Getting fit and healthy is a common goal, and many are turning to the Atkins diet to reach that objective. The Atkins diet is a specialized plan that focuses on eating a high fat and protein diet with minimal carbohydrate intake. The original Atkins diet has four phases, each with a different carb goal, starting at a strict 20 grams of carbs a day and gradually increasing to a more generous 80 grams of carbs per day.
In 2015, the original Atkins diet was revised, creating the Atkins 40 and Atkins 100. The new versions of the Atkins diet allow for more flexibility making it more appealing to dieters. With celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Rob Lowe endorsing the diet, there has been a renewed interest in this low-carb lifestyle.
Fast food chains have taken notice of the trend and are offering low-carb options that cater to diners following the Atkins diet. This is excellent news for Atkins aficionados, as following a strict meal plan isn’t always easy with a busy lifestyle. Whether you follow the strict Atkins 20 or more flexible Atkins 40 or 100, you can find delicious fast food meals that fit your diet.
In-N-Out Protein Style Burger
Hamburgers are the quintessential American food, and cravings for a juicy burger can be intense. Luckily, if you are yearning for a burger on an Atkins diet, In-N-Out has you covered. Just order any of the chain’s signature burgers Protein-Style to get a patty wrapped in crispy lettuce leaves instead of a bun. Replacing the bun significantly cuts the carb count from 39 grams of carbs to 11 grams making it Atkins-friendly. The chain’s famous burgers come with onions, lettuce, tomato, and special sauce.
While this is a great pick for burger lovers, if you are on the strict Atkins 20, you can order your burger without special sauce, saving you an estimated 4 grams of carbs (via Mr Skinny Pants). Before you reach for the ketchup, keep in mind that ketchup has more carbs than mayonnaise and mustard. Since In-N-Out offers three sauces — ketchup, special sauce, and mustard —your best bet is to stick with mustard to help you stay on track. Unfortunately, you will need to skip the other goodies on the menu, like fries and shakes, as they are not Atkins approved.
Arby’s Roast Chicken Entrée Salad
Arby’s has made a name in the fast food world by going beyond the basic burger and serving decadent meaty sandwiches. The Arby’s chain is synonymous for its signature sandwich, made with layers of roast beef and melted cheese served on a fluffy bun.
So, you might not think of Arby’s when looking for Atkins-friendly quick meals. While its menu has been criticized in the past for its high levels of sodium, they do offer healthier alternatives to hearty meaty sandwiches.
The chain’s best Atkins-friendly meal is the Arbys’s Roast Chicken Entrée Salad. Slow roasted chicken tops a mix of fresh lettuce and tomatoes, making it a healthy choice. But don’t worry, you won’t leave hungry. This salad has a combination of protein and fat to keep you full. This protein topped salad packs plenty of fat with bacon, cheddar cheese, and buttermilk dressing, which add up to only 8 grams of carbs.
Taco Bell Power Menu Bowl with Grilled Steak
Are you looking for some south-of-the-border flavors, but tacos and burritos don’t fit the Atkins diet? Don’t worry. Taco Bell knows how to make health-conscious diners happy with its Power Menu Bowl with Grilled Steak.
The bowl is filled with steak, lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, guacamole, and sour cream, all covered in an avocado ranch sauce. Just make sure to order without the beans and rice to keep the carb count to 8 grams. If you are in the later phases of Atkins and are ready to add legumes back to your diet, you can opt to add the black beans to your bowl for more fiber and protein while still keeping it a safe choice at 15 grams of carbs.
The cheese, guacamole, and sour cream keep the fat high in this dish. Topping your bowl with salsa will keep your carb count the same and factor as part of your required veggie intake for the induction phase of Atkins (12 to 15 net carbs daily). As a bonus, the salsa also adds some fresh flavor. If you like the heat, include some jalapeño slices — the spiciness will make you sweat and encourage you to keep hydrated.
Jimmy John’s Italian Salami Unwich
Sandwich lovers looking for a low-carb alternative can check out Jimmy John’s Unwich Menu. The unwich is a submarine sandwich with all the fixings wrapped in crispy lettuce instead of a bun.
Jimmy John’s offers all of its subs on the menu as unwiches, but the Italian Night Club Unwich is the best option for diners looking for Atkins-friendly fare. The Italian Night Club has three types of Italian meats, including salami, capicola, and ham, layered with thick provolone slices and topped with lettuce, tomato, and onions. The unwich is complete with a splash of oil and vinegar and a generous sprinkle of oregano and basil. With only 11 grams of carbs, you can happily sink your teeth into this unwich without sacrificing your diet.
Don’t be surprised if this unwich makes you thirsty as cured meats are high in sodium. The first phase of Atkins can leave you with a slight electrolyte imbalance due to losing water weight, so a salty meal is a good choice. Just make sure to drink a tall glass of water to keep yourself hydrated while enjoying your sub. Atkins recommends at least 64 ounces of water a day.
Starbucks Egg White & Roasted Red Pepper Egg Bites
It’s morning, and you are grabbing your coffee to go and realize you forgot to eat breakfast. What do you do? You don’t want to throw your progress out the window, so you opt for Starbucks Egg White & Roasted Red Pepper Egg Bites. These egg bites are like a mini protein muffin — made with eggs, red bell peppers, spinach, and onions. And you’ll get a triple whammy of protein from three kinds of cheese, including cottage, Monterrey, and feta. Featuring 12 grams of protein and 11 grams of carbs, these little high-protein, low-carb muffins are perfect for an on-the-go Atkins breakfast.
Interestingly, these delightful breakfast items are created with the sous vide method. You might be wondering what exactly is sous vide? Essentially, sous vide is a French cooking process where food is vacuum-sealed and cooked in a temperature-controlled water bag. It’s a precise procedure that cooks food perfectly every single time. So you get delicious egg bites that have the perfect texture from sous vide cooking. Plus, you just learned a cool French word, so you can enjoy your breakfast and pat yourself on the back for learning something new so early in the morning.
Chick-fil-A Grilled Nuggets
Parents know that chicken nuggets, like mac and cheese, are foolproof ways to get picky little eaters to fill their bellies. But the beloved crunchy chicken nuggets aren’t just for the kid’s plate anymore. Chick-fil-A has given this nostalgic fried favorite an adult makeover. Chick-fil-A’s Grilled Nuggets are a tasty version of nuggets that forego the calorie and carb-heavy breading and oily deep fryer. Instead, these are grilled, creating a healthy version that will please adults who still love to indulge in their favorite childhood fast food meal. As a bonus, these tasty nuggets are also Atkins-friendly.
These Atkins-approved grilled nuggets are the best way to satisfy that nugget craving without the guilt of destroying your diet. The eight-piece grilled nuggets come in at only 1 gram of carbs. They are so low in carbs that you can still add some dipping sauces like Garden Herb Ranch Sauce, Creamy Salsa Dressing, or Avocado Lime Ranch while still keeping it Atkins approved.
Panera Bread’s Caesar Salad with Chicken
Yes, you read that right. The Panera Bread Caesar Salad with Chicken is indeed Atkins friendly. Not many diets let you have creamy Caesar salad, but Atkins doesn’t shy away from fat. Atkins leans into fat because Dr. Atkins knows that a low-carb diet needs a higher amount of fat to get the body into the most efficient fat-burning stage, ketosis. This decadent salad is indeed full of fat with Parmesan cheese and thick Caesar dressing, making it one of the least suitable salads for a traditional low-fat diet but perfect for Atkins.
However, you will need a simple modification to enjoy this while still staying true to the Atkins diet. Simply order your Caesar without croutons. With croutons, this salad comes in at a whopping 21 grams of carbs, making it a hard sell for Atkins eaters. However, removing those buttery croutons takes this salad to only 8 grams of carbs.
Subway Tuna Salad No Bready Bowl
Subway has gotten onboard with the low-carb club and now offers an option called No Bready Bowl. These yummy protein bowls have the same protein as a regular sub and feature all the classic Subway flavors. Think of it as a subway sandwich in a bowl. However, some choices are better than others for the Atkins diet. The absolute best choice is the Tuna Salad No Bready Bowl. High protein low-carb tuna is allowed in all phases of the Atkins diet, making this the perfect Atkins-friendly lunch with only 8 grams of carbs and 26 grams of protein to keep you fueled and focused all afternoon.
The tuna salad is made with wild-caught tuna and your favorite vegetables. Like ordering a Subway sandwich, you get to choose your favorite toppings from black olives to peppers to something with a little kick like jalapeños or banana peppers. If you are on Phase One of the Atkins, you can lower the carb count by sticking with cucumbers, spinach, black olives, and pickles and avoiding high-carb count vegetables like tomatoes, onions, and peppers. As a tip, add a splash of oil and vinegar for a zesty taste with zero carbs.
Panda Express Wok-Fired Shrimp
Chinese food is fantastic, but if you want to eat Chinese food and don’t have time to visit a Chinese restaurant, you can always opt for the quick and easy Panda Express. Panda Express offers Chinese-American food with deep roots in authentic flavors. The founder of Panda Express is the son of a chef who worked for Cecilia Chiang, the woman credited with bringing authentic Chinese food to American diners in the 1960s (via NPR).
Panda Express offers American diners new takes on classic Chinses dishes, and many fall in line with the Atkins diet. A popular choice for the carb conscious is the Wok-Fired Shrimp, which has 19 grams of carbs and comes with bell peppers, sugar snap peas, and onions in a spicy sauce. When ordering this dish, you know you are getting a whole serving of protein and a healthy dose of vegetables to meet your daily requirements. Panda Express also offers a seasonal Firecracker Shrimp with only 7 grams of carbs, but you can only find that around the Chinese Lunar New Year.
For those with a sensitive tummy that can’t handle spicy foods, Panda has other low-carb options that won’t set you on fire, like Broccoli and Beef or String Bean Chicken, both with 13 grams of carbs.
Chipotle’s Keto Lifestyle Bowl with Chicken
Fast food has come a long way. For years the only options were greasy burgers and fries, but many restaurant chains are stepping it up and seeing the need to offer healthier options. Chipotle is one of those restaurants that understand that healthy eaters want fast food options too. Chipotle has created the Lifestyle Bowls, catering to different dietary needs from vegetarian and vegan options to plant-based and paleo. There is something for everyone.
While they don’t offer a specific Atkins option, they have a Keto Lifestyle Bowl suitable for the Atkins diet with 17 grams of carbs. If you are still in Phase One of the diet, you can leave off the salsa and choose oil and vinegar or hot sauce to lower the carb count. But if you are in Phase Two, Three, and Four, you can enjoy this bowl without modifications. The base of this bowl is super greens to meet your crunchy vegetable quotient, along with chicken, cheese, and guacamole to cover your fats and proteins for a complete meal. And the red chili salsa adds precisely the right amount of heat to make this Lifestyle Bowl a flavorful meal.
McDonald’s Egg McMuffin
Mornings can be crazy busy, and sometimes you just don’t have time to get a healthy breakfast before leaving for work. Luckily, McDonald’s knows what you need. McDonald’s has a lot of breakfast sandwiches, and if you omit the muffin or biscuit, they all become Atkins friendly.
The one breakfast sandwich that stands out from the crowd is the Egg McMuffin. The classic Egg McMuffin is the best option with only 3 grams of carbs. According to The Diet Chef, it’s the only breakfast sandwich where the egg is cooked fresh onsite, making it one of the best breakfast sandwiches at McDonald’s.
While eating eggs is a great way to fuel a hectic morning, many people are concerned that eating eggs every morning is too much of a good thing. So it’s great news to learn that the American Heart Association, says eating one egg per day is fine. So pull through the McDonald’s drive-thru next time you need a quick Atkins-friendly breakfast.
Papa Murphy’s All Meat Crustless Pizza
Fat is your friend on the Atkins diet, so bring on the cheese. The best way to enjoy ooey-gooey melted cheesy goodness is on a pizza. Just because you are on a diet, you shouldn’t have to give up the best food ever invented: pizza. Atkins followers can still indulge in a piping hot pie covered in pepperoni and melted cheese.
However, an adjustment needs to be made to make pizza Atkins-friendly — no crust. Luckily, Papa Murphy makes it easy with Papa Murphy’s All Meat Crustless Pizza. The entire 7" X 9" tray is 25 grams of carbs with eight servings per tray, and the carbs are so low you can have a couple of servings without derailing your diet.
The All-Meat Crustless Pizza is filled with Canadian bacon, sausage, salami, pepperoni, and ground beef, all held together with a generous mix of mozzarella and cheddar cheeses. This heavy meal will satisfy all of your pizza needs while still keeping it Atkins approved. You don’t have to say goodbye to family pizza night on the Atkins diet. Just enjoy a crustless pie.
Buffalo Wild Wings 6 Piece in Original Sauce
If you love wings, you will be happy to know they are an excellent choice for the Atkins diet. Chicken is low carb, and chicken skin is high fat making them perfect for all phases of Atkins. Of course, the dipping sauces are where you have to be careful because not only are most not Atkins friendly, many are also high in sugar, making them a poor choice. To keep your wings Atkins friendly, order the 6 Piece Chicken Wings in Original Sauce for 1 gram of carbs.
If you like your wings hot, try using some zero-carb hot sauce like Tabasco or Cholula. The heat in hot sauce comes from capsaicin, the active component in hot chili peppers. If you are trying to lose weight, adding hot sauce to your food is a great way to give your body a little push. Capsaicin can help you lose weight by raising your body temperature and burning calories (via PepperScale). So if you love the feeling of burning your face off eating hot wings, you can feel good knowing you are working on your weight loss. Just resist the temptation to reach for a carb-heavy beer to kill the heat. Instead, a simple glass of water is best.
Wendy’s Southwest Avocado Salad
The days of Wendy’s Superbar are gone, but they still offer a great low-carb salad, the Southwest Avocado Salad. With this hearty salad, you won’t even miss the over-the-top salad bar of days past. The meal-sized salad is filled with protein from grilled chicken, smoky bacon, and spicy pepper jack cheese. Sliced avocados and tomatoes mixed with crispy lettuce keep the meal fresh and the perfect choice for a hungry diner. The drive-thru has never been so healthy.
Avocado plays a key role in this nutritious Southwest salad. Avocados are a superfood filled with healthy fats and nutrients. The fats keep you full, and the vitamins and minerals help your body function. Although avocados are actually a fruit, they make the Atkins list of safe vegetables with 1.3 grams of carbs per half an avocado. So go ahead and make guacamole, add slices to a burger, and slather some on avocado toast.
QDOBA Brisket Bowl
QDOBA Mexican Grill offers a Smoked Brisket Bowl for hungry diners looking for healthy Mexican food. Atkins dieters know that it isn’t easy to find Mexican food that is Atkins friendly. Tortillas and chips, the staples of Mexican food, are high in carbs and only allowed in later stages of Atkins. The Smoked Brisket Bowl was created for low-carb enthusiasts to get their fix of Mexican food without fixing their diet.
Of course, the star of the show is a smoky slow-braised brisket. Since brisket is a tough cut of meat, it requires a long cooking process to transform into a mouth-watering treat. The QDOBA bowl is simple — it layers brisket on top of a bed of fresh Romaine lettuce. The crunchy lettuce mimics the crunch of tortilla chips, and cheddar cheese and guacamole keep the fat level high. At the same time, pico de gallo and green salsa pack a flavorful punch. You can enjoy the whole meal for 18 grams of carbs.
Plus, this Brisket Bowl is huge, and you could easily fill up on half and save the other half for your next Atkins-friendly lunch, resulting in a filling meal that still leaves you feeling light. You won’t need a siesta after indulging in this Atkins-friendly Mexican bowl.