Low carb eating out can be tricky, but sometimes you just have to have something on the go. There are quite a few possibilities at large chain restaurants, so low carb isn’t entirely impossible, just difficult. If you are craving fast food or an evening out, the following guide to low carb eating out can get you some ideas and help you prepare for some good eats that won’t break your diet.
General Low Carb Eating Out Tips
If you’re headed to a new restaurant and are not sure what’s on the menu, there are a couple of ways you can keep a lower carb count while still enjoying the food.
- Ask about low carb options on the menu. Many restaurants have prepared special low carb menus and will be happy to provide you with one.
- Swap the buns on a burger for lettuce, or bring your own low carb bread.
- Opt for diet soda if you are craving a soda – most have 0 carbs.
- When in doubt, go for a salad but hold the croutons.
- Swap potato sides for other vegetables such as green beans, carrots, broccoli, etc.
- Omelets are almost always a safe bet, so go for those if you can.
- Aim for something with a plain meat as the main course, such as steak, grilled chicken or fish. Choose steamed veggies for a side.
- If carbs can’t be avoided, ask for smaller portions. Many soups, for example, are suitable in one-cup servings but not in the standard meal-size bowls.
Arby’s Low Carb Menu
Arby’s has a few items on the menu that meet the criteria for low carb snacks. You can get a full size Chopped Farmhouse Chicken Salad, Roast style, for 11 grams of carbs and 3 grams of fiber. Their buttermilk ranch dressing is only 2 carbs, and honey dijon dressing has the highest carbs with 8, so you can still stay under a target of 20 carbs even with dressing.
On their side menu, Arby’s has sliced apples for 8 grams, and strawberry yogurt dip for 10. If you want to push the limits a little, their ham and cheese croissant shows up on the menu at just 22 carbs with one gram of fiber.
Arby’s complete nutrition list has all of their foods listed with carb counts for each item. This list is in PDF format.
Burger King Low Carb Food
You can get Burger King chicken tenders in 4, 6 or 8 pieces for 10, 15 and 20 grams of carbs, respectively. Fiber is 1 gram for the smaller sizes and 2 grams for the 8-piece. Two tacos come to 18 grams of carbs, with a nice 5 grams of fiber. BK Chicken Fries (6 pc) weighs in with 16 grams of carbs and 1 gram of fiber.
For side dishes, Motts’ Harvest Plus Applesauce has 13 grams, while the value size Onion Rings has just 17.
Other foods on their menu that come in at under 20 grams of carbs include the Tendergrill chicken salad, side of southwest potatoes, garden salad and the BK Breakfast Bowl.
The PDF version of their nutrition information can be found here.
Carl’s Jr. Low Carb Eating Out Guide
Carl’s actually has a low carb burger, aptly named The Low Carb Six Dollar Burger. I haven’t tried it – didn’t even know it existed – but it has only 9 grams of carbs and 1 gram of fiber. Why, oh why can’t we have a Carl’s in my town?! Oh wait, now I see why. It’s a regular burger with lettuce instead of bread. Well, you have to give them credit for trying, I suppose. You can also pick up Kid’s Hand-Breaded Chicken Tenders (2 pieces) or Hand-Breaded Chicken Tenders (3-pieces) for 10 and 14 grams of carbs and 1 gram of fiber, as well as Chicken Stars in 4 and 6 pieces for 12 and 18 grams.
A side salad has 13 grams, and you can stay under 20 with the dressings as long as you avoid the raspberry vinaigrette, which has 12 grams.
If your Carl’s has a Green Burrito too, you can get every taco but the Fish Taco for under 20 grams – that’s 8 varieties that range from 14-19 grams. Score!
See the complete nutrition guide in PDF format.
Chili’s Dining Out Options
Chili’s offers five soups on their menu, all under 20 grams of carbs if you choose the 1-cup serving. Their main dishes Classic Sirloin, Fried Shrimp with Cocktail Sauce, Grilled Salmon with Garlic & Herbs, Half Rack of Baby Back Ribs, Margarita Grilled Chicken, Monterey Chicken and Spicy Garlic & Lime Shrimp can be purchased individually and all have 20 grams or less of carbs.
On the kid’s menu, Chicken Crispers, Grilled Chicken Platter, Celery Sticks with Ranch, Broccoli and Mandarin Oranges are under 20 carbs.
Many of their sides are acceptable, too.
View the PDF complete nutrition guide.
Chipotle Mexican Grill Low Carb Eating Out Guide
Chipotle is a little more difficult to figure out. They list individual ingredients, so you really have to look at their nutritional information to pick the toppings and ingredients you want. Fortunately, there are many options so you can create a low carb taco or tortilla by choosing carefully.
Denny’s Low Carb Menu Options
If you have a hankering for a big, fat steak, the Denny’s T-Bone Steak & Eggs has only 4 grams of carbs – woohoo! You can “Build Your Own Grand Slam” with such choices as 1 carb bacon, eggs, egg whites, chicken sausage patty, and turkey bacon. Grilled ham is just 8 carbs, and sausage links 2. You can put together quite a combo and stay well below 20 grams of carbs.
Denny’s also offers omelettes that start at 8 grams of carbs and you can order chicken wings for just 3 grams of carbs.
Additionally, you can choose from multiple salads and a host of low carb side dishes, including coleslaw, shrimp, spinach and dipping veggies.
Drool over all the low carb choices in their nutrition information PDF.
Domino’s Pizza Low Carb Eating Out Guide
Domino’s offers a complete nutrition guide in PDF with the carb counts for each topping. A thin crust on a small pizza is 67 carbs, and the recommended serving size is one-quarter of the pizza, which is 16.75 carbs per serving. That doesn’t leave much room for toppings, but you could go with cheese, meats and other 0-1 carb toppings and still have a tiny snack.
Jack in the Box Low Carb Dining Choices
Jack in the Box has some pretty tasty choices in their “Healthy Dining” menu, such as Chiquita Apple Bites with Caramel for 17 carbs, or a Grilled Chicken Salad for 15. Even better, however, is Grilled Chicken Strips with Teriyaki Dipping Sauce for a mere 16 carbs.
You can also get a beef taco or egg roll for under 20 grams. They have also put together sections on lower fat, sodium or calorie options in their PDF nutritional brochure.
KFC Low Carb Snacks
When it comes to low carb, KFC is a leader in offering tasty choices that fall well below carb limits. All of their original recipe, extra crispy, spicy crispy and grilled chicken pieces are way lower than 20 carbs, with grilled pieces coming in at 0. Strips, popcorn chicken and wings all also have several choices under 20 grams of carbs.
For sides, mashed potatoes, green beans, macaroni, and 3″ corn on the cob are below 20 grams. There are several other choices on their nutrition guide that are suitable for low carb snacks.
McDonald’s Nutrition Information
For shame, for shame, McDonald’s…I expected better than this of you! If you want low carb at Mickey-D’s, you can get 4 or 6-piece nuggets, but hold the sauce. For salads, you can have Premium Bacon Ranch Salad with Grilled Chicken, or Premium Caesar Salad with Grilled Chicken for 10 carbs each.
For breakfast, satisfy yourself with a single hash brown with 15 carbs, but don’t fret, you can have apple dippers for 8 carbs, or 5 net if you deduct fiber. Hash browns and apples aren’t so bad, are they?
Low carb eating out can be found at many restaurant chains. I will continue to post updates to this as I muddle through the list of chains across the country. If you would like to see a particular restaurant added, let me know and I’ll get right to it!