Delicious Low Carb Fast Food Meals to Supercharge Your Diet
Low carb fast food healthy meals from fast food chains are a thing now. Restaurants are moving away from the greasy, salty, sugar-laden quick bites of yesteryear and adopting a more health-conscious menu.
While in most cases it’s still healthier to prepare your own meals at home, fast food chains now have healthier choices. Fast-food restaurants have meals free of frying oils, gluten, grains, and carbs. If you’re on a low-carb diet or a ketogenic diet, there are some awesome choices that are tasty yet work to help you achieve your diet goals faster.
Low Carb Fast Food
Carbohydrates are found in bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, starches, and sugary foods. Low carb meals will typically include natural fats, vegetables, and proteins. Studies show that low carb diets are effective in weight loss and improve health markers. When you avoid starches and sugars in your diet, your blood sugar stabilizes and insulin levels drop.
The result is you will feel more satiated and this reduces your food intake. A low carb diet will also supercharge your weight loss goals by increasing fat burning instead of relying on carbs for energy.
Tips to Follow
The best thing about a low carb diet is you can eat as much food as you want. Therefore, you won’t suffer the cravings normally associated with other diet and weight loss plans. Nonetheless, a low carb diet isn’t for everyone. Keep off a strict low carb diet if you’re pregnant, breastfeeding, taking high blood pressure medication, or if you’re taking diabetes medication.
Want some pro diet tips:
Check the Nutritional Information
Always check food labels as they contain invaluable information about the carb content. For American brands, you may have to deduct the amount of fiber from the number of grams to get the net digestible carb content. When reading labels, it’s very important to take note of the number of servings per package. Often, each package will have more than one serving.
A good rule of thumb is to avoid being influenced by claims on the front cover such as “whole-grain cereal”, “high fiber”, or “gluten-free.” Instead, carefully check the ingredients list at the back. If the list is long, then the product is likely highly processed.
For any list, manufacturers list ingredients in descending order, from the most used to the least. For a more effective approach, monitor your daily food intake with a nutrition tracker. There are many available online and on Android/iOS stores.
Grilled, Roasted and Broiled
According to Heather Fink, author of Practical Applications in Health Nutrition, grilled, roasted, charbroiled, boiled, poached, or broiled foods can be healthy choices when dining out. Most foods prepared this way are not only low in carbs but also low in trans fats.
Fruit and vegetable salads can supercharge your weight loss, but only if done right. A diet-friendly diet should have a base of fresh spring salad greens. Avoid potatoes and pasta as they contain high levels of starch, carbs, fats, and calories. Milder crispy greens make crunchy toppings and add volume.
For vegetable salads, add different color categories to enhance flavors and give the dish a nice look. For all your salads, add a moderate dose of healthy fats. Some sources include avocado, coconut, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, and olive oil.
Skip the Buns
Bread comes in many types and most are not good for a low-carb diet. Carbohydrates make up the biggest percentage in any bun, anywhere from 50% to 75%. A plain bun from your local bakery may weigh about 40 grams, and that translates to approximately 20 grams of carbs.
For a mixed-grain bun of the same weight, it comes to slightly over 17 grams of carbs. Even the reduced-calorie specialty buns advertised as healthy or diet-friendly will have at least 15 grams of carbs. So for a true low-carb diet, ditch the buns.
Pass on Soda
Soda is full of calories with zero nutritional value. A 20oz Coca-Cola bottle contains 240 calories and 17 teaspoonfuls of sugar which will reverse any gains made on your low-carb diet. Apart from sugar and calories, carbonated drinks are generally detrimental to your health.
Sodas have been linked to obesity, unfavorable changes to metabolism, dental issues, increased the risk of heart disease, vascular problems, reproductive problems, kidney dysfunction, and body cell dehydration.
Avoid the Bacon
Processed meats, like bacon, bear significant health risks. They’ve been linked to colon, liver, breast, and lung cancer among other types of cancer. High consumption of bacon has been linked to heart disease and diabetes.
The high salt content has also been linked to high blood pressure. Bacon also contains nitrates and nitrites which are used as additives and, upon cooking, transform into nitrosamines. Nitrosamines are known carcinogens.
Careful of Condiments
Anything that is not food by itself but is used to add flavor and taste to food may be considered a condiment. Unfortunately, most store-bought condiments are full of calories, fat, and sugar.
Be wary of most ketchup, barbecue sauces, mayonnaise, Asiago Caesar dressings, and guacamole. Read the labels for ingredients and avoid anything with high levels of sodium and added sugars. If your salad is already full of flavorful and savory ingredients, you may not need a salad dressing.
Side Salad over Fries
Do you want fries with that? Say no and opt for a side salad instead. As mentioned above, ground vegetables such as potatoes are high in starch content, which makes them a bad carbohydrate. Typically, 100 grams of potatoes will contain approximately 17 grams of carbs and has a glycemic score of 110.
As a healthy alternative, a side salad may include tasty ingredients such as eggs, chicken, and fruits. However, watch out for the dressings and other accouterments.
Low Carb Fast Food Options
Dining out or grabbing a bite while on the go can get complicated when you’re on a low-carb diet. That’s because most fast food offerings are based on bread, pasta, tacos, and tortillas, among other high carb offerings.
Fortunately, fast food restaurants are quickly adapting to customer demands for healthier low-carb foods. Moreover, most fast food items can be quickly and easily modified into a healthier, low-carb option. For instance, your favorite cheeseburger can be served without the buns, soda, or condiments and still taste great.
Order these meals and your diet goals are on track:
Sub in a Tub
Jersey Mike’s started selling sub sandwiches without the bread and soon everyone else was doing it. It’s all the goodness of the traditional fillings without the carbs.
Getting your sub served in a tub rather than with buns can reduce your carb intake by at least 40 grams. To lower the carb count even further, request for vinegar or olive oil dressing.
What do low carb dieters, keto dieters, and vegans have in common? A true love for burger bowls. It’s all your favorite burger ingredients, served with healthy greens, minus the bun.
A burger bowl gives you all the leeway to customize, whether it’s with free-range chicken, grass-fed beef, turkey, or vegan. It’s quick to put together and easy to eat off a bowl. You can add in your favorite dressing, healthy condiments, creams, and cheese for savory flavors.
KFC Grilled Chicken
While KFC is known for their fried chicken, KFC’s grilled chicken menu has earned the respect of low carb eaters everywhere since it was first introduced in 2009. Even Oprah loved KFC grilled chicken so much she gave away free coupons that almost caused a riot.
You can get nutritional information brochures at your local KFC branch. I would recommend the bucket meals (8pc, 12pc, and 16pc).
But if you have to go with the smaller meals, do away with the mashed potatoes and avoid the gravy as they might be loaded with carbs. The extra crispy breast, parmesan croutons, and popcorn nuggets would also load up your carb intake, as would the fried chicken, obviously.
Chipotle Burrito Bowl
Burritos are flavorful and tasty. Unfortunately, they are also carb-loaded. Chipotle works around this to give you the perfect low-carb burrito. Chipotle’s burrito bowl is served in a bowl rather than in a tortilla.
One of the best dinner options would be a vegetarian fajita burrito bowl minus the corn salsa, black beans, and rice. My go-to lunch order is the burrito bowl with chicken.
I usually ask for some guacamole, tomato salsa, fajita veggies, and lots of lettuce. I skip the cheese, sour cream, and corn salsa to bring down the saturated fat content and the calorie count. Each of those meals has a calorie count of about 400 with less than 20 grams of carbs.
Why are burgers so popular in America? Well, it’s because they are so tasty, inexpensive, and easy to make. And now you have the lettuce-wrapped burger which is all that and healthy to boot. A lettuce-wrapped burger is a low-carb burger that unlike a regular burger, isn’t sandwiched within a bun. Most fast food joints will have it on their menu or will be glad to wrap up one for you.
Panera Bread Power Breakfast Bowl
Panera Bread restaurants are not usually the low-carb dieters best friend. But their power breakfast bowls make a big step in the right direction.
For instance, the Panera Bread power breakfast egg bowl with steak has only 5g carb content. The complete nutritional makeup includes 20g of sugar, 15g fat, 4.5g saturated fat, 310 mg sodium, 3g fiber, and 2g sugar. The whole meal comes to 230 calories.
You can also have the power Mediterranean roasted turkey salad (320 cal, 12g carbs), the power breakfast egg white bowl with roasted turkey (190 cal, 7g carb), or the power chicken hummus bowl (330 cal., 23g carbs).
Taco Bell Power Menu Steak Bowl (No Beans/No Rice)
Taco Bell knows you want to control what you eat. Hence, their introduction of the gaming-style power menu. And the steak bowl without beans or rice is the way to go when you’re on a low carb diet. Beans and lentils have a relatively high carb content. So, on the “Change What’s Included” menu, opt out of all bean options. Do away with the rice too, including seasoned rice. You can add in the sour cream, guacamole, cheese, Pico de gallo, and romaine lettuce for flavor.
Best Low Carb Fast Food Restaurants
Due to the rising popularity of low-carb diets, many fast food outlets and restaurants are happy to include burgers without the bun. Apart from kicking out bread, some restaurants go steps further to ensure you have delicious choices that will keep you focused on your weight loss goals.
Compare how your favorite joints are helping you achieve your weight goals:
Subway is best known for their fresh produce and delicious sandwiches. Their meals are typically low in calories and fats. However, they are high in carbs. Even their lowest-carb 6-inch bread, the rye bread, has at least 30g of net carbs. Still, they have some excellent options for low-carb dieters. You can order any of their low-carb salads which include tuna salad (11g), carved turkey salad (12g carb), or the sriracha chicken melt salad (11g carb).
When customizing your Subway meal, skip the carb-loaded sides like cookies and the starchy toppings. Bulk up with low-carb greens such as avocado and mushrooms. This can save you up to 800 calories per sitting.
Chipotle has made a name in their use of only fresh ingredients without artificial additives. However, a typical meal order averages approximately 1,200 calories in a single burrito. When you’re on a low-carb diet, take stock of everything you order and keep track using their nutritional calculator.
To keep to your low-carb goals, only choose bowl meals or salads. Getting rid of the tortilla already saves you from 320 cal and 600mg of sodium. Don’t take the tacos either. Reject the pinto and black beans. Skip all the rice options. Some great toppings include fajita veggies, guacamole, and romaine lettuce. Toss your bowl a few times to mix in the different flavors and you may not need any dressing.
Panera Bread offers a few low-carb baked goods if you really have to do carbs. The blueberry mini scone scores at 21g, the petite chocolate chipper has 13g, while the orange mini scone has 27g. Aside from low-carb baked goods, Panera bread has some low-carb soups and salads. For salads, go with the greek salad (13g carbs), Caesar salad (14g carb), and seasonal greens salad (20g carbs).
For soups, choose a cup size of low-fat chicken noodle soup (11g carbs), the broccoli cheddar soup (19g carbs), or the cream of chicken and wild rice soup (18g carbs).
Jimmy Johns has a prominently featured low-carb option on their menu, the Jimmy John’s Unwich. The lowest carb unwich is the J.J. B.L.T Unwich which goes for $5.5 and has 1g carb, 12g proteins, and 315 cals. It comes with lettuce, bacon or big John beef, and tomato all dressed in mayo. Jimmy Johns also have a variety of lettuce wrapped unwiches including the gourmet smoked ham ($6.49, 6g carb, 28g proteins, and 415 cal) and the Italian nightclub unwich ($6.79, 4g carb, 29g proteins, 589 cal).
Five Guys and Fries
When you get into Five Guys, you’ll definitely be distracted with the sights and smells of burgers and fries. Avoid the temptation by ordering yourself some of their delicious low carb menu items. You can never go wrong with their lettuce-wrapped and bowl hot dogs and cheeseburgers. Watch your toppings. Jalapenos, mayo, and mushrooms go well with cheeseburgers. Mustard and onion are wonderful on my hot dog. Take it easy with the ketchup and relish as they are carb-heavy.
Back in 2003, Blimpie introduced a carb Counter menu to continue their tradition of healthy and delicious sandwiches and subs. The carb counter menu has all the classic items including chicken, turkey, and beef sandwiches. Their garden vegetable soups and salads are all low carb. You can also order any of their classic sandwiches and subs either in a bowl or lettuce wrapped.
How Healthy Is a Low Carb Fast Food Meal?
Fast food meals are traditionally regarded as unhealthy. However, in the last decade or two, many restaurants have switched to healthier menu items due to public pressure and out of fear of lawsuits. Salads, soups, and fresh juices have gained popularity all across America and the world. To lower your carb intake without losing out on the fun and delicacies of a fast food restaurant, it is important to be very careful with your orders.
Bread, rice, and underground veggies are out. So are fries and rice. Watch for the nutritional content of your sides and condiments. For the best experience, research your restaurant menus in advance. It will help you avoid impulse choices and stick to your health and weight goals.