheese (bottom right)
|Try This at Culver’s:|
|Butterburger - try bunless|
|Grilled Reuben Sandwich - try bunless|
|Beef Pot Roast Sandwich - try bunless|
|Mushroom and Swiss Burger - try bunless|
|Chicken Cashew Salad - try grilled chicken|
|Cranberry Bacon Bleu Salad - try grilled chicken, optional (for less carbs): remove dried cranberries|
|Garden Fresco Salad - choose grilled chicken, optional (for less carbs): remove croutons|
|Wisconsin Cheddar Cheese Sauce|
|Coleslaw (15g total carbohydrates for medium size)|
Chick-Fil-A is known for their tender cuts of fresh and juicy chicken. You can easily tailor your order to low-carb by switching from crumb-coated fried chicken to their grilled option. Check out their online platform to customize your order and reference the nutrition facts for carb counts.
Try their marinated Grilled Chicken Club Sandwich and serve it bunless with your favorite toppings like cheese, bacon, lettuce, tomato, and ranch. Grilled Chicken Nuggets are also a low-carb alternative to regular nuggets. If you’re looking for a fresh bowl of greens that pack flavor and protein, try the Cobb Salad with Grilled Nuggets. Pair it with Avocado Lime Ranch Dressing or Garden Herb Ranch for a delicious meal that’s sure to keep you satisfied.
|Try This at Chick-Fil-A:|
|Grilled Chicken Sandwich - try bunless |
|Grilled Chicken Club Sandwich (with bacon and cheese) - try bunless|
|Cobb Salad with Grilled Nuggets or Filet|
|Grilled Market Salad with Grilled Nuggets or Filet - opt out of Harvest Nut Granola and switch to low-carb dressing (below)|
|Spicy Southwest Salad with Grilled Nuggets or Filet - opt out of Seasoned Tortilla Strips|
|Low Carb Sauces/Dressings:|
|Garden Herb Ranch Sauce|
|Zesty Buffalo Sauce|
|Avocado Lime Ranch Dressing|
|Creamy Salsa Dressing|
|Light Italian Dressing|
|Kale Crunch Side|
Popeyes’ Blackened Chicken Tenders
Popeyes offers “Blackened Tenders”, a grilled version of their original crumb-coated fried chicken. We were pleasantly surprised by the depth of flavor and spicy kick these tenders had. You may want a few orders of these to keep for the next couple of days, as it would be a delicious protein to add on a salad for a quick lunch.
Mexican/Tex-Mex Restaurants (Chipotle or Qdoba)
If you’re craving for fast food with Tex-Mex flavors, look no further than Chipotle or Qdoba. At Chipotle you can pick one of their two “Lifestyle Bowls” that are keto-friendly and served with a generous helping of protein and toppings on a bed of leafy greens. You can also build your own salad by choosing from a variety of toppings and sauces.
Qdoba follows a similar process when it comes to ordering low-carb meals. You can skip the rice, tortilla, and beans to create your own salad with flame-grilled chicken or steak and top it off with your favorite add-ons like guac, cheese, salsa, and sour cream.
Chipotle’s Lifestyle Bowl - The Grain Freedom Bowl
|Try This at Chipotle:|
|“Lifestyle Bowl” Grain Freedom Bowl|
|“Lifestyle Bowl” Wholesome Bowl|
|Customize your own salad bowl: Toppings: chicken, garlic guajillo steak, steak, barbacoa, carnitas, sofritas, guacamole, fresh tomato salsa, tomatillo-green chili salsa, tomatillo-red chili salsa, sour cream, fajita veggies, cheese, queso blanco|
|Try This at Qdoba:|
|Chicken Fresca Bowl - opt out of rice and beans|
|Create Your Own Bowl - opt out of rice and beans (see below for toppings)|
|Create Your Own Salad: Toppings: brisket birria, grilled adobo chicken, grilled adobo steak, seasoned ground beef, slow-braised pulled pork, fajita veggies, picante ranch, citrus lime vinaigrette, roasted tomato salsa, pico de gallo, chile crema, salsa verde, salsa roja, fiery habanero salsa, jalapeno verde, 3-cheese queso, queso diablo, guacamole, pickled red onions, pickled jalapenos, shredded cheese, sour cream, cotija cheese, cilantro|
Buffalo Wild Wings
Many restaurants offer chicken wings, which can be a low-carb option if prepared with traditional buffalo sauce or a seasoned dry rub. At Buffalo Wild Wings, you can choose traditional, bone-in wings as an alternative to boneless wings for a very low-carb meal. Enjoy it with a side of ranch and non-starchy vegetables like celery or a salad. Be mindful of sweet sauces like BBQ or honey-mustard which are high in sugars.
Traditional Wings: Lemon Pepper and Buffalo Seasoning
|Try These Sauces/Dry Rubs at Buffalo Wild Wings:|
|Signature Sauces: Blazin’ Carolina Reaper, Mild/Medium/Hot Sauce, Lemon Pepper, Nashville Hot, Original Buffalo, Parmesan Garlic, Spicy Garlic, Thai Curry, Wild sauce|
|Dry Rubs: Buffalo seasoning, Chipotle BBQ seasoning, Desert Heat seasoning, Lemon Pepper seasoning, Salt & Vinegar seasoning|
You might be wondering if there are any low-carb options at Chinese fast food eateries. At Panda Express, we browsed through the menu and found some items that are lower in carbohydrates. At 10 grams of total carbohydrates per serving, both the Black Pepper Angus Steak and Mushroom Chicken can be filling entrees for folks dining there. Grilled teriyaki chicken is an even lower carb entree at 8 grams of total carbohydrates per serving. Broccoli beef (one of our favorites) is a close third at 13 grams of total carbohydrates per serving. Try pairing it with a side of super greens (broccoli, kale, and cabbage blend) to make a scrumptious combo-meal.
Broccoli beef and side of broccoli (left); Mushroom chicken (right)
|Try This at Panda Express:|
|Grilled Teriyaki Chicken (8g total carbohydrates per 6oz)|
|Mushroom Chicken (10g total carbohydrates per 5.7oz)|
|Black Pepper Angus Steak (10g total carbohydrates per 7oz)|
|Broccoli Beef (13g total carbohydrates per 5.4oz)|
|‘Super Greens’ Broccoli, Kale, Cabbage blend (10g total carbohydrates per 7oz)|
Pizza Restaurants (Jet’s, Blaze Pizza)
Some pizza restaurants offer variations in their pie crust to suit individual needs. The most common alternative is cauliflower crust. However, it is important to check nutrition labels as the carb content can vary significantly between restaurants and grocery store brands. Jet’s Pizza offers their signature and customs pies on their version of cauliflower crust. Alternatively, Blaze Pizza offers both a cauliflower crust and “keto crust”as options for their base . The “keto crust” will have fewer carbs compared to the cauliflower crust. Top your pizza with your choice of protein, cheese and vegetables. You might also consider pairing your pizza with a delicious salad.
Image caption [Jet’s Cauliflower Crust Pizza with Pepperoni and Bacon]
|Try This at Blaze Pizza:|
|Blaze Signature Pizza or Build Your Own - ‘Keto Crust’ (2g total carbohydrates per slice (6 slices total)) Extra Tip: Try a different base sauce like pesto, white cream sauce, or red sauce dollops|
|Blaze Signature Pizza or Build Your Own - ‘Cauliflower Crust’ (15g total carbohydrates per slice (6 slices total)) Extra Tip: Try a different base sauce like pesto, white cream sauce, or red sauce dollops|
|Try This at Jet’s Pizza:|
|Jet’s Signature Pizza or Build Your Own - ‘Cauliflower Crust’ (12g total carbohydrates per slice - 4 slices total)|
|Extra Tip: Try going light on the tomato sauce and add additional vegetable toppings like peppers, onions, olives, and banana peppers.|
Diners can be a mainstay for families on the weekend or for individuals looking to make a quick stop for lunch. Staple low-carb options include eggs and meat combos, omelets, and gyro salads. Opt out of high-carb sides like toast and potatoes, and consider choosing a side salad instead for a delicious low-carb meal.
|Try This at Coney’s:|
|Egg and meat combos - skip the hashbrowns and toast|
|Omelets, any style - skip the hashbrowns and toast|
|Salads with grilled chicken - try Italian vinaigrette or ranch dressing|
|Gyro salads - try Italian vinaigrette or ranch dressing|