I’m on a mission to order low carb at the top 30 fast food chains in the US. Two weeks is what I’ve given myself to complete the mission, so I’ll be eating a lot of fast food over the next 14 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 third stop is KFC which has a location about 3 miles from my house. Famous for their bone-in fried chicken, biscuits, and mashed potatoes, I was a little nervous about finding something suitable for a strict low carb eater. Let’s take a look at how it went.
Overall Ratings for KFC
I rate KFC as low-carb confusing because you can get low carb entrees, but it’s not obvious from their drive-thru menu. In fact, their drive-thru menu and drive-thru operators steer you towards high carb choices.
- Low carb friendliness – Low. You need to come 100% prepared with a special request order. Their drive-thru menu is an insult to low carb humanity.
- Low carb entrees on menu – None visible at my location.
- Low carb entrees off menu – Yes. You can order limitless grilled chicken or a moderate amount of their Original fried chicken and still get a good-sized meal with less than 20 net carbs. I only knew this because I thoroughly researched their online menu before going.
- Satiety of low carb entrees – Great. I was full and even had two Original Drumsticks leftover.
- Taste of low carb entrees – Great. While I knew their fried chicken would be tasty based on past experience, I was especially impressed by their grilled chicken breasts which were more juicy & indulgent than I expected. They leave the skin on their grilled chicken breasts so it has a nice, outer crispiness that most grilled chicken breasts don’t. Pairing the grilled chicken breasts with a side of green beans and buffalo sauce dip was an excellent low carb meal.
- Price of low carb entrees – Relatively expensive. Relative to McDonald’s and Subway, KFC seems a little pricier for a satiating meal. While I over-ordered on my most recent trip to KFC, my itemized receipt suggests that a “right-sized” order of two grilled chicken breasts, two Original drumsticks, and a side of green beans would cost me about $10.
- Ordering experience – Intimidating. When I made the visit to the KFC Drive Thru for this project, they were aggressively pushing something called a $5 Fill Up. According to the KFC website, a $5 Fill Up includes two pieces of chicken, a large carb-heavy side, a carb-heavy baked good, a sugary drink, and a sugary dessert.
I stuck firm to the order I had written down beforehand, but I admit being thrown off by the enticing drive-thru menu and a drive thru operator greeting me with a: “HELLO, SIR CAN I GET YOU ONE OF OUR $5 FIll UPS?” I can see a lot of people getting steered into the carb-heavy $5 Fill Ups despite having the best intentions when they arrive.
Overall, I enjoyed the food I received from KFC but found the ordering experience a little intimidating. I wouldn’t recommend it for a first-time low carb dieter who’s just getting comfortable with special ordering at fast food restaurants.
What you should order
I recommend you order two Kentucky Grilled Chicken Breasts, a small side of green beans, and special request a creamy buffalo dipping sauce at the checkout window. That’s a delicious full meal with 6 net carbs and about 600 calories.
If you’re feeling extra hungry and indulgent, you can add two Original Recipe drumsticks (fried) for 6 more net carbs and 260 more calories.
For drinks, you can get water, Sobe Lifewater, diet soda, unsweetened ice tea, or black coffee.
What I ordered
I went a little overboard on my order, getting more food than I needed. I was afraid that the chicken wouldn’t be filling, but it was. I ordered family style green beans, four Original Recipe Chicken Drumsticks (fried), and two Kentucky Grilled Chicken Breasts.
I requested a Creamy Buffalo Dipping Sauce at the checkout window because I was worried the grilled chicken breasts would be bland. They weren’t bland at all, but I was glad to have the buffalo sauce for some added flavor.
A couple of weird things bear mentioning since I’m giving a review. I initially tried to order two Spicy recipe fried drumsticks and 2 Original fried drumsticks but was told rather abruptly by the drive-thru operator that “KFC has never offered spicy chicken in their history.” Which I thought was odd because I pulled this screenshot directly from their online menu where it lists “SPICY CRISPY CHICKEN:”
Since the drive-thru operator was adamant that KFC had never offered Spicy chicken in their history, I switched my order to all Original drumsticks.
Finally, I tried to order Creamy Buffalo Dipping sauce at the drive-thru but was told I had to wait til I got to the checkout window to request sauce. I thought that was silly.
I will say that at the checkout window, that very same drive thru operator kindly doubled me up on Buffalo Sauce which had me thinking that he’d totally redeemed himself :).
What you can order
The safe play at KFC is to order their Kentucky Grilled Chicken, it has zero carbs and is surprisingly delicious. I expected it to be dry and tasteless but that wasn’t the case. It has a bit of light crispy skin on the outside and juicy, flavorful meat on the inside. Highly recommend.
If you want a little fried chicken for some variety / indulgence, I recommend getting no more than a couple pieces of their Original Recipe as that’s their lowest carb batter. Original Recipe friend chicken comes in four different cuts (net carbs in parentheses):
- Breast (9)
- Drumstick (3)
- Thigh (7)
- Whole Wing (3)
For sides at KFC you can get:
- Green beans (2)
- Caesar salad (1)
- Side salad (1)
For dipping sauce, you can get:
- Buttermilk Ranch (2)
- Creamy Buffalo (2)
And for salad dressings, your options are:
- Heinz Buttermilk (1)
- KFC Creamy Parmesan Caesar (4)
- Marzetti Light Italian (2)
Want to see the full range of KFC’s low carb options along with nutrition stats? Click here to get access to the Mr. SkinnyPants-approved Low Carb Menu for KFC with all the nutrition stats and macros.
What you should avoid
In case you’re new to low carb or keto eating, I’ll start by saying that all of KFC’s chicken sandwiches, pot pies, ‘go cups’, ‘famous bowls’, mashed potatoes, and biscuits should be avoided. Almost all their sides are too high carb (except for the aforementioned green beans, caesar salad, and house side salad).
There are some less obvious entrees and sides to avoid that I’ve listed below. They seem like they might be low carb, but aren’t.
Tempting entrees to avoid:
- Extra Crispy Chicken Tenders – 8 net carbs, per tender
- Popcorn Nuggets – 37 net carbs
Tempting sides to avoid:
- Coleslaw – 10 net carbs
- Corn – 18 net carbs
- Baked Beans – 34 net carbs
Tempting sauces to avoid:
- Honey Mustard Sauce – 6 net carbs
- Barbecue Sauce – 9 net carbs
- Sweet n Tangy Barbecue Sauce – 12 net carbs
Tempting salad dressings to avoid:
- Hidden Valley Ranch – 8 net carbs
Basically, stick to KFC’s grilled chicken and green beans and you’ll be fine :).
My next low carb / keto ordering guide will be for Starbucks. I ate breakfast there a few mornings ago. It was kind of a challenge, but I figured it out.
To get my Starbucks low carb eating guide via email, sign up here:
Follow My Low Carb Fast Food Challenge
I'll send you specific recommendations on what to order every time you're in a Top 30 Fast Food Chain like McDonald's, Subway, or Chick Fil A, etc.
Enter your email above and I’ll send you low carb / keto ordering guides for Starbucks plus all 30 top fast food chains in the US. In addition, you’ll receive me final results for how this fast food experiment affects my health, well-being, and bank account.
And you’ll get some low carb recipes and other tips from me for all the times you’re not eating in a fast food joint.
aka “Mr. SkinnyPants”