Eating on-the-go doesn’t have to derail your low carb diet. With a little planning, you can enjoy fast food while still sticking to your healthy eating goals. This article will explore the 10 best low carb fast food options to keep your mealtime macros in check.
Following a low carb diet comes with many health benefits, from weight loss to reduced inflammation. However, it can be challenging when you’re pressed for time and need a quick bite. Most fast food is packed with refined carbs, sugars, and unhealthy fats – the enemies of low carb diets. Thankfully, many chains now offer lower carb options to accommodate different lifestyles.
This article will go over 10 fast food joints with tasty low carb choices available on their menus. We’ll cover what to order and helpful tips to customize your meal for optimal nutrition. Read on to learn how you can satisfy your fast food cravings without carb overload.
Why Follow a Low Carb Diet?
Before jumping into the best low carb fast food picks, let’s quickly go over the benefits of reducing your carb intake:
- Weight loss – Lowering carb consumption can lead to a calorie deficit and shedding excess pounds.
- Appetite control – Protein and fat keep you feeling fuller for longer compared to refined carbs.
- Stable energy – Your blood sugar levels will be more balanced without the spikes and crashes from high carb foods.
- Reduced inflammation – Limiting refined grains and sugars curbs widespread inflammation.
- Improved heart health – Increased “good” HDL cholesterol and lower triglycerides are linked to low carb diets.
Now that we’ve covered the perks, let’s look at how you can stick to your low carb guns when you’re in need of some fast food.
10 Best Low Carb Fast Food Options
Here are the top fast food joints for ordering low carb meals on the go:
1. Jimmy John’s
Jimmy John’s is a sandwich shop that offers low carb alternatives to traditional bread-heavy subs.
What to Order:
- Unwich – Any sub wrapped in lettuce instead of bread. Opt for meats and cheese only to limit carbs.
- Loaded Taco Unwich – Taco meat, guacamole, peppers, onion, and lettuce in a lettuce wrap.
Tip: Request extra veggies and no sugary sauces or dressings.
Build your own Mexican-inspired bowl without the added rice, beans, or tortilla at Chipotle.
What to Order:
- Burrito bowl with meat, salsa, cheese, sour cream, and low carb veggies like lettuce, tomato, onion, and peppers.
- Salad with fajita veggies, meat, salsa, cheese, and guacamole.
Tips: Ask for extra lettuce in place of rice. Avoid the honey vinaigrette dressing.
3. Five Guys
Their juicy burgers and hot dogs come bunless, so you can ditch the bread.
What to Order:
- Burger or hot dog wrapped in lettuce, with all the toppings
- Bacon and cheeseburger wrapped in lettuce
Tip: Skip the ketchup and go for mustard and mayo instead.
4. Carl’s Jr.
Carl’s Jr. has several low carb friendly options available upon request.
What to Order:
- Any burger wrapped in lettuce instead of a bun
- Grilled chicken salad
- Low carb breakfast bowl with eggs, bacon, and cheese
Tip: Stay away from sugary sauces, ketchup, barbecue sauce, and honey mustard.
5. In-N-Out Burger
This classic California chain offers tailored orders to keep carbs low.
What to Order:
- Protein style – burgers and sandwiches wrapped in lettuce
- Flying Dutchman – two beef patties and cheese, no bun
- Animal style – adds extra cheese and sauce
Tip: Opt for mustard instead of spread and ketchup.
Wendy’s allows for easy customization and carb-cutting.
What to Order:
- Burgers with no bun and lettuce wrap
- Grilled chicken on salad instead of bread
- Chili – hearty and low carb without beans
Tip: Avoid breaded chicken sandwiches and sugary dressings.
Build a low carb sandwich bowl or salad at Subway by nixing the bread.
What to Order:
- Salad with double meat and low carb veggies
- Sandwich fillings over a salad
- Omelet with meat, veggies, and cheese
Tip: Say no to sugary sauces, dressings, and honey mustard.
8. Taco Bell
Taco Bell has many simple swaps so you can “think outside the bun.”
What to Order:
- Any items in a bowl instead of a taco shell or tortilla
- Power Menu Bowl – it comes with veggies, rice, beans, and sauce
- Fresco style – swaps in pico de gallo for cheese, sour cream, and rice
Tip: Skip the rice and beans or ask for extra meat and lettuce instead.
While fried chicken tenders are out, grilled nuggets and savory sides are low carb at Chick-fil-A.
What to Order:
- Grilled chicken nuggets, chopped into a salad
- Grilled chicken sandwich – no bun and wrapped in lettuce
- Side salad with meat and cheese
Tip: Avoid breaded items, sugary sauces, and fruit cups with added sugar.
Yes, even pizza can be low carb if you avoid the crust entirely.
What to Order:
- Pizza toppings with roasted wings or boneless chicken
- Salads with grilled or crispy chicken
Tip: Skip the sugary sauces, dressings, breadsticks, and desserts.
Helpful Tips for Customizing Your Fast Food Order
Now let’s go over some handy tips and tricks to keep your fast food choices low in carbs:
- Ditch the bun, bread, shell, etc. This eliminates a major source of carbs. Ask for lettuce wraps or sandwiches over salad instead.
- Say no to sugary sauces and dressings. Ketchup, honey mustard, barbecue sauce, and sweet salad dressings add unnecessary carbs.
- Choose grilled chicken or unbreaded meat. Avoid breaded and fried items which pack in carbs and unhealthy fats.
- Add extra veggies. Load up on lettuce, tomato, onion, and peppers to fill up fiber and nutrients instead of carbs.
- Opt for cheese and guacamole. They make tasty low carb toppings. But skip extras like rice, beans, and plantain chips.
- Avoid menu items labeled low-fat. They often add more carbs and sugar to replace fat. Stick to regular options.
- Drink water or unsweetened iced tea. Sugary sodas will skyrocket your carb count.
The Benefits of Choosing Low Carb Fast Food Options
Selecting low carb items at fast food restaurants provides a range of benefits beyond supporting your diet goals. Here are some of the biggest advantages of opting for low carb fast food:
1. Higher in Protein
With fewer carbs, most low carb fast food choices tend to be higher in protein from meat, eggs, and cheese. Protein provides satiety to help control hunger and cravings. It also supports building and maintaining muscle mass.
2. More Nutrients
Low carb fast food meals often include fresher, less processed ingredients like lettuce, tomato, avocado, and other veggies. You’ll take in more vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants from quality whole food sources.
3. Avoid Blood Sugar Spikes
Refined carbs in sweets, breads, etc. can cause rapid spikes and crashes in blood sugar levels. Going low carb prevents these fluctuations, keeping your energy stable.
4. Potential Weight Loss
When coupled with an overall healthy diet, limiting empty carb sources may support dropping excess pounds by reducing calorie intake.
5. Increased Mental Focus
Some people report improvements in concentration, productivity, and cognitive function from a low carb intake by stabilizing blood sugar.
6. Lower Systemic Inflammation
Refined grains, added sugars, and processed foods are pro-inflammatory. Cutting carbs and choosing anti-inflammatory foods like vegetables, nuts, and omega-3s reduces overall bodily inflammation.
7. Better Heart Health
Replacing refined carbs with healthy fats is linked to improved cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure, and decreased heart disease risk.
8. Feeds Gut Bacteria
The gut microbiome thrives when fed prebiotic fiber from low starch vegetables prevalent in low carb diets. This benefits digestion and immunity.
As you can see, making low carb choices when grabbing fast food provides health advantages beyond keeping your macronutrient goals on track. Use these benefits as extra motivation to skip the bun!
Tips for Sticking to Low Carb Fast Food Long-Term
Making low carb fast food options work for your lifestyle requires some strategy. Check out these tips for making better choices a habit:
- Learn the menu ahead of time – Research nutrition info online so you can quickly place your order.
- Speak up politely – Clearly explain how you need your meal prepared to the cashier.
- Repeat orders that work – Find 2-3 go-to meals you love and stick with them.
- Come prepared – Bring healthy low carb add-ons like avocado, nut butter, and dressing.
- Avoid temptation – Don’t cave for friends’ fries – out of sight, out of mouth!
- Left beef patties plain – They make a quick no-bun meal without special orders.
- Try intermittent fasting – Limit eating windows to reduce reliance on fast food stops.
With the right game plan, low carb fast food can fit into your lifestyle in a sustainable way.
Top 5 Low Carb Fast Food Breakfasts
Breakfast is an important meal, but busy mornings make grabbing fast food tempting. However, typical breakfast choices like pancakes, sandwiches, and pastries are carb-laden.
Thankfully, most fast food chains now offer lower carb morning options. Here are 5 of the best to fuel your day right:
1. Egg and Cheese Sandwich or Wrap Without Bread
The egg and cheese combo packs protein, but nix the English muffin or tortilla wrap to avoid unneeded carbs. Order it in a lettuce wrap or over a salad instead.
2. Bacon, Egg, and Cheese Bowl
Many places now serve breakfast bowls with eggs, bacon crumbles, and cheese over veggies or lettuce mixes sans carby bread or potatoes.
3. Sausage, Egg, and Cheese Salad
Another low carb bowl option – get your protein trio over fresh greens and veggies. Add extras like mushrooms, onions, or avocado.
4. Breakfast Sandwich Lettuce Wraps
Most breakfast sandwiches can be modified into a lettuce wrap or cup. A sausage and egg wrap is a tasty option.
5. Vegetarian Omelets or Frittatas
Omelets and frittatas packed with veggies, avocado, and cheese make a satisfying meatless breakfast low in carbs.
With a mix of protein and fat, these meals will keep you full and energized ’til lunch. Never settle for a carb-loaded breakfast just because you’re in a rush!
Top Low Carb Keto Fast Food Hacks
Following a keto diet with a very low carb intake can be challenging. When stuck grabbing fast food, these hacks make sticking to keto easier:
- Swap the bun for cheese slices to make a “cheeseburger”.
- Order a lettuce wrap with no sauce or condiments added. Bring your own keto-friendly sauces like mayo.
- Ask for extra lettuce leaves and use them as taco shells or utensils to pick up toppings.
- Try to choose grilled chicken over bread whenever possible. It keeps carbs lower.
- Add healthy fats like avocado slices, olive oil, ranch, and bacon to improve the macros.
- For chili or salad, ask for no beans or croutons and get extra cheese, onions, and sour cream instead.
- Always opt for water or unsweetened tea – diet soda can still trigger cravings.
With hacks like using cheese as a bun and boosting fat, you can stick to a strict keto diet with fast food. Don’t be afraid to customize and ask for exactly what you need. Your health is worth it!
Low Carb Vegetarian and Vegan Fast Food Options
Finding truly low carb vegan fast food is tough. But vegetarians have some better options by including eggs and dairy. Here are some of the lowest carb choices for plant-based eaters:
- Salads with tofu, cheese, nuts, and oil-based dressing
- Veggie omelets with avocado and cheese
- Egg or veggie sandwich holds the bread
- Bean-less veggie chili
- Salad with vinaigrette, veggies, avocado
- Lettuce wrap or veggie bowl with guacamole
- Tofu and vegetable stir fry bowl
- Oatmeal with plant milk, chia seeds, fruit, and nuts
Getting sufficient protein is crucial on a vegan/vegetarian keto diet, so aim for plant sources like tofu, tempeh, seitan, and protein powder smoothies. Avoid overly processed meat and dairy substitutes which can be high in carbs.
Final Tips for Success with Low Carb Fast Food
- Check carb counts so you know where hidden carbs lurk in sauces and dressings.
- Build your meal starting with the lowest carb ingredients like lettuce wraps and veggies.
- Start with grilled, unbreaded lean proteins like chicken, fish, or steak.
- Add high fat ingredients next like cheese, avocado, bacon, olive oil, and ranch.
- Avoid menu items labeled “light” or “healthy” as they often have more sugar and carbs.
- Stick to water, unsweetened tea, or black coffee as your drinks.
With smart planning, you can keep fast food cravings in check and your macros on track, even when grabbing a quick bite. Use the tips in this guide to build delicious low carb fast food meals and make better-for-you choices. Your body will thank you!
FAQs about Low Carb Fast Food Options
What are the best low carb fast food breakfast options?
For breakfast, opt for sausage or bacon egg sandwiches without the bun or biscuit. Omelets and breakfast bowls with eggs, meat, and veggies are also smart choices. Avoid pancakes, waffles, cereals, oatmeal, and sweetened coffees.
What should I order at Mexican fast food places?
Burrito bowls, fajita veggies, grilled chicken or steak, and salad with meat and cheese are all good low carb picks at Mexican chains. Avoid tacos, burritos, rice, beans, and tortilla chips.
Is Chick-fil-A keto-friendly?
While fried chicken and biscuits are off the table, you can enjoy grilled nuggets and whole grilled chicken breast without the bun at Chick-fil-A. Salads with grilled meat are low carb as well. Stick to no-sugar-added dressings.
What are fast food low carb veggie options?
Veggie options tend to be higher in carbs overall. Your best bets are salads topped with avocado, nuts, seeds, and cheese. Subway and Chipotle both have lower carb veggie bowls. Avoid breaded vegetable items.
How can I find nutrition info and carb counts?
Check the restaurant’s website and app for complete nutritional data. You’ll find carb counts, so you can build your order strategically. Asking the cashier for nutrition facts is another option.
As you can see, enjoying fast food occasionally doesn’t mean derailing your low carb diet. There are now plenty of tasty options available with a little customization. Use the smart swaps outlined here, like ditching the bun, avoiding sauces, and loading up the veggies. With the right choices, you can grab a quick drive-thru or take-out meal while still sticking to your healthy low carb lifestyle. So next time you’re in need of speedy fuel, don’t shy away from fast food. Head to one of these spots and order a guilt-free low carb meal.