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Find the Best Fast Food Options for Diabetics At These Restaurants

If you’re worried about your blood sugar and overall diet, these fast food items are the most diabetic-friendly options.

Diabetes is a disease that occurs when the pancreas can no longer produce insulin, or the body does not utilize the insulin it produces. This process can cause an increase in blood sugar levels. While fast food is often unhealthy, there are some diabetic-friendly fast food options out there.

Delicious Mexican food good for diabetics.

There are two types of diabetes: type 1 and type 2. Type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed in children, adolescents, or young adults, while type 2 diabetes usually occurs in adults over 45.

There is no one-size-fits-all diet for diabetics, but there are some general guidelines that can help. People with diabetes should aim to eat mostly fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. They should also limit their sugar, salt, and saturated and trans fats intake.

A healthy meal for people with diabetes contains 400-500 calories, 45-60 grams of carbohydrates, fewer than 10% of calories from saturated fat, and a decent amount of fiber.

Diabetic-Friendly Fast Food 

Here’s a list of fast food options that are relatively friendly to people with diabetes:


Panera Bread

Panera Bread is a fast-casual restaurant founded in 1981. This chain offers a variety of soups, salads, sandwiches, pastries, and coffees.

Many of Panera Bread’s menu items are relatively healthy and diabetic-friendly. For example, the chain’s warm bowls contain whole grains and lean proteins.

The Mediterranean Bowl, for instance, includes quinoa, hummus, grilled chicken, and Greek yogurt.

I like the avocado, egg white, and spinach sandwich. With only 52 g of carbs, this sandwich is a good option for people with diabetes.

I also enjoy the spicy Thai salad with chicken. With 535 calories and 8 g of fiber, and 45 g of carbs, this salad is a filling and satisfying option for people with diabetes. Check out other healthy salads from Panera.


Starbucks

Starbucks is a global coffee chain with more than 30,000 locations in more than 70 countries.

Starbucks offers a variety of drinks and food items, many of which are relatively healthy and diabetic-friendly.

For example, the chain’s Iced Skinny Mocha contains nonfat milk and sugar-free chocolate syrup.

Starbucks is also an excellent place to find healthy food options. For instance, the Protein Boxes contain lean protein and whole grains.

The Turkey & Swiss Protein Box contains oven-roasted turkey, baby spinach, roasted red peppers, hummus, and whole grain mustard on multigrain bread.

I love the chicken and quinoa protein bowl with black beans because it is immensely satisfying with only 3g of saturated fat and 420 calories.


Subway

Subway specializes in customizable subs, was founded in 1965, and has over 44,000 locations in 112 countries.

Subway offers a variety of healthier alternatives to traditional fast food. I enjoy the Veggie Delite sub made with vegetables and cheese on whole wheat bread.

I also frequently order the Turkey Breast & Black Forest Ham sub made with lean meats and low-fat cheese on whole wheat bread.

Subway six-inch wheat bread contains 40 g of carbs. Add some lean meats and healthy condiments, and you’ll have a diabetes-friendly sandwich ready to go.


Chipotle

Chipotle is a fast-casual Mexican grill founded in 1993 with over 2,000 locations worldwide.

Chipotle’s menu consists primarily of burritos, tacos, and salads. You can order all of Chipotle’s menu items with chicken, steak, carnitas (braised pork), barbacoa (braised beef), or sofritas (shredded tofu).

Chipotle is a good restaurant for high protein, satisfying food options that are great for people with diabetes. For example, a chicken burrito with brown rice, black beans, fajita veggies, and salsa contains 35g of carbs and 48g of protein.

I enjoy the steak salad with romaine lettuce, black beans, grilled corn, roasted chili-corn salsa, and vinaigrette dressing. This salad contains 488 calories, 31g of carbs, and 43g of protein.

Many of Chipotle’s menu items are relatively healthy. I often go for burrito bowls with whole grains, lean proteins, and vegetables.

The Chicken Bowl, for instance, contains brown rice, black beans, chicken, tomato salsa, and lettuce.


McDonald’s

McDonald’s is a massive restaurant chain founded in 1940 with over 36,000 locations in more than 100 countries.

McDonald’s offers burgers, chicken sandwiches, salads, and breakfast items. The Chicken McNuggets are white meat chicken with no artificial colors or flavors, and the Filet-O-Fish uses wild-caught Alaskan pollock.

McDonald’s is not generally known for healthy food options, but they have made an effort to offer healthier alternatives in recent years.

For example, I’m a fan of Egg White McMuffins and Fruit & Maple Oatmeal. The oatmeal contains 4g of fat and 310 calories, while an Egg McMuffin includes 12g of fat and 300 calories.


Wendy’s

Wendy’s was founded in 1969 and has over 6,000 locations in 30 countries and offers a variety of burgers, chicken sandwiches, salads, and Frosty desserts.

The Grilled Chicken Sandwich is a good option for people with diabetes as it contains only 9g of carbs. The Caesar Side Salad is another good option with only 6g of carbs.

I also enjoy the Jr. Hamburger Deluxe as it contains 9g of carbs and is a smaller portion than the regular hamburger. Wendy’s also offers a variety of sides that are reasonably healthy, such as chili, apple slices, and baked potatoes.

Wendy’s offers a few healthier food items, such as the Power Mediterranean Chicken Salad and the Apple Pecan Chicken Salad. The Power Mediterranean Chicken Salad contains romaine lettuce, chicken breast, feta cheese, and Kalamata olives.

When I go to Wendy’s, I order the Mandarin Chicken Salad, which contains grilled chicken, romaine lettuce, mandarin oranges, and fat-free honey mustard dressing. This delicious salad has 540 calories, 3g of saturated fat, 51g of carbs, and 6g of fiber.

Check out all of Wendy’s salads for a healthier meal!


Taco Bell

Taco Bell is a fast-food chain focusing on Mexican-inspired cuisine. Taco Bell started in 1962 and now has over 7,000 locations worldwide.

Many of Taco Bell’s menu items are low-calorie and low in carbs. My secret is ordering fresco style, which replaces cheese, guacamole, and sour cream with pico de gallo. This switch cuts the fat and calories in half.

The Fresco Chicken Soft Taco is one of my favorite Taco Bell menu items, and it contains only 9 g of fat and 140 calories.

Another great option is the Fresco Grilled Steak Burrito, which has 10 g of fat and 280 calories.


Chick-fil-A

Chick-fil-A is known for chicken sandwiches, was founded in 1946, and now has over 2,000 locations nationwide.

Chick-fil-A’s menu consists mainly of sandwiches, salads, sides, and desserts. They also offer a variety of breakfast items.

Chick-fil-A has some healthy options that I enjoy. For example, the grilled chicken sandwich contains only 310 calories and 6 grams fat.

The Chick-fil-A Cobb Salad uses grilled chicken, bacon, blue cheese, boiled eggs, and romaine lettuce. With 41 g of protein and 24 g of carbs, I will eat this for dinner any day of the week.


Applebee’s

Applebee’s is a casual dining restaurant founded in 1980 with over 2,000 locations worldwide.

Applebee’s menu consists of burgers, chicken dishes, pasta, seafood, and salads. They also offer a variety of appetizers, sides, and desserts.

Applebee’s has an extensive menu and plenty of healthy meals to enjoy. The Weight Watchers menu offers many low-calorie dishes. The Grilled Chicken Breast entree, for instance, contains only 380 calories.

My favorite Strawberry Balsamic Chicken Salad features tomatoes, onions, chicken, strawberries, and almonds. 870 calories and 8g of saturated fat make this nutritional powerhouse a real treat.


Burger King

Burger King is a global fast-food restaurant founded in 1953 with over 15,000 locations in 100 countries.

Burger King’s menu consists of burgers, chicken sandwiches, salads, and breakfast items. They also offer a variety of sides, desserts, and drinks.

Burger King’s Tendercrisp Garden Salads use fresh vegetables and lean proteins.

I’m into the Chicken Tendercrisp Salad, which contains grilled chicken, romaine lettuce, tomatoes, and fat-free ranch dressing. With 26g of carbs and 470 calories, this is a good option for people with diabetes.


Jason’s Deli

Jason’s Deli is a fast-casual restaurant that boasts its family-owned and operated facilities loud and proud.

They pride themselves on using healthy, ethically sourced ingredients that not only taste great but are good for you. They offer online ordering and a rewards program for their customers. 

They offer a variety of salads, including their Mesa Chicken Salad with mixed greens, chicken breast, tomatoes, avocado, corn, and black beans.

You can turn any salad into a wrap. Not only do they have delicious salads, but they also have soups, paninis, and muffalettas.

If nothing on their menu strikes your fancy, you can create your own sandwich or salad to suit your dietary needs. 


Noodles & Company

Noodles & Company is a fast-casual chain founded in 1995 with over 500 locations nationwide.

Noodles & Company specializes in pasta and serves salads, soups, and sandwiches. Various international noodle dishes, including Chinese lo mein and Japanese pan noodles, are also available.

Many of Noodles & Company’s menu items are excellent for people with diabetes.

I love the zoodles and caulifloodles (but not the names). These are vegetable noodles that drop the carb count.

The Zucchini Scampi contains 25g of carbs and only 350 calories. Shrimp provides lean protein, and the “noodles” add 4g of fiber.


Red Robin

Red Robin is a casual dining restaurant founded in 1969 with over 500 locations nationwide.

Red Robin serves burgers, chicken dishes, salads, and soups. They also offer a variety of appetizers, sides, and desserts.

Diabetic-friendly options are all over the menu. My favorite is the Sear-ious Salmon, which contains 520 calories, 40g of fat, and 4g of fiber.

I also like to get the California Chicken Sandwich without the bun. This meal contains 490 calories, 7g of carbs, and 35g of protein.


Diabetic-Friendly Fast Food 

  1. Panera Bread
  2. Starbucks
  3. Subway
  4. Chipotle
  5. McDonald’s
  6. Wendy’s
  7. Taco Bell
  8. Chick-fil-A
  9. Applebee’s
  10. Burger King
  11. Jason’s Deli
  12. Noodles & Company
  13. Red Robin

Final Thoughts

All of the fast food chains listed above have menu items that are healthy and diabetic-friendly. It’s crucial to remember that portion size is key, no matter what you’re eating.

Focusing on vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats is a good strategy for anyone – diabetic or not.

Eating out can be challenging for diabetics, but it doesn’t have to be impossible. Planning allows you to enjoy your favorite foods without sabotaging your health.

If you’re on a strict diet, you can also check out the best fast food options on Weight Watchers!

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Written by Erin Elizabeth

Erin lives in East Passyunk and enjoys checking out the local restaurants in South Philly and beyond. Her favorite restaurants are those with spicy food and outdoor seating so that she can bring along her dog, Miss Piggy.