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Eating low carb at chain restos

I was reading another thread about chains, and thought for some of us who eat low carb, it might be nice to hear where and what we eat when forced to visit a chain restaurant. I don't have a lot to choose from in my area, at least I don't have a lot I like to visit. But here are a few I visit locally on when I'm on the road:

Hardee's I truly enjoy the low carb burger. I order it without mayo or ketchup, for a totally sour taste I seem to enjoy. I like this way too much.

Qdoba I get a burrito without beans or rice. Sometimes the server takes pity on me and adds a few more veggies or a little more cheese or meat. Or I get a burrito with queso. At any rate, I eat the filling within the burrito, but not the burrito itself.

Panera We always stop here on the road if there is one around, and we eat here frequently in town. I eat a salad usually with 1/2 of a whole grain baguette, and a refillable cup of coffee. Panera is a temptation to me, because I like their bread. Sometimes I splurge for the tomato soup.

Ruby Tuesdays I like to stop here, but I can't remember what I order. The buffet is of limited use to someone who does low carb.

Chilli's I think I get grilled shrimp here. We only stop here when we are on the road. I believe I've had chilli here, because it has no beans. It was pretty good, as I remember.

McDonald's When we are on the road, we stop for coffee midmorning. On one occasion I've had the chicken nuggets with regular mustard for dipping. There isn't a lot of breading on those things, and the chicken does give you a little protein. If they are still serving breakfast, I get a breakfast sandwich and eat it without the bread.

Sweet Tomatoes I can eat pretty well here. I love the turkey chili, which I might eat, leaving the beans. Or I might eat the whole thing. The Sunday brunch is sub par.

If you are low carbing, how do you manage eating out when the choices are chains or nothing?

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  1. Lots of bunless burgers!

    Fast Food - Bunless burger and side salad (most entree salads have more carbs than I'd like. Wendy's Cobb is a good one though). Nuggets are too high carb for me.
    Mexican Fast food- Fajita salad, my favorite meal ever.
    Asian - I can usually get plain sauteed meat and veggies or egg fu yung with no sauce. Wings are ok, but plain.
    Wing places - Another fav! Standard buffalo sauce is usually ok as well as garlic Parmesan.
    Casual sit down- Bunless burger w/ salad, salad with chicken, grilled meat and veggies.

    Convenience stores can be a good option too! 7-11 has packs of hard boiled eggs, cheese slabs, almonds, and pork rinds.
    I've found that eating out low-carb is much easier, more varied and tastier than when I was a vegetarian.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Lixer

      I like Wendy's chicken cesar salad with cesar dressing

      1. re: Lixer

        Thanks for the good ideas, Lixer. I knew someone out there was doing what I have to do when I travel.

      2. I don't eat at any of those chains, or any chain other than Legal Seafoods, really. But same rule applies no matter where I go; hold the bread, rice, noodles, fries, corn starch, and if available, substitute veggies and/or salad. Many years ago, I ate bunless Whoppers at BK, for instance, and that's how I eat burgers I make at home, too. Even if I'm on the road and only sandwiches are available, I just eat the filling and toss out the bread.

        3 Replies
        1. re: mcf

          Eating the filling on a sandwich is a good strategy that I have used. I'd like to know how to hold the cornstarch though! Often you think you are getting a simple chili and instead of, say a little corn flour or mashed beans for thickener, the stuff has the obvious appearance of cornstarch. Happened to me this weekend.

          That's why I like the chili at Sweet Tomatoes. It is obviously not thickened.

          I do think that ordering sandwiches, eating the filling and ordering a side salad gets boring after about the 3rd time. .

          And, if you travel by car as we do, you will probably have to eat at chains. That's why I started this thread.

          1. re: sueatmo

            When I travel by car, I always have a small cooler in the back seat with low carb wraps, cheese, cold cuts, cheese sticks, nuts and water bottles. And some good, dark chocolate.
            Traveling by car makes it pretty easy to skip some or most meals out, I find. We only stop for meals if it's somewhere we want to eat or we need a longer break from driving, preferably somewhere we like to eat. Also, if you plan a trip ahead, you can check the boards for reccos for where to stop in towns along the way, not too far from the highway and have some good food experiences.

            As to corn starch, I was thinking Chinese for that, a general rule. Might not apply here.

            1. re: sueatmo

              For car trips I get bags of beef jerky at walmart.

          2. I just read that Ruby Tuesdays is offering a new entree consisting of 3 veggie sides and the salad bar. They are also offering spaghetti squash marinara - I don't do low carb per se, but that's what I'd order there. at least once, lol.

            3 Replies
            1. re: jujuthomas

              Interesting! I've tried to eat spaghetti squash as spaghetti, and I didn't like it at all. Perhaps Ruby Tuesday has a better method of prep than I! It might be worth a try. I had the salad bar this past weekend, as we were on the road, and I did find enough for me to enjoy a salad. They have vinegar and oil at the end of the salad bar, so I didn't have to eat lousy prepared salad dressings with unknown amounts of carbs.

              But as I wrote earlier, the white chili probably had cornstarch as its thickener. It did taste good though.

              1. re: sueatmo

                Ruby Tuesday's used to have a special low carb menu, but I think they ditched it. They actually made fauxtatoes with cauliflower as a side dish. And low carb wraps, I think. I use spaghetti squash as a side dish, and I love it, but it's not a good sub for pasta, I agree.

                1. re: sueatmo

                  We were on vacation a week or two ago, and ate at a Ruby Tuesday's. DH and I are both on Weight Watchers, and we had the Roasted Spaghetti Squash Marinara. It was delicious!! And to boot, it was 8 PP for that whole big plate. I had the pureed cauliflower on the side, which I love. I think it is 4 PP. The marinara dish was too much for me to eat, so I took home the rest. That made it an 8 PP dinner. I was very impressed, since it is so hard to find points friendly meals out.

              2. I'm big into low carbing. I'll warn you that McDonald's chicken nuggets aren't low carb. It's about half carb and half protein. 4 pieces = 11g carb to 10 g protein . Carb-wise, you'd actually be better off getting a quarter pounder even with the bun. 29 g protein to 40 g carb. Plus you don't have to eat the entire bun.

                For sit-down chains, I'll usually get either a burger or a grilled chicken sandwich and either ignore the bun or ask them to serve it without the bread, with a few greens.

                Subway does salads. You can start with a plate of lettuce, add your selected meats and cheese and all of the typical sandwich veggie toppings.

                Ruby Tuesdays has many chicken and steak options on the menu that aren't sandwiches or pasta based. A good choice for a low carb "fast food" meal.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Christnp

                  You are the second person to inform me that the chicken nuggets aren't low carb. (sigh) At least now I know. I should have checked the menu online, but the first time I got the nuggets I was on the road, and didn't have access to a computer.

                  I have decided that Ruby Tuesdays is a good place to eat for me.

                2. Also, I believe that Cracker Barrel still has a full fledged low carb menu! The availability of nutrition information has somewhat made special menus moot, but I suspect we'll have more options in the coming years. :)

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Lixer

                    I've eaten from the low carb menu. Mr. Sueatmo likes to eat there when we travel. I don't, but I go along with him from time to time. I can't say I enjoy the food there, frankly. And the bathrooms frequently are problematical.