Fast Food isn’t particularly known for being healthy (or low carb). While it’s not an ideal food for everyday dieting or healthy living, sometimes in order to have a social life or when you don’t have time to prepare a healthy meal, it can be a necessity.
Here’s a list of some healthy items at restaurants with hundreds or thousands of locations in the United States and around the world – if you have no time to cook and don’t have a big budget, try out some of these low cost, low carb dishes from local fast food restaurants.
TGI Friday’s – TGI Friday’s menu prices can get a little expensive relative to other chain restaurants, but it’s a fun place to go out that’s much more upscale than other restaurants in it’s category. Most locations offer delivery and takeout, as well as an option to dine in.
The restaurant isn’t known for healthy foods, but they do have a few low carb gems that are delicious and don’t contain sugar or other unhealthy carbs. According to their nutrition chart, the Classic Buffalo Wings has only 3 grams of carbs, with a serving size of 8 wings. Their Bourbon Barrel Mahi Mahi is only 260 calories and contains 4 grams of carbs, and the Bourbon Barrel Chicken is 270 calories and 5 grams of carbs. My favorite item, the Grilled Chicken Cobb Salad, comes in at 9 grams of carbs and 300 calories – a perfect lunch time meal.
Texas Roadhouse – The Texas Roadhouse menu is full of low carb items – you’re safe as long as you stick to the steak. It’s another casual dining restaurant that serves high quality food for a relatively low price.
The key with Texas Roadhouse is to make sure your sides and appetizers are also low carb – so the rib appetizer, cup of chili, and house salad are all good options, as are the sauteed mushrooms and sauteed onions. One other thing to remember is to stay away from the fresh baked rolls that come with most dishes – they’re addictive and can be hard to resist.
IHOP – I know what you’re thinking – where are you going to find low-carb options at a pancake house?! However, the IHOP menu actually has a pretty solid selection of low carb foods that are light on the wallet as well. The bad news is that you’ll have to stay away from the pancakes, but don’t worry, there’s lots of tasty and healthy choices to choose from.
Most of the omelettes include hash browns in the ingredients but are otherwise pretty good, so make sure to ask for omelettes without them and don’t be deceived. The Spinach & Mushroom Omelette, Garden Omelette, and Chicken Fajita Omelette all are safe choices that don’t include hash browns. The Californian Scramble is a great choice too, and one of my favorites.
IHOP also has a Simple & Fit menu which is full of heart healthy items that are generally low on carbs and saturated fat. The Simple & Fit Veggie Omelette is a perfect option. Most of these come with some fresh fruit, which does have some carbs, so either stay away from the side or substitute it for a meat item (like bacon or sausage) if you’re dead set on avoiding all carbs.
Chipotle Mexican Grill and Baha Fresh Mexican Grill – Both the Chipotle Mexican Grill menu and the menu for Baha Fresh Mexican Grill share a lot of similarities. They offer tacos, burritos, and other Mexican items. Fortunately, they also both offer burrito bowls (but it’s called a Baja bowl at Baja Fresh). The burrito/baja bowl is everything that should be in a burrito, but without the tortilla roll on the outside. Just make sure to request no rice or beans on the inside.
Another option at Baja is to order a salad. The Grilled Shrimp Chile lime salad and the Baja Ensalada are both excellent options, as long as you ask to remove the tortilla strips.
Red Lobster – Red Lobster is another excellent choice when looking for low carb menu items. Red Lobster recently updated their menu and now offer Endless Shrimp, which has less than 3 carbs per serving. You can choose either Shrimp Scampi or Garlic Shrimp – both are almost carb free. The Seafood Stuffed Flounder or Broiled Flouder are also excellent choices, with only 8 and 0 grams of carbs, respectively (and they are both huge servings). Both Snow Crab and King Crab legs are totally carb free (and outstanding!), as is the steamed Maine Lobster..
Many other restaurants do offer low carb items if you search for them – just make sure to be cautious with the side items, keep the croutons out of your salads, and shoot for items full of protein, such as chicken, steak, or seafood items cooked without too many sauces. While eating out on a low carb diet isn’t always easy, it’s definitely possible if you’re careful about your choices.
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