Most burgers and fast-casual menu items are built upon notorious carb offenders like buns, wraps and slices of bread, but not all fast-food meals are overflowing with the forbidden nutrient — and not all carbs are created equal. That’s why a growing number of low-carb diet plans now require followers to count net carbs—a number calculated by subtracting a food’s fiber content from its total carbohydrates—instead of total carbohydrates. And since fiber is a nutrient proven to accelerate weight loss and boost health, we’re fans of this more flexible approach.
To help you stick to your low-carb plan—even if you find yourself at a restaurant that serves chicken out of a bucket—we’ve hunted down 10 delicious orders that fit the nutritional bill. All of the better-for-you meals below have fewer than 27 grams of net carbs (the amount anyone in phases three or four of Atkins 20 should aim to take in at each meal) and a reasonable amount of calories, fat and sodium.
Kentucky Grilled Chicken with Green Beans
Net carbs: 2 g
Nutrition: 240 calories, 7 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 990 mg sodium, 4 g carbs, 2 g fiber, less than 1 g sugar, 41 g protein
With just two grams of net carbs, this is the lowest carbohydrate fast-food meal you’re going to find. Though 240 calories may not seem like enough to fill you up, this meal’s mega hit of slow-digesting protein is sure to keep hunger at bay long after you’ve taken your last bite. Tend to burn through fuel quickly? Tide yourself over with one of our go-to low-carb snacks for weight loss.
Protein Style Hamburger with Onion
Net carbs: 8 g
Nutrition: 240 calories, 17 g fat, 4 g saturated fat, 370 mg sodium, 11 g carbs, 3 g fiber, 13 g protein, 7 g sugar
In-N-Out Burger jumped ahead of the low-carb curve when it started flipping burgers from buns to lettuce wraps in 1955. Serving burgers the “protein style” way cuts 150 calories and 28 carbs, a quick fix that doesn’t sacrifice the energy-boosting protein.
Salad with Chicken, Fajita Vegetables, Tomatillo Green-Chili Salsa and Cheese
Net carbs: 8.5 g
Nutrition: 325 calories, 15 g fat, 8 g saturated fat, 925 mg sodium, 11 g carbs, 2.5 g fiber, 4.5 g sugar, 40 g protein
Chipotle is a Mexican minefield when it comes to carb-overload. Although the fresh-food establishment typically gets praised for the integrity of its ingredients, it’s the customization of its menu items that puts it at the top of our list. We scoured the menu for the lowest carb salad add-ins such as chicken, tomatillo green-chilli salsa and cheese to create our own low-carb fajita salad. Don’t forget to say “no, gracias” to a side of chips, which pack nearly seven times the carbs of this entire meal!
Small BBQ Ranch Chicken Salad with Light Drizzle of Dressing
Net carbs: 12.5 g
Nutrition: 325 calories, 19.5 g fat, 5.75 g saturated fat, 855 mg sodium, 17 g carbs, 4.5 g fiber, 4.5 g sugar, 24 g protein
Just because you’re cutting carbs doesn’t mean you have to skimp on flavor — and the BBQ Ranch Chicken Wrap is the perfect example. Nix the Italian herb tortilla to transform your wrap to a salad and save 185 calories and 47 grams of carbs, a move available for any of Quiznos’ five wraps. The beauty of a salad is the power to pour as much—or as little—dressing as you want. A small amount of a truly flavorful dressing will go a long way, and a drizzle of this BBQ Ranch is all you need.
Oven Roasted Chicken Salad with Light Drizzle of Oil and Vinegar & Apple Slices
Net carbs: 13 g
Nutrition: 270 calories, 13 g fat, 1.25 g saturated fat, 280 mg sodium, 19 g carbs, 6 g fiber, 11 g sugar, 19 g protein
Though a pack of apples and a grilled chicken salad with oil and vinegar may not sound like the most exciting meal at Subway, it’s one that will keep you on track with your low-carb plan and help accelerate your weight loss. The veggies are packed with fiber and water, two nutrients that help boost satiety, and the extra virgin olive oil increases blood levels of serotonin, a hormone that keeps hunger pangs at bay — and diet-derailing junk food off of your plate.
Premium Asian Salad with Grilled Chicken with Half Packet Low Fat Sesame Ginger Dressing
Net carbs: 13.5 g
Nutrition: 310 calories, 10.25 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 940 mg sodium, 19 g carbs, 5.5 g fiber, 14.5 g sugar, 31.5 g protein
This is the exact opposite of your typical bed of droopy fast-food greens. This salad bowl is filled with greens like kale, protein-packed edamame, red bell peppers (a veggie that’s been shown to boost metabolism) and snow peas, and topped with crunchy almonds and sweet mandarin oranges. Stick to half a packet of dressing to keep carbs, calorie sodium and sugar under control.
JACK IN THE BOX
Grilled Chicken Salad with Low-Fat Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing (No Croutons)
Net carbs: 12 g
Nutrition: 277 calories, 11 g fat, 5 g saturated fat, 1,120 mg sodium, 17 g carbs, 5 g fiber, 9 g sugar, 30 g protein
Right in line with the nature of its name, Jack in the Box has many menu items that might catch you off guard. The Chicken Teriyaki Bowl from the “Better for You” menu is one of the worst offenders, delivering over 130 grams of carbs and making us wonder how much better for you it really is. Your best bet is a simple Grilled Chicken Salad, which is packed full of protein and boasts healthy fats from the dressing. Leave no room for surprises by asking for your salad without croutons — you’ll cut seven grams of carbs.
Whole Classic with Chicken Salad with light drizzle of Herb Vinaigrette
Net carbs: 18 g
Nutrition: 410 calories, 24 fat, 4 saturated fat, 510 mg sodium, 21 g carbs, 3 g fiber, 13 g sugar, 27 g protein
When it comes to low-carb, any restaurant with “bread” in the title should raise a red flag. The aroma of freshly baked bagels and breads is enough to make you abandon your healthy order in favor of a carbfest, so we’ve made it simple. The Whole Classic with Chicken Salad is a safe staple to any low-carb diet, with only 20 grams of carbs before added dressing. Be sure to ask for your herb vinaigrette on the side to avoid lettuce doused in added calories and fat, and challenge yourself to use the minimum amount of dressing possible.
STEAK N’ SHAKE
Chipotle Steakburger Shooter and a Small Garden Salad with Zesty Italian Dressing
Net carbs: 22 g
Nutrition: 285 calories, 18 g fat, 4 g saturated fat, 845 mg sodium, 23 g carbs, 1 g fiber, 6 g sugar, 8 g protein
Steak N’ Shake is famous for its burgers and shakes, two words not typically synonymous with “healthy” or “low carb.” Instead of filling up on a hearty Steakburger, opt for a Shooter, the miniature form of the famous burger. For a tiny burger, you’ll still get big flavor thanks to the spicy Chipotle sauce. Add a small garden salad to round out your meal; that way, you can have your cake—er, burger—and eat it too!
Reduced-Fat Turkey Bacon Breakfast Sandwich
Net carbs: 26 g
Nutrition: 230 calories, 6 g fat, 2.5 g saturated fat, 560 mg sodium, 28 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 3 g sugar, 13 protein
Once upon a time, Starbucks was a fine place for coffee, but a dangerous place for fancy coffee drinks and food. That’s no longer the case. The coffee shop giant calls upon protein-rich turkey bacon, eggs and an English muffin that’s relatively low in carbs to create a sandwich that’s brimming with nutrients (like calcium and iron)—not calories or carbohydrates.