Changing your eating habits is not easy. From depriving yourself of your cravings to stomaching foods you hate, eating a low carb diet may sound like a nightmare. But, if you stick to it, the benefits can far outweigh the pain and suffering you experience from saying “no” to that breadstick at dinner.
So, why are people jumping on this anti-bread train? A low carb diet is one of the safest, most-effective methods of eating clean and losing weight. Whether you’ve been on a low carb diet for years, or you are testing the waters for the first time, you’ll be relieved to know that there are plenty of flavorful, delicious options for you to choose from. Even better? There are fast food options for low carb dieters to give yourself a break from cooking chicken and veggies every night. But before we jump into the best low carb fast food options, let’s take a quick look at what it takes to stick to a low carb diet.
What Is A Low Carb Diet?
One of the most common reasons people choose to go on a low-carb diet is to burn fat and lose weight. And what most people don’t know is that there are many different variations of this diet. There’s low-carb, high fat and low-carb, high protein. Then, there’s the ketogenic diet (more on that in a minute).
Many dieticians and dieters themselves believe that weight loss happens because the body’s insulin levels drop. As a result, decreased insulin levels signal to the body to start burning fat for energy. While that may sound intimidating, it’s completely healthy as long as you consume the proper nutrition in other areas. Studies also show that eating a low carb diet can result in lower blood sugar and blood pressure, a reduced appetite, and increased metabolism.
So, how many carbs can you eat on a low carb diet? As a general rule of thumb, you should aim for a total of 20 to 60 grams per day, depending on what your goals are. Generally, the point of a low-carb diet is to intake less than half of the recommended daily carb load, which is around 130 grams.
What To Eat On a Low Carb Diet
Everything has carbs, doesn’t it? If you’re thinking it’s not possible to stick to such a stringent diet, think again. All you have to do is avoid certain food groups, like:
- Breading, buns, tortillas
- Sugary foods
- Starchy foods
And instead, opt for more:
- Eggs (one of the best high protein, low carb foods!)
- Lean meat
- Green veggies
- Healthy fats like nuts, seeds, oils (olive and coconut)
Low Carb vs. Keto
You’ve probably heard the terms low carb and ketogenic used interchangeably – but the truth is, they are not the same diet at all. The ketogenic diet is a more “hard-core” version of a low-carb diet, but they are similar in nature because keto-friendly foods must be low in carbohydrates.
If you’re shooting for low carb over keto, you can customize it however you want. But, if you are dead-set on sticking to keto, you have a lot less flexibility. Keto foods must abide by a certain nutritional breakdown:
- 5-10% carbs
- 15-25% protein
- 65-80% fat
Since there is little flexibility with the keto diet, it can be much more diffuclt to commit to long term. With a low carb diet, however, you can more-closely accommodate your wants and needs, whether that’s eating a higher number of carbs or a lower amount of fat.
Best Low Carb Fast Food Options
The fast food industry is not catered to the low carb diet, but we’ve figured out plenty of ways around that to share with you.
Taco Bell Power Menu Steak Bowl
Low carb fast food at Taco Bell? You bet. Historically, Taco Bell has been a go-to for late-night snackers, but they’ve recently upped their health food game with the release of the Power Menu. Targeting healthy fast food, the Power Menu contains high protein meals that can be customized to fit any diet. So for the sake of low carb eaters, it’s a perfect option. For just 9g carbs, you can enjoy a Power Menu Steak Bowl, sans the rice and beans, of course. You’ll still fill up on the steak, cheese, pico de gallo, guacamole, and lettuce. Top it off with some reduced-fat sour cream and avocado ranch sauce.
Nutrition: Calories: 260, Fat: 16g, Carbs: 9g, Protein: 20g
Chick-Fil-A Grilled Nuggets
Chick-Fil-A may be famous for their fried chicken options, but they’ve got the perfect low carb, high protein alternative. The Grilled Nuggets taste nearly as delicious and are made with the same tender white meat as the original ones. They have a smokey flavor that pairs nicely with any of their low carb sauces, which include Zesty Buffalo Sauce (1g carb), Garlic & Herb Ranch Sauce (1g carb), Garlic & Herb Ranch Dressing (2g carbs), Avocado Lime Ranch Dressing (3g carbs), Creamy Salsa (3g carbs), Light Italian Dressing (3g carbs), and Jalapeño Salsa (2g carbs). If you’re worried the nuggets won’t fill you up, add a side salad to your order for just 6g carbs.
And if you can’t do without the original Chick-Fil-A Nuggets, you’ll be glad to hear that an 8-count order only contains 9g carbs. So, if you don’t plan on carb-loading the rest of the day, you can totally get away with it.
Nutrition: Calories: 140, Fat: 3.5g, Carbs: 2g, Protein: 25g
McDonald’s Big Mac
A McDonald’s Big Mac gets our stamp of approval as a low carb fast food option, as long as you ditch the bun, that is. In fact, nearly any burger can be turned into a low-carb, high protein meal if you eliminate the bread and replace it with a lettuce wrap. Keep in mind, Big Mac sauce contains 3 grams carbs – so you can opt for the burger without it if you’d like.
Concerned about going breadless? Just think: bunless burgers are like breakups. You’ll miss the carbs at first, but it will get easier over time. And if you need something extra to fill you up, add a side salad to your meal.
Nutrition: Calories: 330, Fat: 26, Carbs: 7g, Protein: 25g
McDonald’s Egg McMuffin
If a low carb diet means being deprived of McDonald’s breakfast, we’re not sure it’s worth it. Luckily, you can get away with ordering a few AM items, like the Egg McMuffin and Sausage Muffin with egg. Just be sure to skip the English muffin to make this meal low-carb-friendly.
Nutrition: Calories: 160, Fat: 11g, Carbs: 3g, Protein: 12g
Buffalo Wild Wings Traditional Wings
It’s football season, so wings are non-negotiable. At Buffalo Wild Wings, you may not be able to get away with boneless wings on a low carb diet (the breading poses a slight problem), but you can chow down on a basket of traditional wings with no problem. At just 4 grams carbs, you can enjoy up to nine traditional Hot BBQ wings. Even better? Blazin’, Hot, Medium, Mild, Spicy Garlic, and Wild flavors are only 2 grams carbs, while Thai Curry and Parmesan Garlic contain 3 grams carbs. Whoever said eating low carb was boring clearly never did their homework.
Just be sure to avoid their appetizers. Nearly all of them are breaded or a version of deep-fried potatoes.
Nutrition: Calories: 360 calories, Fat: 20g, Carbs: 4g, Protein: 44g
McDonald’s Double Cheeseburger
McDonald’s is surprisingly one of the easiest places to find keto or low carb-friendly fast food – likely because more than half the menu comes on a bun of some kind. If you aren’t a Big Mac fan, opt for a McDonald’s Double Cheeseburger – minus the bread, of course. To keep this low carb fast food option as clean as possible, ask for it plain. You’ll still be able to enjoy the savory patty and cheese, which is where most of the flavor comes from anyway. If you need an added kick, ask for yellow mustard and/or mayo packets to drizzle on top.
Nutrition: Calories: 280, Fat: 20g, Carbs: 5g, Protein 20g
The moment Subway converted all of their sandwiches into salads, low-carb dieters came running (that was probably the point). As long as you can get over saying goodbye to your beloved Italian Herb & Cheese bread, you’ll have no problem finding something both low carb and high protein on the menu. The Tuna Salad Salad is one of our favorites, containing all the classics – tuna salad, red onion, green pepper, cucumber, and tomato on a bed of lettuce.
We realize 11 grams carbs may be more than you’re hoping to eat in one meal, so you may need to consider another fast food joint on our list, as there aren’t any menu items that have a lower carb count. Other relatively low carb Subway salads include Cold Cut Combo Salad, Oven Roasted Chicken Salad, Roast Beef Salad, and Subway Club Salad.
Nutrition: Calories: 310, Fat: 24g, Carbs: 11g , Protein: 15g
Starbucks Bacon and Gruyere Sous Vide Egg Bites
Eggs are some of the best low carb, high protein food, so you can’t go wrong with Starbucks egg bites. They’re the perfect portion size for a quick breakfast or mid-morning snack. The other egg bite flavors have higher carb counts (upwards of 13 grams), but the Bacon and Gruyere ones are only 9 grams. They are one of the most popular menu items and contain just four key ingredients: eggs, apple-wood smoked bacon, aged gruyere, and montery jack cheese.
Nutrition: Calories: 310, Fat: 22g, Carbs: 9g, Protein: 19g
Starbucks Creminelli Sopressata Monterey Jack Snack Tray
Starbucks has the ultimate snack foods, from muffins to cookies, danishes, and protein boxes. However, most of their food items aren’t low carb or customizable. Enter the Creminelli Sopressata Monterey Jack Snack Tray. Say that three times fast. With sliced cheese and Italian dry salami, this low carb snack is perfect if you’re on the go. And since it’s high in protein and fat, you can even get away with it counting as lunch.
Nutrition: Calories: 220, Fat: 17g, Carbs: 0g, Protein: 15g
Popeyes Spicy Fried Chicken Thighs + Green Beans
It sounds like a cardinal sin to leave Popeyes without a box of biscuits, but if you’re comitted to low carb, you’ll have to make the sacrifice. The Spicy Fried Chicken Thighs (2-piece) have the highest carb count on our list, but if your daily intake is upwards of 60g per day, you’ll be just fine. And if you’re concerned about the number of carbs, tear off some of the fried breading. To break it down, the chicken is 280 calories and 6 carbs per piece, while the green beans make up the rest with 55 calories and 5 carbs.
Nutrition: Calories: 615, Fat: 21, Carbs: 17g, Protein: 28g
Popeyes Blackened Chicken Tenders
Popeyes is home to some of the best friend chicken, so what is it doing on a list of low carb fast food? Fortunately for keto and low carb eaters, their Blackened Chicken Tenders fit the bill with flying colors. Three beautifully-grilled tenders are just 2 grams carbs. While they are plenty flavorful on their own, you can give them an extra kick by drizzling them in Popeyes classic hot sauce.
One complaint we’ve recieved is that you’ll still be hungry after munching on these chicken strips, so if you want to be certain you’ll fill up, add a side of green beans to your order.
Nutrition: Calories: 170, Fat: 2g, Carbs: 2g, Protein: 26g
Dunkin’ All You Can Meat Croissant
Donuts, bagels, and croissants – all things low carb eaters dream about in their sleep. But if you want to find a low carb fast food option at Dunkin’, you’ll have to ditch the bread products. We love turning the All You Can Meat Croissant into a low carb, high fat, high protein breakfast by tossing the croissant out the window (okay maybe not literally). Stacked with ham, sausage, egg, and cheese, it’s one meal that won’t leave you hungry.
Nutrition: Calories: 460, Fat: 38g, Carbs: 4g, Protein 25g
Burger King Original Chicken Sandwich
We know what you’re thinking. Breaded chicken sandwiches are off-limits. And while we would normally agree with that statement when it comes to low carb fast food options, we’ve struck gold with Burger King’s Original Chicken Sandwich. It’s lightly breaded compared to other fast food chicken sandwiches, so after ditching the bun, it only has 9 grams carbs. If you order it bun-less, you’ll get the breaded chicken patty on a bed of shredded lettuce, drizzled in mayo. If you can swing it, this will be your new favorite low carb fast food.
Nutrition: Calories: 460, Fat: 36g, Carbs: 9g, Protein: 22g
Five Guys Little Bacon Cheeseburger
We’re not sure why Five Guys sells themselves so short with this “little burger” nonsense. It’s not a mini portion like you’re probably picturing – it’ simply a single patty, rather than a double. To make your Five Guys order low carb and keto, order it as a lettuce wrap with no bun. Feel free to add pickles, mayo, and mustard, too. It’s a classic example of how delicious eating low carb fast food can be; plus it checks all the boxes for a high fat, high protein, low carb meal.
Nutrition: Calories: 478, Fat: 41g, Carbs: 2g, Protein: 24g
Chipotle Keto Lifestyle Bowl
Chipotle makes eating low carb fast food easier than ever. No customizations needed. With the Keto Lifestyle bowl, you’ll get Romaine lettuce, carnitas, red salsa, cheese, and guacamole – all certifiably low-carb, high fat, and high protein. Adding any of their protein options isn’t a dealbreaker, either. The chicken and carnitas have no carbs, while the steak only has 1g, and the barbacoa and chorizo have 2g carbs.
Nutrition: Calories: 590, Fat: 42g, Carbs: 7g, Protein: 32g
Jersey Mike’s Sub in a Tub
Giving up bread is one of the hardest aspects of sticking to a low-carb diet. Fortunately, sandwich places like Jersey Mike’s didn’t want to lose business, so they came up with a breadless alternative: the Sub in a Tub. With chicken, peppers, onions, American cheese, and lettuce, the Chicken Philly Cheese Steak Sub in a Tub is quite tasty. If that’s not enough flavor for you, request their signature blend of olive oil, red wine vinegar, oregano, salt, and pepper.
Other low carb fast food options from Jersey Mike’s include the Famous Roast Beef and Provolone Sub in a Tub (9g carbs), the BLT Sub in a Tub (6g carbs), and the “Cancro Special” Sub in a Tub (9g carbs).
Nutrition: Calories: 655, Fat: 49g, Carbs: 13g, Protein: 37g
KFC Grilled Chicken
KFC is likely the last place you’d think to go if you’re gung-ho on sticking to a low-carb diet. However, their Grilled Chicken is a perfect low carb fast food option because it has less than one single carb per piece. But before you keep scrolling, don’t mistake KFC’s grilled chicken for flavorless and boring. Each piece has grill marks and tastes like it came straight from Dad’s tailgate, seasoned with herbs and spices. If you want to add a side to your grilled chicken, the best low carb option is green beans with only 2g of carbs.
The nutrition facts below reflect one KFC Grilled Chicken Breast.
Nutrition: Calories: 220, Fat: 7g, Carbs: 0g, Protein: 40g
Jimmy John’s Turkey Tom Unwich
Jimmy John’s is another sandwich shop that realized it would lose customers if everything on the menu was thrown in between two pieces of bread. Thus, the Unwich was born – a lettuce-wrap version of all the Jimmy John’s classics, from the Turkey Tom to the Vito. The restaurant boasts that the Unwich is completely customizable and has fewer calories, all-natural meats, hand-sliced veggies, and fresh lettuce. Our top pick is the Turkey Tom, containing just a few ingredients: turkey, lettuce, tomato, and mayo.
We also love the Unwich as a low carb fast food option because it’s way more filling than many of the others. Once you axe the bread from a meal, it often feels too light and ends up only tying you over for a bit. But with a lettuce wrap the size of a regular Jimmy John’s sub, you shouldn’t need to go back for more.
Nutrition: Calories: 225, Fat: 19g, Carbs: 2g, Protein: 14g
Chick-fil-A Hash Brown Scramble Bowl with Sausage
Finding low carb fast food breakfast is fairly easy, since most menu items contain meat and eggs (two keto staples!). Don’t let this Chick-Fil-A option scare you – you’ll have to order it without the hash browns to make it low carb. For added flavor, ask for jalepeno salsa to mix in with your scramble.
If you’re not into breakfast sausage, both grilled and breaded chicken are fair game. For all of you coffee drinkers, you’ll be glad to know that Chick-Fil-A’s signature THRIVE coffee is the perfect low carb addition to your scramble.
Nutrition: Calories: 450, Fat: 29g, Carbs: 4g, Protein: 30g
Panera Bread Power Breakfast Bowl with Turkey
It’s true – Panera is the land of bread. And while there’s nothing quite like indulging in a chicken-noodle-soup-soaked French Baguette, that’s not exactly diet-friendly. However, we have another low carb fast food breakfast option for you to try – the Power Breakfast Bowl with Turkey. This filling, healthy breakfast contains egg whites, spinach, peppers, basil pesto, and either turkey or steak. Any of Panera’s breakfast sandwiches can also be made low carb by ditching the bagel or English muffin. Keep in mind, Panera stops serving breakfast at 10:30 a.m. at most locations.
Nutrition: Calories: 180, Fat: 15g, Carbs: 7g, Protein: 25g