Suspect #1 in the obesity epidemic is fast food, yet I have come to sing its (limited) praises.
Can you stick to a low-carb, high-fat diet at fast food restaurants?
It is possible to eat fast food and be healthy. Heck, in his hilarious documentary Fat Head, my friend Tom Naughton proved that you can lose weight and improve your blood work while eating nothing but fast food for a solid month. It all depends on your choices.
Unlike most of the food service industry, fast food restaurants make extensive nutritional information available. Much of it is carbage, and cannot be recommended, but the numbers are there. Visit your favorite fast food joints’ websites and look at their nutrition stats. Many allow you to “hold” items, giving you an accurate count. Figuring out what works for you should take no more than five or ten minutes.
Ditch the bread and watch out for salads
Burger joints are easy – a bunless hamburger, cheeseburger, or bacon cheeseburger, with a side salad if you like, make a HEAL-friendly meal. Some burger joints, including In-N-Out, Carl’s Junior, and Hardee’s, offer burgers “protein style,” that is to say, wrapped in lettuce. This is a great option. White Castle, on the other hand, steams the buns right onto their burgers. Skip ‘em.
Be wary of fast food salads. Carb-heavy ingredients such as dried cranberries, grapes, diced apple, and glazed nuts are common. Skip croutons, tortilla strips, and chow mein noodles, as well. “Crispy” chicken is breaded; order grilled chicken if it’s available. If grilled chicken isn’t on the menu, it’s probably best to skip the salad. Dressings require caution, so read the packet first. Caesar is usually safe, and ranch often is, as long as it’s not “low fat,” in which case, the fat has been replaced with corn syrup.
What about sandwich joints – Subway, Quizno’s, Jimmy John’s, and the like? Subway will turn any sandwich into a salad, while Jimmy John’s makes “Unwiches,” also known as lettuce wraps. Quizno’s has a few salads on their menu. Once again, approach salads with caution. It is possible to eat enough vegetables to blow past your 5-gram-per-meal limit, and the same cautions about salad dressings apply here. Also, any meat that’s been ground up and reformed should be eyed askance; chances are, carbs have been added. To that end, I’d advise skipping their meatball “sub salad.”
Chicken: seek out grilled or roasted
No matter where you eat, chicken “nuggets” and “tenders” are invariably breaded; the same goes for “boneless wings.” Bone-in wings vary by restaurant, so ask if they’ve been floured or breaded. Choose low-carb buffalo sauce over sugary barbecue sauce.
KFC can’t decide whether they want to sell unbreaded chicken or not. They’ve done “tender roast” and “grilled.” Both were good, but they’ve only been available at “participating” restaurants. The KFC website still shows grilled chicken as a menu item, but the past several times I’ve stopped at a KFC they’ve told me they didn’t carry it. If you can find it, great. The only HEAL-friendly side at KFC is the green beans. Sadly, their coleslaw is loaded with sugar.
If you’re in Kenny Rogers Roasters or Boston Market territory, you can get roasted chicken with no breading. Choose your sides carefully. I’d be more likely to grab a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store along with a stop at the salad bar.
Seafood, tacos, and pizza
Long John Silver’s offers baked shrimp or cod; skip the corn, rice, and hush puppies. Unfortunately, all the chicken, fish, and seafood at Popeyes is breaded. Taco Bell has a “Power Menu Bowl” that could be altered to be HEAL-friendly by leaving out the rice and beans.
Pizza Hut has wings! Or order a pizza with extra cheese and meat and eat the toppings. Toss the crust; it’s just an edible napkin. With a sugar-free iced tea or soda, you’ll have a meal that will keep you going and keep you on a keto-friendly plan.