The notion of going “gluten-free” has picked up a lot of momentum in recent years as more research is done. People are learning more about the downfalls and negative effects of consuming too much gluten, which has become increasingly present in food.
Many choose to go gluten-free strictly for personal reasons, while others have medical intolerances or even celiac disease which makes it physically impossible to safely eat gluten. Of all the reasons, celiac disease is the most pressing and serious reason to avoid gluten.
This condition causes gluten to trigger immune system activity that damages the lining of the small intestine. Over time this starts preventing the body from properly absorbing the nutrients from food.
Even if gluten isn’t as serious of an issue for you, there are still benefits that come with avoiding it. One of the most attractive benefits for some is that avoiding gluten reduces bloating. Many experience bloating after eating a meal that contains gluten. Going entirely gluten-free will prevent that from happening.
Eliminating gluten can also help improve energy levels, reduce joint pain, improve bone health, improve skin health, and much more.
However, it’s also important to consider the balance of other nutrients when going gluten-free. Because gluten is so present in so many foods these days, it means cutting many things out of your diet. If you’re not careful, this can set you up for some nutrient deficiencies. The biggest concern is usually fiber.
The average American diet is already deficient in fiber, so removing a significant amount of whole wheat from your diet will put you even further in the negative. To combat this, you must be deliberate about getting your fiber from other sources. This includes brown rice, quinoa, beans, and certain vegetables.
Gluten is also a huge concern for people in terms of fast food options. If you want a burger, you either have to go bunless or pay extra for a gluten-free bun that may or may not even taste as good.
The good news is that many places are catching on to the gluten-free trend and are ensuring their menu contains at least a few good-quality choices beyond amending your hamburger. The following are some of the best options and are good ones to keep in mind when you want a quick snack or lunch on-the-go.
Top Ten Gluten-Free Fast Food Choices
- Wendy’s Baked Potato
- Five Guys French Fries
- Wendy’s Taco Salad
- Chick-Fil-A Waffle Potato Chips
- Shake Shack Hamburger With Gluten-Free Bun
- Culver’s Chili
- Popeyes Red Beans and Rice
- Jack in the Box Southwest Chicken Salad
- In-N-Out Protein Style Burgers
- Carl’s Jr. Famous Star With Lettuce Wrap
1. Wendy’s Baked Potato
Wendy’s offers their baked potato made in one of three ways. You can get it plain and just add some butter or sour cream as you want. This is a yummy, simple side for any meal. You can also get it made with sour cream and chives, or bacon and cheese.
Not only do baked potatoes make a fantastic side dish but they’re pretty filling if you’re looking for a sustainable lunch to keep you going. Even if you get the potatoes with special toppings, you can still add butter, salt, or pepper to customize the taste to your liking.
2. Five Guys French Fries
While French fries are technically gluten-free by nature, most places cook them in the same gluten-filled oil as the rest of their food. There’s also the risk of cross-contamination due to the close proximity of fries to other foods.
Five Guys, on the other hand, cooks their French fries in a gluten-free fryer using only peanut oil. So, if you’re avoiding gluten for important medical reasons, this is one place that won’t disappoint you. You can have their fries! You can enjoy the fries with a gluten-free burger by omitting the bun or asking for a lettuce wrap instead.
3. Wendy’s Taco Salad
If the baked potato isn’t exactly up your alley, Wendy’s also offers a classic taco salad. It’s an arguably easier and less messy way to enjoy the delicious combinations of flavors you find in a taco, while also allowing you to avoid gluten!
This taco salad is made with crispy, round tortilla chips, fresh lettuce, shredded cheese, diced tomatoes, salsa, sour cream, and their famous, hearty chili. The chili gives the salad a unique touch that you won’t find anywhere else. Everything else in the mix is traditional of a taco, which you’re free to enjoy without worrying about gluten.
4. Chick-Fil-A Waffle Potato Chips
Chick-Fil-A is known for their amazing chicken but that doesn’t mean they slack off when it comes to sides and snacks. Their waffle-shaped potato chips are kettle-cooked fresh and seasoned lightly with a sprinkle of sea salt.
They come pre-packaged meaning they’re the perfect little snack for on-the-go. Or, you can open them up to enjoy on the side of your meal. Or, you can grab a few bags and stock up for times when you get hit with the gluten-free munchies. The bag only contains 220 calories and even three grams of protein, making it a pretty healthy snack choice if you’re trying to be more health-conscious in general.
5. Shake Shack Hamburger With Gluten-Free Bun
If you’ve dedicated yourself to a gluten-free lifestyle you may be a little frustrated with the dreaded gluten-free bun you have to select if you want to enjoy the full hamburger experience. That’s understandable, but the reality is that some gluten-free buns are better than others. Shake Shack’s gluten-free bun is one that’s proven popular and successful among gluten-free customers.
The gluten-free bun can be ordered in place of a regular one on any of their hamburgers or cheeseburgers. Not only is the bun great, but the overall quality of the burger is, too. They’re made from freshly ground, never-frozen, 100 percent Angus beef that’s been pasture-raised and grain-finished with no antibiotics. If you really don’t want the bun, they offer lettuce wraps as well.
6. Culver’s Chili
Chili is an item that’s been emerging on fast food menus as of late. It’s often appreciated as something different and it’s also gluten-free as a bonus. Their chili is derived from a family recipe and perfected to what is now their delicious, signature medium-spicy creation.
The chili is hearty and sustainable, made from expertly simmered homestyle beef, dark red kidney beans, diced tomatoes, onions, pepper, celery, and a secret blend of spices.
7. Popeye’s Red Beans and Rice
Popeye's is another chicken-centered fast food joint that does a good job on their selection of sides. They have many delicious options but if you’re going gluten-free, you should give the red beans and rice a try.
Red beans come with many health benefits and offer a hearty snack if you’re looking to fill up for the afternoon. They’re served over a portion of fresh seasoned rice.
8. Jack in the Box Southwest Chicken Salad
While salads tend to be a good gluten-free go-to, they can quickly become monotonous and boring. That’s why the Southwest chicken salad from Jack in the Box is a refreshing change that will delight your tastebuds in a way that makes you forget it’s even a salad.
It begins with a bed of fresh, crispy iceberg lettuce combined with some romaine. Then you can choose between grilled or crispy all-white chicken meat. Then comes with shredded cheddar cheese, grape tomatoes, roasted corn, black beans, spicy corn sticks, and a creamy southwest dressing. Assuming you go with the grilled chicken option, you can enjoy this amazing assortment of flavors without worrying about any gluten.
9. In-N-Out Protein Style Burgers
In-N-Out is another place ace that’s mastered the gluten-free hamburger experience. Offering lettuce wrap alternatives for all the burgers on their menu, you can enjoy your favorites without any of the gluten.
These protein style lettuce wraps are part of their (not so secret) secret menu. Also on this special menu are double, triple, and quadruple meat burgers for those who want that much extra. They also offer their special version of grilled cheese, with tomatoes and onions in addition to the layers of melted American cheese.
10. Carl’s Jr. Famous Star With Lettuce Wrap
Last on the list is the famous and extremely unique and delicious Famous Star burger from Carl’s Jr. This burger features a charbroiled all-beef patty, warm and melty American cheese, tomato, sliced, onion, dill pickles, and fresh, crisp lettuce. It’s finished off with their mysterious special sauce.
Normally, it would be served on a fresh sesame seed bun, but this will need to be omitted by anyone requiring gluten-free. However, if you’re going to have a bunless burger, this is the one to have. It’s got “famous” in its name for a reason. Customers love it, bun or no bun.