eat these 9 fast foods that fit into a low-carb diet

Jill Bridges, SATI STAFF

Although it goes by many different names such as South Beach or ketogenic, a low-carb diet is a popular choice for people looking to lose weight and live a healthier lifestyle. While it can be easy to stick to your low-carb diet when you’re in the comfort of your own home, it can be extremely difficult when you go out to eat, particularly if your friends or family want to grab a bite at a fast food restaurant.

Temptation is the biggest obstacle to a low-carb diet, and for many people there’s no greater temptation than fast food. Take a look at the menu of your favorite fast food restaurant and you’ll notice that almost every item is loaded with carbohydrates. However, contrary to what you might believe, it is possible to enjoy a fast food meal while maintaining your carb-free lifestyle. All you need is a little willpower and a few tips.

Here are a few low-carb friendly fast foods that you can eat guilt-free the next time you find yourself in your favorite fast food place.

Reasons to go low-carb

While almost everyone is familiar with low-carb diets, few people understand the benefits of this popular lifestyle choice. If you’ve been thinking about switching to a low-carb diet, it can be a good idea to learn more about what this diet entails and a few of its primary benefits.

The primary reason that a person chooses a low-carb diet is that it results in rapid weight loss. When your body is deprived of carbs, which it normally uses to create energy, it will then turn to your body’s fat cells, resulting in weight loss [3,4]. In addition, cutting out carbohydrates from your diet can decrease the size of your stomach, which lessens your feelings of hunger.

While a low-carb diet is great for weight loss, it also provides several other benefits that you may find attractive. For example, low-carb diets have been linked to improved cognition, a decreased risk for some types of cancer and better control over your body’s blood sugar and insulin levels [1]. If you’re looking to overhaul your health, switching to a carb free diet can be a great decision.

Subs without carbs

If you’re like many people, then there is no better fast food meal than a submarine sandwich. Unfortunately, when you order a sub, you’ll be getting a tremendous amount of bread, derailing your efforts at a low-carb lifestyle. Luckily, even when you’re on a low-carb diet, you can still stop by your favorite sub shop on occasion, provided you make a smart meal choice.

Almost all of the popular sandwich restaurants provide an option called ‘sub in a tub.’ When you order a sub in a tub, you’ll be getting all of your favorite submarine sandwich ingredients served in a bowl instead of on bread. Considering a standard sub sandwich comes with 50 grams of carbohydrates, ordering a sub in a tub is a good decision for anyone attempting a low-carb diet.

To get the most benefits of your sub in a tub, try to make sure your ingredients are rich in protein and fiber [5]. Choices like turkey and cheese, chicken salad or a turkey club will provide you great nutrition with almost no carbs. You can also have your sub in a tub prepared as a salad for an even more nutritious meal.

Go grilled

Who doesn’t like a delicious piece of fried chicken every now and then? Although you can enjoy a fried chicken dinner occasionally without much worry, consuming this food on a regular basis can have very negative consequences for your health. During the frying process, a piece of chicken absorbs a tremendous amount of oil, which can increase your risk of heart disease. Not to mention the fact that a single piece of chicken can have over ten grams of carbs.

The next time you find yourself in a fast food chicken restaurant, request grilled chicken instead of fried. Virtually every chicken restaurant, even those that specialize in fried chicken, will offer a grilled option, meaning you can stick to your low-carb diet while eating a tasty meal [6,7]. Unlike fried chicken, grilled chicken has only a single gram of carbohydrates, which is ideal for the carb-free lifestyle.

When requesting a grilled chicken option, make sure that you’re also ordering low-carb friendly sides. Avoid the standard mashed potatoes or mac and cheese and choose healthier options like green beans or coleslaw instead. Make the right choices and you can easily have a meal at your favorite fried chicken joint.

Picking the right drink

When you’re on a low-carb diet, one of the most important things that you can do is to choose beverages that are free of carbohydrates. It is for this reason that low-carb devotees typically drink large amounts of coffee or tea. In addition to being carb free, these drinks provide high levels of caffeine, which provide several health benefits like an increased metabolic rate and quicker mental processing [8,9,28].

However, if you don’t drink your coffee black or your tea plain, you need to be very careful about what you’re adding to your hot drink. Instead of choosing milk, which can add unnecessary carbohydrates, you can request half and half, which possesses almost no carbohydrate content. If it’s available, you can add heavy cream to your drink. Don’t use too much heavy cream, however, as its calorie content can be a little high.

If you’re lactose intolerant or are simply interested in lowering your dairy intake, you can add almond or soy milk to your drink, both of which are almost completely carb-free. By choosing the right additives, you can have a scrumptious hot drink that has little to no carb content.

Mexican food in a bowl

Mexican food is one of the most popular fast food choices across the country, and while this type of cuisine is certainly tasty, it is also heavy in carbohydrates due to the tortillas or taco shells. If you’ve been craving a delicious Mexican meal but are concerned about the carb content, you’ll be pleased to learn that the majority of Mexican fast food restaurants offer the option of making your meal in a bowl [10].

For instance, a salad or bowl that includes vegetables, meat or chicken and avocado will contain fourteen carbs or less while providing you with high fiber content and an impressive amount of protein. You’ll even be consuming beneficial fats thanks to the avocado.

In addition to serving as a low-carb meal, Mexican bowls or salads provide several health benefits thanks to their high fiber and protein content [11]. Diets that are high in protein and fiber trigger the production of hormones in the stomach that signal satiation, causing you to eat less food and aiding your weight loss efforts. Getting a health, low-carb meal is easy when you choose a Mexican bowl or salad.

Skip the bun

Although the modern fast food industry provides almost limitless choices across a variety of cuisines, the most popular choice is still a juicy hamburger. No matter the fast food restaurant you prefer, it’s hard to resist a fresh made hamburger with your favorite toppings. However, like almost every fast food option, hamburgers are very high in carbohydrates thanks to the large bun [12].

The next time you’re in the mood for your favorite fast food hamburger, consider going bun-less by choosing a lettuce wrapped burger. A lettuce wrapped burger transforms your meal from high carbs to virtually carb-free, allowing you to chow down no your burger without worry.

When choosing a lettuce wrapped burger in an effort to reduce carbs, many people assume that they’ll also need to skip their favorite condiments. Happily, some of the most popular burger toppings are nearly carb free. Cheese, for example, contains less than one carbohydrate per slice. Condiments like mustard and mayonnaise contain a single carb per tablespoon. Select the right toppings and you’ll be able to eat a delectable, custom made lettuce wrapped burger.

Resist the pizza

For many people, the biggest drawback of choosing a low-carb diet is being unable to enjoy their favorite carb heavy foods like pizza [13,14]. While pizza should definitely be on your do-not-eat list, you can still go to a pizza restaurant with your friends as long as you opt for a low-carb meal choice.

The next time you’re in a pizza restaurant or sports bar that serves pizza, you should consider an order of buffalo wings. For starters, buffalo wings will give you the protein content that you need as part of your low-carb diet. Secondly, unlike sweet sauces such as teriyaki, buffalo wing sauce is very low in carbs, with as little as three grams or fewer per serving.

If the restaurant where you’re eating provides this option, you can request that your buffalo be prepared on the grill without breading instead of being fried. This will both make your wings much healthier and will further eliminate carbohydrates from your meal. While eating your wings, don’t neglect the carrot or celery sides. While slightly higher in carbs than other vegetables, they still provide valuable nutrition.

Building a low-carb breakfast

Breakfast is often said to be the most important meal of the day, and while this is true, breakfast poses a big risk to a carb-free diet. Some of the most popular breakfast foods are positively loaded with carbohydrates, including pancakes, waffles, muffins, doughnuts, biscuits and bagels. While it may be tempting to indulge in one of these high-carb breakfast treats, the better idea is to choose a carb-friendly breakfast option [15,16, 24].

A traditional staple for breakfast, bacon and eggs are a great option for anyone sticking to a low-carb lifestyle. Besides being carb free, eggs keep you full for a longer period of time than other foods, helping you limit your food intake throughout the day. Eating these foods as part of a low-carb, high-protein diet have also been proven to help lower blood sugar and insulin your body.

The best part about choosing bacon and eggs is that almost every fast food breakfast establishment provides these items. Also, when you visit a sit-down restaurant, you can have your eggs prepared however you want, making for a new meal every time.

High protein salad

In certain restaurants, it can be nearly impossible to find a low-carb meal. When you visit an Italian restaurant, for instance, almost every dish on the menu will contain carbs in some form of another, making these establishments a huge risk for your low-carb efforts. Whenever you find yourself in an Italian restaurant and are looking for a low-carb option, your best bet is to order an antipasto salad [17].

If you’ve ever seen an antipasto salad on an Italian menu but have never tried it, you may be surprised to learn that this delicacy is the perfect option for anyone on a low-carb diet. A traditional antipasto salad is more akin to a meat plate, containing a wide variety of Italian meats, an assortment of cheeses, vegetables, and olives. Generally, this salad will be drizzled with an olive-oil dressing for a bold, Mediterranean flavor.

Typically, antipasto salad is served as an appetizer, making it a great low-carb snack. However, many restaurants allow you to order this salad as a meal. If you order antipasto salad as an entrée, you can expect ten or fewer carbohydrates.

Start your day with a breakfast bowl

The reason that breakfast foods are so high in carbohydrate content is that the body converts carbs into energy, giving you the fuel you need to start your day. This poses a problem to people on a low-carb diet, as the may feel more sluggish in the morning without their typical carb intake. Luckily, if you want to start your day with a tasty, energizing meal, many fast food restaurants now offer breakfast bowls.

A breakfast bowl can include a variety of nutritious ingredients [18,19], but will generally include eggs, some sort of meat, nutrient rich vegetables and healthy fats like avocado. Many of these breakfast bowls provide over twenty grams of protein and between five and seven grams of protein. When choosing a breakfast bowl, you can order straight off the menu or customize your meal to your exact tastes.

Even if you’re not on a low-carb diet, starting your day with a breakfast bowl is a good choice. The high protein content will help keep you full and decrease your appetite so that you will eat less than you would after eating a high-carb meal. Keep your energy level high by choosing a protein rich breakfast bowl.

Risks of a low-carb diet

An important part of starting any new diet is examining the potential risks. While a low-carb diet is a good decision for many people, particularly those attempting to lose weight, there are certain drawbacks that you should consider. Also, before starting your low-carb diet, make sure to consult your physician so that you can be sure you are not suffering from any underlying conditions that may be exacerbated by this diet.

The majority of low-carb diets replace the energy lost from carbohydrates with increased protein consumption. While this can be beneficial in the short-term, it may also result in some negative long-term consequences.

For example, if your low-carb diet includes too many fatty meats or high-fat foods, you run the risk of elevating your cholesterol and raising your risk for heart disease [2]. On the other hand, some studies have shown that low-carb diets may lower your levels of bad cholesterol. If you have pre-existing kidney issues, the amount of protein required for your low-carb diet may cause further damage your kidneys, reduce their functionality and cause kidney stones [20,21,22,23].

Take these risks into account before starting your low-carb diet to make sure you’re doing yourself more good than harm.

Should you try low-carb?

After learning about a few fast food options for a low-carb diet, and examining a few of the risks of this lifestyle, you might be wondering if a low-carb diet is the right choice for you. Certainly, a low-carb diet isn’t the right choice for everyone, but it does provide distinct benefits.

The best way to decide if you should attempt a low-carb diet is to examine your goals. If you’re trying to lose a large amount of weight quickly, a low-carb diet can be a great solution. However, unless you are committed to a low-carb lifestyle, you will likely rapidly regain the weight you lost as soon as you stop following the diet [29, 30].

Switching to a low-carb diet is also a good solution if you are at risk for diabetes or have a family history of neurological disorders [25,26,27]. High-protein diets have been shown to be effective for both of these issues. Just be sure that you talk to your doctor to make sure you have a plan in place to get your recommended nutrients.

The sati line

Every single year, trendy diets seem to come and go. However, the diet that has remained a popular choice for those wanting improve their health is a low-carb diet. Despite the fact that a low-carb diet has proven weight loss effects, and can even be used to reduce the symptoms of certain diseases, maintaining a low-carb lifestyle can be difficult, particularly if you regularly eat out.

Fortunately, as we have seen, you can easily venture outside for a meal with your friends or family without putting your low-carb diet at risk. Most fast food restaurants offer low-carb options and may even adjust some of their menu items at your request so that you can enjoy a low-carb meal.

By remaining aware of the different types of carbs contained in fast food and making the right choices when you go out to eat, it’s easier than you might imagine to enjoy a fast food meal while sticking to your low-carb diet.

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