If you’re constantly searching for low carb fast food, we’re here to help. Fast food is not always your healthiest food choice for many reasons, including the number of carbohydrates one meal can contain. We understand that sometimes you’re on the run and fast food is what will get you from point A to point B on time. You’ll be happy to know the best low-carb fast food options are not as difficult to find as you may think.
Why do you want to watch carbs in the first place? Carbohydrates are the sugars, starches and fibers found in fruits, grains, vegetables and milk products. Your body quickly turns carbohydrates into a sugar called glucose. This raises your blood sugar, or blood glucose level. The American Diabetes Association points out the fact that carbohydrates are your body's main source of energy. But the National Institutes of Health reminds us that the recommended daily amount of carbs for adults is 135 grams.
In today’s “microwave society,” is there a way to find low-carb fast food options? The good news is there are ways you can hit a drive-thru and keep your carbs in check. Let’s look at the best low-carb fast food you can choose.
Low-Carb Fast Food Starts Here
When you’re mulling over the best low-carb options at your favorite fast food restaurant, your best bet is to avoid or limit certain things. You can:
- Skip the Bun. One slice of bread (or in this case buns) can have as many as 25 grams of carbohydrates. Some places will wrap your sandwich in lettuce leaves, or put all of the ingredients in a bowl (especially sub shops).
- Avoid Fried Food. One medium piece of fried chicken can have up to 11 grams of carbohydrates. A piece of grilled chicken has about two grams. Your meal plan should consist of a bunless grilled chicken sandwich or grilled chicken nuggets. Some chains now offer grilled, broiled, or roasted chicken that’s neither battered or breaded. You may even find grilled chicken salad on the menu.
- Hold the Fries. Eating fast food typically means fries on the side, but it doesn’t have to. One medium-sized order of fries can contain as many as 50 grams of carbs. A side salad is always your best bet.
- Get Dressing on the Side. Sauces and salad dressings may be full of sugar or corn syrup. Check the ingredients, and have it on the side. This allows you to control the amount you’re using.
- Check Nutritional Info. Bigger chains provide complete nutritional data for their foods online. Some also have nutrition calculators that allow you to build your meal and track your carbs.
Know Your Limits
The goal is not to limit carbohydrates in the diet completely, but to make sure that you are not eating too many. Doing simple things like getting your burrito in a bowl during your next Taco Bell run or getting your Burger King hamburger without the bun will help keep your carb intake at a minimal level.
Eliminating some of these items from your fast food diet will also help bring the calorie count down, and in turn, help with weight loss. Many of these low-carb fast food options are keto friendly, too. A keto meal is typically low carb and high protein.
Taking some time to educate yourself about how many carbs are in some of your fast food options helps tremendously. Once you know, you can adjust your favorite menu items to fit your low-carb intake. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reminds us that there are three types of carbohydrates: starches, sugars and dietary fiber.
- Starches are present in plant-based foods such as potatoes, peas, corn, beans, rice and other grain products.
- Sugars occur naturally in foods such as fruit and milk, but there are also sources of added sugars which are found in highly processed foods, such as candy, cake and soft drinks.
- Dietary fiber is an indigestible part of plant foods that may help with digestive and heart health.
What’s great is a lot of your favorite fast food toppings (lettuce, tomato, onions, cheese) are all low-carb options. If you start getting your burritos in a bowl packed with veggies, you’re doing your body good.
Eating more whole grains, beans, lentils and vegetables offer many health benefits. Try eating more whole-grain, unprocessed carbohydrates like:
- Whole-wheat bread
- Whole-grain pasta
- Brown rice
Not only will eating more of these types of food keep your carb count down, it can help prevent heart disease, certain cancers and diabetes. And may even speed up your metabolism. Spreading carbohydrate choices evenly throughout the day also helps you to prevent spikes and dips in your blood sugar.
Your doctor can create a specific meal plan that satisfies your individual preferences. If you’d like more information on how fast food fits into your diet, check out our infographic “Fast Food Statistics.”