Eating a diet that accommodates diabetes can feel like a major challenge, especially when eating out. Healthy foods like fruit, vegetables, lean protein, and low-fat dairy are generally some of the safest options, but finding dishes that taste food and stay within those regulations doesn’t always seem possible. And for quite some time, the fast food industry was a major no-no for people with diabetes, but over the past several years, drive-through restaurants have improved the quality of their menus and now offer cleaner, more nutritious options.
If you’re a diabetic or know someone who is, bookmark this list of the best fast food for diabetics so you can eat out every once in a while guilt free. And as always, work with your doctor to develop an appropriate diet avoid any foods that may cause blood sugar issues.
Fast Food for Diabetics
McDonald’s – Small Hamburger with Apple Slices
While a burger isn’t the healthiest option, the portion size of McDonald’s small hamburger is appropriate if you’re looking for a lighter fast food meal. You can pair it with apple slices, since you’ll definitely want to skip the greasy french fries as a side. To lower your sugar count, opt for the burger without the apple slices. If you plan on ordering a drink, go for water, iced tea, or black coffee, but avoid beverages high in sugar like soda, lattes, and shakes.
Nutrition information: 250 Calories, 9g Fat, 31g Carbs, 12g Protein, 6g Sugar, 510mg Sodium
Apple Slices: 40 Calories, 0g Fat, 10g Carbs, .1g Protein, 8g Sugar, 5mg Sodium
Panera – Steak and Arugula on Sourdough
If you’re strict about your diet, you’ve probably learned to avoid bread whenever possible. And while most of Panera’s sandwiches are made with thick, carb-dense breads, the Steak and Arugula sandwich has thinner pieces of sourdough and lean, thin pieces of steak. The sandwich is filled with healthy, flavorful ingredients like grass-fed steak, arugula, tomatoes, garlic, onions, and herb cream cheese. To make this meal lighter, order it as a half with a side of fruit.
Nutrition information: 500 calories, 19 g fat, 8 g saturated fat, 870 mg sodium, 51 g carbohydrates, 4 g fiber, 8 g sugars, 33 g protein
Del Taco – Chicken Soft Taco
Anytime you can swap high fat meats with lean chicken, it’s a great idea. If you’re on a diabetes-friendly diet, you know that Mexican food is usually off limits, but the Chicken Soft Taco is an excellent option to satisfy your cravings and still keep things relatively clean. Plus, you can’t feel guilty about loading it up with crisp lettuce and tomato. One or two of these is typically a safe portion size, but stay away from menu items that are high in fat like nachos, burritos, taco salads, and burger.
Nutrition information: 220 calories, 16g carbs, 12g fat, 11g protein, 1g sugar, 490mg sodium
Chick-Fil-A – Grilled Nuggets
Chick-Fil-A’s grilled nuggets are a no-fail option for a diabetes-friendly meal. The chicken is chopped up into small pieces, marinated, and grilled to juicy perfection. They’ve got plenty of flavor all on their own, so you don’t need a dipping sauce (many of them are high in fat and sugar), but if you need extra flavor, go for yellow mustard. You can also order a side salad with olive oil dressing and grilled nuggets on top if you want some additional flavor. The side salad includes fresh greens, tomato, shredded red cabbage and carrots, and shredded Monterey Jack and cheddar cheeses.
Nutrition information (12 nuggets): 210 calories, 3g carbs, 5g fat, 38g protein, 1g sugar, 670mg sodium
Chipotle – Keto Chicken Salad Bowl
Eating a ketogenic diet is amazing for so many reasons, whether you’re trying to become more physically fit or cut out unhealthy foods. It’s also great for diabetics because it helps manage glucose levels. At Chipotle, there’s a Lifestyle bowl that’s made specifically for the keto diet, including grilled and marinated chicken, supergreens, tomatillo red chili salsa, Monterey jack cheese, and guacamole. It probably goes without saying, but it’s a good idea to leave the chips off your order.
Nutrition information: 535 calories, 17g carbs, 36g fat, 30g protein, 2g sugar, 1405mg sodium
Starbucks – Quinoa & Chicken Protein Bowl with Black Beans and Greens
Most of the Starbucks’ menu is a danger zone for people with diabetes. And while the frappuccinos, lattes, and bakery treats may not be safe to consume, you’ll be in the clear with the Quinoa & Chicken Protein Bowl with Black Beans and Greens. At just 420 filling calories, you’ll get a grilled chicken, medium-spiced chile vinaigrette, fresh greens, tomatoes, roasted corn, black beans, jicama, paprika, and cotija. It’s one of the most flavorful, delicious things on the menu with plenty of nutritious benefits.
Nutrition information: 420 calories, 42g carbs, 17g fat, 27g protein, 11g sugar, 1030mg sodium
Arby’s – Roast Turkey and Swiss Wrap, No Mayo
Arby’s is probably not a place you frequent if you have diabetes, but fortunately, you may be able to get away with snacking on the Roast Turkey and Swiss Wrap. We recommend ordering the wrap without the spicy brown mustard and/or mayo to cut back on calories, fat, and sugar content. The rest of the ingredients still offer plenty of flavor. You’ll get oven-roasted turkey, tomatoes, lettuce, red onions, and Swiss cheese in a grain wrap.
Nutrition information: 410 calories, 38 carbs, 16g fat, 30g protein, 5g sugar, 1570mg sodium
Taco Bell – Fresco soft tacos with black beans and rice
Most of what you can order at Taco Bell is full of grease, fat, and sugar, but there are select menu items that cater to healthy eaters. You can order any menu item “fresco style,” which mean they will swap the cheese and sauce with salsa, cutting down on the unhealthy ingredients. For diabetics, we recommend trying a chicken soft taco, fresco-style with a side of black beans and rice. Of course, you can omit the beans and rice to eliminate some of the sodium, but it makes for a filling, well-rounded meal.
Nutrition information: 520 calories, 39g carbs, 27g fat, 30g protein, 6g sugar, 1640mg sodium
Core Life – Chicken and Rice Noodle Broth Bowl
Core Life is a godsend for healthier eaters everywhere. The newer franchises focuses on eating a nutritious diet and living an active lifestyle, so you can certainly find multiple dishes that are appropriate for diabetics. The Chicken and Rice Noodle Broth Bowl is one of our favorites, and it includes chicken bone broth, antibiotic-free chicken, rice noodles, shredded kale, carrots, celery, and scallions. They also serve delicious salads, soups, and grain bowls.
Nutrition information: 410 calories, 40g carbs, 8g fat, 38g protein, 2g sugar, 1200mg sodium
For more fast food for diabetics, check out this keto-friendly fast food.