Not only is fast food quick and convenient, but it’s also often delicious. Unfortunately, convenient and delicious don’t always go hand-in-hand with healthy, and most fast food items are often off-limits to those with certain dietary restrictions, whether they be medically required or by choice.
While certain limitations can make eating out with friends and family more difficult, it’s not impossible. Following a low-carb diet is becoming increasingly common with most people doing it for general health reasons. There are plenty of benefits to cutting down on carbs, but convenience isn’t always one of them!
If you’re stuck on what to do when your friends suggest going out, remember the golden rule of low-carb fast food experiences: no bun! Most burgers can safely be eaten on a low-carb diet of any kind by eliminating the bun and either eating it as is or requesting it be wrapped in lettuce instead.
Outside of lettuce-wrapped or bunless burgers, there are still plenty of options out there for you. Grilled chicken is another popular choice in this category, as the omittance of the popular breading cuts down on carbs significantly. The following are not only low-carb, but they are proven to be some of the best tasting low carb experiences in the fast food world.
Don't worry if you're following the more restrictive keto diet. There are plenty of keto fast food options too.
Top Ten Low Carb Fast Food Options
- In-N-Out Protein Style Burger
- KFC Grilled Chicken
- Jack in the Box Grilled Chicken Salad
- Jack in the Box Chicken Nuggets
- Wendy’s Chili
- Chick-Fil-A Grilled Chicken Cool Wrap
- Hardee’s Charbroiled Chicken Club Sandwich
- Arby’s Roast Chicken Salad
- Panda Express Teriyaki Grilled Chicken
- Chiptole Make Your Own Salad
1. In-N-Out Protein Style Burger
Keeping hamburgers in your low-carb diet is usually pretty easy as long as you’re okay with omitting the bun. Eating a burger like this is a bit different, but it’s still a great way to enjoy the classic hamburger experience. In-N-Out has taken this idea a step further and created a low-carb friendly option that requires no special requests – their protein style burger.
This menu item is a customizable one that allows you to order any burger from the menu and it comes wrapped in lettuce instead of stacked between a bun. This allows you to eat the burger much the same way as a traditional one, without having to use a fork and knife or chop it up salad-style. The lettuce also adds a fresh taste, some extra substance, and a satisfying crunch all while keeping your net carbs nice and low.
2. KFC Grilled Chicken
KFC offers its grilled chicken in many combinations to suit your meal or snacking needs. Chicken itself is not high in carbs, but adding breading is a popular and tasty way to eat it. This is pretty high in carbs and if you’re avoiding carbs, you must avoid breaded chicken.
Fortunately, grilled chicken is a perfectly acceptable substitute when done correctly. It’s a different taste for sure, but there are still so many things that can be done with grilled chicken. Cooked to tender perfection and seasoned properly, this type of chicken is delicious and usually much healthier.
KFC is a popular chicken destination so it’s no surprise they’ve got this area covered.
You can get their grilled chicken by the “bucket” with eight, twelve, or sixteen pieces. This is a great option for sharing with friends or family. You can also get it in a variety of combo meals with mashed potatoes, biscuits, drinks, and other sides.
3. Jack in the Box Grilled Chicken Salad
With its health advantage over crispy and breaded chicken, grilled chicken is always great in a salad. Unfortunately, many fast food places don’t pay much mind to their salads, as the greasy burgers and french fries, and other hot meals are the focus. Jack in the Box makes a specific effort to not make this mistake.
Their low-carb friendly chicken salad features delicious flame-grilled chicken, shredded cheddar cheese, carrots, cucumbers, grape tomatoes, and seasoned croutons. They top it off with a low-fat balsamic dressing, though you can always substitute this if you want to. It’s all mixed into a combination of fresh iceberg and romaine lettuce. The long list of specially curated ingredients offers a great variety of complementary flavors and lots of nutrients to get you through the day.
You'll probably need to skip the croutons on a low-carb diet, but the rest of the ingredients should be fine.
4. Jack in the Box Chicken Nuggets
With only 13g of carbs, these chicken nuggets can kick that craving for fried chicken without breaking your diet. These nuggets are breaded, but only lightly, and it comes in a small enough portion to only net you 13g of carbs, which isn’t bad for a little fried snack.
The nuggets are made from 100 percent white meat and come with the perfect combination of crispy on the outside and tender and juicy on the inside. They work great on their own as a quick snack or you can add them to a larger meal for a bit of extra protein without too many carbs.
5. Wendy’s Chili
While Wendy’s isn’t exactly “known” for their chili, the meal is surprisingly good. With tomatoes, celery, and green peppers to go with the beef and beans, there’s a good variety of flavors and nutrition in there. They use a combination of pinto beans, chili beans, and red kidney beans.
In addition to being low on carbs, it’s low on calories in general. The small version is only 240 calories and the large comes in at 330 calories. For a fast food meal, that’s pretty good. The larger portion may be all you need for a quick meal or you can pair the small size with a salad or bun-free burger.
6. Chick-Fil-A Grilled Chicken Cool Wrap
Wraps are yet another way to enjoy the healthier, low-carb version of chicken. Chick-Fil-A’s grilled chicken wrap features a mix of fresh green leaf lettuce, shredded cheddar and Monterey jack cheeses, and their tender, sliced grilled chicken.
The ingredients are rolled neatly into flaxseed flour flatbread. The wrap goes well with avocado-lime ranch dressing, but you can choose any dressing you want. In addition to being low on carbs, this wrap is high in protein with a total of 42g of protein per serving. It also comes in at 350 calories making it a nice light lunch when eaten on its own.
7. Hardee’s Charbroiled Chicken Club Sandwich
Similar to a wrap is a sandwich, and chicken sandwiches are just about as popular as hamburgers. Unfortunately for all you low-carb folks, the default seems to be breaded chicken. Hardee’s, on the other hand, offers an exquisite grilled chicken sandwich that stands up just fine to its breaded competition.
It features a charbroiled chicken breast, swiss cheese, two pieces of bacon, lettuce, tomato, and mayo. It does come with a toasted bun by default, but this can be removed to keep the carbs down even more. The swiss cheese adds a unique touch as well, compared to the more commonly used cheddar.
8. Arby’s Roast Chicken Salad
Arby’s has a unique take on the chicken salad with their roasted chicken salad. This way of preparing chicken also omits any breading, therefore keeping carbs low. Grilled chicken gives the meat a crispy, charred finish whereas roasting is a slower process better suited to larger pieces of meat and its flavor and texture is unique.
Arby’s salad comes with three large pieces of perfectly roasted chicken served with crispy pepper bacon, tomatoes, and shredded cheddar cheese on a bed of fresh iceberg and green leaf lettuce. You can add your choice of dressing based on what they have available. Nutrition information is available on the website to help you pick the best one.
9. Panda Express Grilled Teriyaki Chicken
Grilled chicken is great on a sandwich, in a salad, and in a wrap, but sometimes you just want to eat it on its own! Panda Express offers a dish of thick, hand-sliced, made to order grilled chicken with a traditional teriyaki sauce.
It’s listed as an entree which means the portion is sizable, making it a great source of protein and all the other nutrients chicken has to offer. It comes with sauce for dipping to add extra flavor and it pairs well with a side of super greens for added substance that still keeps the carbs down.
10. Chipotle Make Your Own Salad
Last on the list is Chipotle’s versatile make your own salad option. In theory, a salad can be pretty much anything and be tailored to your exact requirements and desires. Thus, you can build a delicious, nutritious salad while easily keeping the carbs down.
Chipotle welcomes your creativity with their option to make your own salad from scratch. You have several meat options including chicken, steak, carnitas, and more. Or, you can add guacamole to bulk up a vegetarian salad. Then, you can add a selection of rice and beans, or leave these out entirely. Once the base is finished, you can choose from several other low-carb options like fajita veggies, cheese, and chili.