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 Taco Bell which has three locations within three miles of my house. For you geometry nuts, I live in the centroid of a Taco Bell triangle. If this were circa 2003, that would be perfect. As a present day low carb eater, not so much.
Let’s see if Taco Bell can surprise me and deliver a good low carb eating experience.
Overall Ratings for Taco Bell
I rate Taco Bell as low-carb friendly thanks to their mini-Breakfast Skillets and Power Menu Bowls where you can essentially build your own meal out of proteins, cheese, and a few veggies. Looks like the Power Menu was rolled out in 2014, a smart move Taco Bell made to compete with Chipotle for some of that healthy tex-mex market.
- Low carb friendly – Yes
- Low carb entrees on menu – Yes. Their Power Menu Bowls become low carb when you omit the rice and beans. Their Mini Breakfast Skillet is low carb once you omit the potatoes.
- Satiety of low carb entrees – Average. For lunch one afternoon, I ordered a Power Menu Steak Bowl with extra ground beef, extra guacamole, and creamy jalapeno sauce for additional calories and that still wasn’t enough food. For the $8 I paid, I was hoping to be more full after eating it. I could have easily eaten one or two more Power Menu Bowls. For breakfast a few days later, I ordered a Mini Breakfast Skillet which was surprisingly filling.
- Taste of low carb entrees – Excellent. I have to give Taco Bell credit here. The Power Menu Bowl I ordered tasted amazing and indulgent. I didn’t feel like I was missing out by ordering it as opposed to the more carb-heavy options I used to order at Taco Bell in the past. The Mini Breakfast Skillet I ordered for breakfast is the best breakfast item I’ve had so far during this fast food challenge.
- Price / value of low carb entrees – Average. I usually associate Taco Bell with affordability but $7.69 for my Power Menu Bowl felt a little high. They probably should have comped me $1 off for omitting the rice and beans from my bowl. The Mini Breakfast Skillet, on the other hand, was super affordable at only $3.55 for what amounted to a full breakfast for me.
- Ordering experience – Above Average. I remember the drive-thru operators being patient with me for both of my orders, despite my special requests.
Ordering a custom Power Menu Bowl without rice and beans certainly works as a low carb lunch or dinner. It’s somewhat expensive for what you get though.
Part of me wonders if you would get better value by ordering two of their new Double Chalupas ($3.49 each), for example, and ask for them to omit the the Chalupa shells. Maybe one of my readers will try this.
What I ordered
I ordered a Power Menu Steak Bowl (request “no beans, no rice”) with extra guacamole, ground beef, and creamy jalapeno sauce.
It was good damn good. Gone in 30 seconds. I ate it so fast, that I was left wanting. I should have ordered two. I had to eat sliced ham, pepper jack cheese, and banana peppers at the house to feel good & satisfied.
While doing some Taco Bell menu research the morning of writing this post, I discovered that they offered breakfast and had something on the $1 breakfast menu called the Mini Skillet. It came standard with eggs, nacho cheese sauce, pico de gallo and potatoes. By removing the potatoes and adding some extras, I thought I could build a filling low carb breakfast with it.
So I raced back to Taco Bell at 10:30am to try it. I got the Mini Skillet with no potatoes and had them add extra steak, bacon, and guacamole.
It was delicious. The best breakfast item I’ve eaten on this fast food challenge to date. The nacho cheese sauce added a creamy and indulgent flavor that I wasn’t used to for breakfast, but really enjoyed. At $3.45 the Mini Skillet was a steal.
What you should order
I don’t eat at Taco Bell very often so I can only speak for what I ordered during this fast food challenge…which was delicious.
For lunch or dinner, I recommend a Power Menu Steak Bowl (request “no beans, no rice”) with extra guacamole, extra ground beef, and creamy jalapeno sauce.
That’s 395 calories and 9 net carbs. If you’re pretty hungry, I’d recommend ordering two.
For breakfast, get the Mini Skillet with no potatoes. For extra caloric boost & deliciousness, I recommend adding extra steak, bacon, and guacamole.
Get a glass of ice water as your drink.
What you can order
For lunch & dinner, you can get the Power Menu Bowls without rice and beans. You may also be able to order other items like ground beef tacos and special request that it’s put in a bowl without the tortilla (I haven’t tried this as of writing this post but the drive-thru operator at my location suggested it was possible).
For breakfast, you can get a Mini Skillet without the potatoes.
For both the Power Menu Bowls and Mini Skillets, you’re going to want to add extras for more calories to make them more filling. Here’s a sample of the ingredients you can add:
- Add Fire Grilled Chicken
- Add Steak
- Add Seasoned Ground Beef
- Add Bacon
- Add Guacamole
- Add Shredded Cheddar Cheese
- Add Sour Cream
- Add Jalapenos
- Add Extra Nacho Cheese Sauce
In terms of customizing your bowls and skillets for optimal calories & personal enjoyment, it would be advantageous to study my low carb Taco Bell menu before going.
It’s the same, custom low carb menu I used to plan my order before going to Taco Bell for this fast food challenge.
What you should avoid
Avoid all of Taco Bell’s rices, beans, potatoes, taco shells, chalupa shells, tortillas, tortilla bowls, tortilla chips, and desserts. They’re too high carb.
They don’t really have any tricky items on their menu that seem low carb, but aren’t.
My next low carb / keto ordering guide will be for Pizza Hut. I’m leaving no stone unturned in this fast food challenge :).
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aka “Mr. SkinnyPants”