I’m on a mission to order low carb at the top 30 fast food chains in the US. One month is what I’ve given myself to complete the mission, so I’ll be eating a lot of fast food over the next 30 days.
If you want to follow along, you can subscribe to updates at the end of this post.
For each fast food restaurant I’m evaluating:
- Availability of low carb entrees (less than 20 net carbs).
- Satiety of low carb entrees.
- Price of low carb entrees.
- Taste of low carb entrees.
- Ordering experience.
My most recent stop was at Chick-Fil-A which has a location about 3 miles from my house. It’s one of the few fast food places that I wish were a bit closer.
From a business standpoint, Chick-Fil-A is the gold standard by which other fast food restaurants are measured. They are #1 in revenue per store for fast food chains, bringing in $2.85 million per location.
Their nuggets are also famously delicious. But are they low carb?
Let’s find out.
Overall Ratings for Chick-Fil-A
I rate Chick-Fil-A as low carb friendly because you can order their nuggets, bunless fried chicken sandwiches, and bunless breakfast sandwiches without cheating your low carb diet.
- Low carb friendly – Yes.
- Low carb entrees on menu – Yes. They have fried chicken nuggets (~1 net carb per nugget), grilled chicken nuggets (0 net carbs per nugget), and three different grilled chicken salad varieties that qualify. You can also special order bunless chicken sandwiches and bunless breakfast sandwiches.
- Satiety of low carb entrees – Average. For my first meal at Chick-Fil-A I had a smorgasboard of grilled nuggets, fried nuggets, and a garden salad. I felt pretty full, but still found room for additional snacks after. For my second meal, I had two bunless chicken sandwiches and similarly felt full, but soon after found myself snacking. Their bunless breakfast sandwiches were very filling, but they seemed to give me extra food on accident (see the “What I Ordered” section of this post).
- Taste of low carb entrees – Above Average. Long story, short: everything fried was delicious, anything grilled was mostly just OK. More on this in the “What I Ordered” section.
- Price / value of low carb entrees – Average. I paid $10.13 for 8 fried nuggets, 8 grilled nuggets, and a side salad for my first order. For my second order, I paid $9.94 for two bunless chicken sandwiches. For breakfast, I paid $4.50 for two bunless breakfast sandwiches which is a good value.
- Ordering experience – Average. Everyone at Chick-Fil-A was friendly & astute, and the orders came back accurate, but drive-thru wait times are extra long because the restaurants are so popular. The drive-thru attendant also had some problems processing my bunless breakfast sandwich order.
Chick-Fil-A is a relatively hospitable place for low carb eaters, especially if you can eat your meal right away while it’s piping hot. You just have to avoid a few trap foods that sound low carb but actually aren’t. You can read more about those foods in the “What you should avoid” section.
What I ordered
My first order was an 8-count fried chicken nugget (8-10 net carbs), 8-count grilled chicken nugget (0 net carbs), and a side salad (3 net carbs). The idea was to get something indulgent, something filling, and something green.
I forgot to order their Creamy Buffalo Ranch sauce as I was intending, so I mixed my own sauce using ranch dressing and Frank’s Red Hot Sauce.
I let my food sit too long before eating it and the fried nuggets cooled off and got a little more chewy than optimal, but they were still very good. The side salad with ranch dressing was surprisingly delicious even after sitting for awhile. The grilled nuggets weren’t that tasty and didn’t look as awesome as I expected. They were kind of bland and dry too. For comparison, KFC is a much better option for grilled chicken if you’re in the mood for it.
Dipping the grilled nuggets in my homemade sauce made them far more enjoyable.
At about 660 Calories and 15 net carbs it was a satisfying order. I was just disappointed in myself in waiting so long to eat it and the grilled nuggets were kind of a downer.
For my second order, I tried their bunless Spicy Chicken Deluxe sandwich and their bunless Grilled Chicken Club sandwich.
This was an amazing order. I preferred it to the nuggets, surprisingly. The bunless Spicy Deluxe was the better of the two sandwiches, but it comes with a high carb tax — 14 net carbs. The bunless Chicken Club has only 5 net carbs (mostly from the lettuce and tomatoes), but the grilled chicken breast isn’t nearly as indulgent and decadent tasting as their spicy fried chicken breast.
You can finagle down the carbs a little on the orders by asking them to sub pickles for tomatoes. I didn’t do it, but you can.
You can also up the calories by adding one of their low carb sauces or dressings on top.
For my third order, I went for breakfast, sneaking in right before their 10:30AM cutoff. I got a bunless Fried Chicken Egg & Cheese bagel and a bunless Sausage Egg & Cheese biscuit.
The drive-thru operator noticeably struggled with my bunless breakfast sandwich orders. It seemed like she needed a moment to check with her manager to see if it was even possible. Then she must have keyed it in incorrectly, because when I pulled up to the checkout window, the manager who apparently replaced her recited my order and it was incorrect. That frazzled the manager a bit. I told her what I actually ordered and she collected her composure and told me to drive to the front of the parking lot, turn on my hazard lights, and they’d bring my order right out.
Despite the delay, everything turned out fine in the end and my bunless breakfast sandwiches were delicious. Plus, they gave me double sausage and double eggs. I only paid $4.50 total for the whole meal, so it was a great value.
The breakfast sandwiches were great and at 10 net carbs and 630 calories for the two bunless sandwiches (not counting the free extra food they included), it was very filling and low carb.
What you should order
This depends on how tightly you’re rationing your carbs.
If you’re being very strict and don’t have many carbs to ration, then order two bunless Grilled Chicken Clubs. That’ll be a 12 net carb order with 750 calories. I’d recommend requesting ranch & buffalo dipping sauces for added flavors if you go this route.
If you have some carbs to spare, as I did when I ordered the day of writing this, I recommend you get one bunless Spicy Deluxe Chicken sandwich and one bunless Grilled Chicken Club. That’ll be about 20 net carbs and 630 calories.
Subbing pickles for tomatoes can save you 1-2 net carbs per sandwich…just fyi.
If you’ll be eating while driving and a bunless chicken sandwich sounds too messy, I’d recommend a 12-count fried nugget which is 12 net carbs. I get this all the time when I’m road tripping.
For breakfast, get a bunless Chicken, Egg & Cheese Bagel as that’s a fairly unique breakfast item that Chick-Fil-A does well.
What you can order
The grilled chicken nuggets and the bunless grilled chicken sandwiches are your lowest carb options for lunch or dinner. The fried chicken nuggets are 1 net carb per nugget, so order them in moderation — no double twelve-pack orders…sorry. The fried chicken breast filets have about 10-12 net carbs per filet, so again, not something where you should be ordering more than one per visit.
They have three salads that are technically low carb, but have more carbs than I like in a salad (net carbs in parentheses):
- Grilled Chicken Asian Salad (19)
- Grilled Chicken Cobb Salad (17)
- Grilled Market Salad (13)
Really, you should only order one of their salads if that’s close to all the carbs you plan to eat for the day.
For breakfast you can order one of their Breakfast Platters without the biscuit (eggs, breakfast meat / chicken, & gravy) or one of their breakfast sandwiches without the bun (eggs, cheese, breakfast meat / chicken).
It’s the same, custom low carb menu I used to plan my three different order before going to Chick-Fil-A for this fast food challenge.
What you should avoid
The most difficult thing about Chick-Fil-A is not getting fooled by their “we-sound-healthy-but-are-actually-high-carb” options. There are many of them.
Here is a list of the tricky items to avoid:
Tempting sauces to avoid:
- Barbecue Sauce (AVOID – 11 net carbs)
- Chick-fil-A Sauce (AVOID – 6 net carbs)
- Honey Mustard Sauce (AVOID – 11 net carbs)
- Polynesian Sauce (AVOID – 14 net carbs)
- Sriracha Sauce (AVOID – 10 net carbs)
Tempting sides to avoid:
- Chicken Tortilla Soup (AVOID – 14 net carbs)
- Cole Slaw (AVOID – 16 net carbs)
- Fruit Cup (AVOID – 15 net carbs)
- Hearty Breast of Chicken Soup (AVOID – 17 net carbs)
- Kale Superfood Side Salad (AVOID – 21 net carbs)
Tempting entrees to avoid:
- Chick-n-Strips 4-Count (AVOID – 28 net carbs)
They also have a Chicken Salad, that I think is somewhat new and unlisted on the drive-thru menu. I ordered it and it’s pretty good on top of a side salad, but I can’t find the carb count for on the company’s website.
My guess is that it’s fairly low carb based on my taste test, but that’s one you’d have to order at your own risk until Chick-Fil-A updates their site.
My next low carb / keto ordering guide will be for Dunkin (censored). Oh, the lengths I’ll go to prove that you can eat low carb almost anywhere.
To get my Dunkin (censored) low carb ordering guide via email, sign up here:
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I’ll also report back with final results for how this fast food experiment affects my health, well-being, and bank account. And you’ll get some simple low carb recipes and other tips from me for all the times you’re not eating in a fast food joint.
aka “Mr. SkinnyPants”