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13 Fast Food Restaurants with Paleo Options

You can find items that fit the paleo diet at these fast food chains.

If the paleo diet works for you, you might be looking for some paleo fast food options for when you’re on the go.

close up photo of a vegetables salad in a bowl

Starting in the 70s, the paleo diet caught the attention of the popular consciousness in 2002. Loren Cordain published the book The Paleo Diet: Lose Weight and Get Healthy by Eating the Foods You Were Designed to Eat, and the rest is history. 

The paleo diet is based on the principle that we should eat the way the earliest man did, primarily meats, fish, fruits, and vegetables. The fundamental thesis revolves around the notion that our ability to produce food evolved faster than our bodies’ ability to digest it. 

The diet prohibits grains, wheat, dairy, and processed sugar. 

The paleo diet allows followers to eat 

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Seeds
  • Lean meat
  • Fish
  • Fruit and nut oil

With these restrictions, finding paleo foods on the go can be tricky. I know because I’m also a paleo diet follower. However, many fast food restaurants have dishes that you can make paleo with a bit of modification.

I’ve gathered the best paleo fast food options. Check them out below. 

Best Paleo Fast Food Options 

Fast food and paleo may seem like mortal enemies, but I’ll be showing you some of the best restaurants to visit, as well as suggesting some paleo orders.

Chick-fil-A

Chick-fil-a is closed on Sunday, but the restaurant meets your paleo needs six days a week. 

The restaurant specializes in grilled chicken, both in sandwich and nugget form. Bread isn’t paleo, so I stick to the nuggets. Avoid the temptation to use sauces; they contain refined sugars that don’t fit the diet.

If nuggets don’t curb your hunger on their own, consider getting the grilled chicken on a salad. 

The Superfood Side Salad is made of:

  • Broccolini
  • Dried cranberries
  • Kale 

Avoid the dressings and opt for a splash of lemon juice for flavor. If you love the acidity like I do.

Check out the healthier options at Chick-Fil-A!


Chipotle

Chipotle makes eating paleo easy, so that’s where I go all the time. Every meal is made to order, allowing you to select which of the many ingredients you want to be included.

Chipotle offers a vast assortment of options, making it easy to cobble a paleo meal from the component parts. 

However, when I’m not feeling inspired and want someone else to make the dinner decision for me, Chipotle offers custom meal options for every lifestyle. 

The paleo bowl is delicious and is made up of: 

  • Lettuce
  • Chicken
  • Fajita veggies
  • Tomatillo-green salsa
  • Guacamole

El Pollo Loco

Craving Mexican food but don’t want to ruin your paleo diet? El Pollo Loco has you covered! The restaurant’s specialty is grilled chicken, and they’re amenable to modifications. 

El Pollo Loco created the Pollo Fit Menu to cash in on the healthy eating movement. These options are better for you, with the opportunity for customization. 

The restaurant doesn’t have paleo-specific options; however, keto meals provide a solid foundation for modification.

While fun to say, the Keto Burrito requires changes and a little dismantling. Nix the cheese and sauce when you order. Since a tortilla is not paleo, you’ll have to spill the guts and eat the contents with a fork.

However, if you don’t feel up to the deconstruction, try the Double Chicken Avocado Salad, minus the cheese and dressing. I find that this dish, chock full of protein and vegetables, usually satisfies my hunger.


In-N-Out

In-N-Out keeps its paleo-friendly options under wraps. The restaurant’s public menu is limited and has no choices for paleo eaters.

However, In-N-Out has a secret menu. Ask for your burger protein style, and the restaurant will replace the bun with a lettuce wrap.

Just make sure In-N-Out doesn’t add any of their house sauce, as it does not meet paleo standards. 

When I’m too hungry, I order the double protein style. The extra burger will mitigate some of the pain the absence of fries causes. 


Panera Bread

You might not expect a restaurant called Panera Bread to cater to a paleo diet.

Panera’s menu needs modifications to adhere to the restrictions and guidelines; however, if you’re willing to make these alterations, Panera can curb your hunger. 

As tempting as the bagels and soups are, stick to the salad options. Make whichever appeals to you paleo by requesting the restaurant omit the cheese, crispy elements, such as wonton strips, nuts, and dressings.

I usually go for the Strawberry Poppyseed Salad with Chicken, which requires minimal alterations. Simply hold the dressing and skip the pecans and oranges. 

Like many restaurants, Panera has a secret menu. If you’re looking for a filling paleo breakfast, try the breakfast egg bowl. The dish comes with:

  • Eggs
  • Steak
  • Tomatoes
  • Avocado

Shake Shack

Shake Shack allows you to replace buns with a lettuce wrap, allowing you to scratch your burger itch without eating prohibited grains.

You’ll have to customize your order; avoid the ShackSauce and cheese, but feel free to add peppers and pickles. 

Other paleo options at Shake Shack are limited, but removing the buns on any option is a start!


Starbucks

You may not even realize you’re hungry until you’re waiting for your coffee order at Starbucks, passing the time admiring the pastries.

Luckily you can satisfy your hunger and adhere to a paleo lifestyle by choosing one of the chain’s pre-made protein boxes.

Starbucks’s are all prepared in advance, so you cannot customize them; however, you can simply choose not to eat the non-paleo elements.

One of your best options is the egg and cheddar protein box, which contains:

  • Two hard-boiled eggs
  • Apple slices
  • Grapes
  • White cheddar cheese
  • Muesli bread
  • Honey peanut butter

Enjoy the eggs and fruit, but feed the bread to the ducks and pass the cheese and peanut butter onto a friend; dairy and nuts don’t adhere to the paleo diet. 


Burger King

While Burger King is one of the better fast food choices for vegetarians, it should be the absolute last resort for paleo eaters. 

When I have no other option, I go for a burger either without a bun or with a lettuce wrap. Make sure to omit the cheese and to qualify that you don’t want mayonnaise or ketchup. 

A grilled chicken sandwich is also an acceptable option; again, just be sure to nix the bread and any sauces.

Burger King includes lettuce, tomatoes, and onions on most of their sandwiches, all of which are permissible in a paleo diet.

Finally, consider a garden side salad. Just don’t use any provided dressings. 


Five Guys

Five Guys is all about quality beef, just like the paleo diet. It may prove difficult to resist the siren song of fresh-cooked french fries; however, Five Guys’s burgers will curb your hunger if you can.

Of course, you’ll need to skip the buns; however, the restaurant allows you to substitute lettuce for the bread. 

Five Guys prepared all of their food – including their burgers and bacon – in peanut oil. Nuts and legumes aren’t paleo, so if you follow the diet strictly, you’ll have to forego the Five Guys.

However, the burger options are still good choices if you’re flexible.

You can add the following paleo ingredients to your Five Guys burger:

  • Green peppers
  • Jalapeno peppers
  • Grilled onions
  • Tomatoes
  • Lettuce

Jimmy John’s

Jimmy John’s enthusiasts tend to focus on its amazing fresh rolls. However, paleo eaters can’t enjoy bread, which seemingly puts them at a disadvantage.

However, Jimmy John’s turns the tables on our expectations, offering what they call an “unwich.” 

The unwich is a sandwich, with the lettuce substituted for the bread. You’ll, of course, need to avoid cheese and dressing; 

The restaurant slices all of its meats in-house. Their various fillings are prepared daily, making them as fresh as possible. Some of their best meat options are:

  • Roast beef
  • Turkey
  • Bacon

Load your unwich with veggies; Jimmy John’s offers tomatoes, lettuce, onions, peppers, and avocados. 


Pizza Hut

Pizza Hut is probably the last place you’d expect to go for wings.

However, if you’re keeping paleo, that original crust pizza is off-limits. The wings, however, are not.

You can’t enjoy their many dipping sauces; however, you can partake of the bone-in wings.

Stick to the classic wings, as the breaded variety isn’t paleo. However, feel free to try one of the dry rubs-either lemon pepper or cajun style. 


Taco Bell

Your favorite hangover food can be made paleo-friendly, provided you’re prepared to request some modifications.

Most Taco Bell foods heavily feature rice, beans, and cheese, all massive no-nos in a paleo diet. 

Get ready; you’re going to need to remove a lot of ingredients. Luckily you can also add proteins to make up the deficit. 

The Power Bowl provides a good foundation for your order. This dish, as prepared, contains:

  • Black beans
  • Rice
  • Guacamole
  • Sour cream
  • Lettuce
  • Cheese
  • Avocado ranch sauce
  • Tomatoes
  • Chicken, beef, or steak 

Swap out the rice for lettuce and nix the sour cream, beans, cheese, and sauce. You can also order the dish al fresco, meaning they omit the sour cream, cheese, and sauce and add pico de gallo.

You can even grab a quick paleo breakfast from Taco Bell. Order the Naked Egg Taco and feast without breaking any rules.

Taco Bell’s guacamole is also paleo-friendly, so enjoy it to your heart’s content. 


Wendy’s

Wendy’s isn’t the best option for paleo eating. However, if you’re on a road trip and starving, you can do worse than Dave Thomas’s burger emporium.

As with most fast food places, you can simply order a plain burger without a bun. However, if you’re hoping for something more filling and nutritious, Wendy’s has a few salad options that will keep your diet paleo.

If you only need a snack, order the Garden Side Salad. This dish is made entirely and exclusively of vegetables. Omit any dressing, and you’re good to go. 

However, if your hunger calls for something more sustaining, I recommend trying the Southwest Avocado Salad. You’re probably not surprised to hear this requires some modifications. The salad contains:

  • Lettuce
  • Pepper jack cheese
  • Diced tomatoes
  • Avocado
  • Bacon
  • Grilled chicken
  • Ranch dressing

Make it paleo by removing the cheese and dressing. 


Best Paleo Fast Food Options 

  1. Chick-fil-A
  2. Chipotle
  3. El Pollo Loco
  4. In-N-Out
  5. Panera Bread
  6. Shake Shack
  7. Starbucks
  8. Burger King
  9. Five Guys
  10. Jimmy John’s
  11. Pizza Hut
  12. Taco Bell
  13. Wendy’s

Final Thoughts

Maintaining a paleo diet takes a lot of commitment and planning. You need to be aware of ingredients and preparation. However, it is possible to maintain a paleo diet while eating fast food. You simply need to know what to order and what to omit. 

Most restaurants are prepared to make reasonable modifications upon request. Avoid breading, rolls, cheese, and sauces, and you’ll stay true to your paleo restrictions. Side salads and lettuce wraps will be your best friends, and you’ll never need to go hungry. 

Check out other healthier fast food options, like keto-friendly fast food if you’re following the keto diet!

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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.