Fast-food restaurants are a distant dream for most diabetics. However, if you assume that you can’t enjoy fast food at all due to diabetes, you’re mistaken.

You may melt at the sight of delicious cheeseburgers and frappuccinos, but the thought of skyrocketing sugar levels holds you back. The good news is, it doesn’t have to be that way anymore.

Several fast-food restaurants have revamped their menus over the years to accommodate people with various nutritional preferences.

Small-portioned entrees are among the best solutions for people with diabetes who choose to eat at fast-food restaurants. However, you will need to steer clear of anything with “grande,” “triple,” “combo,” or “loaded” in the name.

This article includes a list of diabetic-friendly fast-food restaurants. You’ll also find a list of curated fast-food dining tips for people with diabetes. So, buckle up because your taste buds are in for a wild ride!

7 Fast-Food Restaurant Picks for Diabetic Diners

We’ll take you through seven fast-food restaurants that are diabetic-friendly. Not just that, but we’ll also show you how you can find healthy meal options at those restaurants.

1.    Taco Bell

If you’ve been craving Mexican food lately, Taco Bell is the perfect option. But what does Taco Bell have to offer its diabetic diners? Unfortunately, their quesadillas, burritos, and condiments sound like they’re packed with calories.

The good news is that Mexican cuisine is known for its abundance of vegetables. This means that you can indulge in any of their guacamole dips and veggie-packed tacos.

Unlike most fast-food chains, you can find several calorie-restricted dishes here.

What to Order at Taco Bell?

In this section, we’ll help you choose Taco Bell dishes that won’t cause your blood sugar levels to spike. But first, let’s take a closer look at each item.

What to Order at Taco Bell?

  • Fresco-Style Crunchy Tacos

You can add Pico de Gallo, onions, lettuce, and tomatoes to the Fresco-Style Crunchy Tacos. On the other hand, hot sauce will add another 90 mg of sodium to the equation. Furthermore, ordering guacamole will add 3 grams of carbohydrates, 6 grams of fat, 210 milligrams of sodium, and 70 calories to your meal.

Your lunch would consist of 300 calories if you ordered two tacos. This is because 910 mg sodium, 36 g carbohydrates, 5 g fiber, and 2.5 g saturated fat will be the combined protein consumption.

  • Vegetarian Double Tostada

When eating at Taco Bell, choosing a vegetarian option will help you save calories and avoid blood sugar spikes. For example, the vegetarian double tostada has a total of 270 calories.

It also has 12 grams of protein, 940 milligrams of sodium, 5 grams of saturated fat, 13 grams of fiber, and 65 grams of carbohydrates.

  • Veggie Power Menu Bowl

The Veggie variant of the Power Menu Bowl will help you eat healthy without consuming too many calories. This is because it has just 480 calories in total. This meal also contains 13 grams of fiber, 19 grams of fat, 14 grams of protein, and 65 grams of carbohydrates.

2.    Burger King

Big juicy burgers packed with tasty grilled beef, mustard, and ketchup pickles can be hard to give up when you have diabetes. Fortunately, Burger King also offers menu options that can accommodate people with diabetes as well.

Although it’s not the most diabetic-friendly fast-food chain out there, you can still handpick some dishes to satisfy your cravings.

What to Order at Burger King?

Despite its reputation for serving super-sized meals, Burger King’s menu also includes a few smaller options. So with a few tweaks, you can still enjoy a stress-free meal at your favorite burger house.

What to Order at Burger King?

  • MorningStar Farms Veggie Burger

When ordering the MorningStar Farms Veggie Burger, the only thing you will have to forgo is the mayo. Other than that, this burger is an excellent source of high-quality, plant-based protein.

This burger has 310 calories and 21 grams of protein. It also has 1 gram of saturated fat, 41 grams of carbohydrates, 810 grams of sodium, and 5 grams of fiber.

Unfortunately, you may not always be able to find this on their menu, so make sure to double-check before ordering.

  • Whopper Jr.

The first thing that comes to mind when you think of Burger King is their iconic Whopper. But the size of the Whopper is a huge red flag for anyone who has diabetes. Fortunately, the much smaller Whopper Jr. delivers the same incredible flavor without the cost to your health.

The Whopper Jr. has 240 calories with only 1 g of fiber and 13 g of protein. This burger also has 3.5 g saturated fat, 27 g carbs, and 330 mg sodium.

3.    Chipotle

Chipotle is another Mexican favorite that can pack a significant caloric punch. The good news is that Chipotle also has a lot of nutritious choices for you to choose from.

What’s more, the restaurant is always open to special requests. Their fast-food dishes also tend to be healthier than those of other restaurants, which means that people with diabetes can enjoy a low-calorie meal without having to make too many changes.

For diet and health-conscious diners, their made-to-order menu can be a great source of relief. Also, don’t forget to try their chunky tomato salsa!

What to Order at Chipotle?

Ordering at Chipotle is easy. All you have to do is request a few tweaks here and there to get the most out of your meal. Here are some options for what people with diabetes can order at Chipotle:

Chipotle Diabetic Options

  • Make-It-Yourself Veggie Bowls

By skipping the meat, you can make the chicken salad bowl vegetarian. When placing your order, simply ask to substitute the chicken for black beans. This will also cut down on the number of calories in the bowl significantly.

  • Chicken Salad Bowl

Don’t forget to try the double fajita vegetables, tomato-chili salsa, black beans, and extra lettuce while ordering the chicken salad bowl. What’s not to love about a tasty, high-protein meal?

To amp up your experience, you can also order half a portion of their incredible guacamole dip.

It will add a kick of flavor to your meal while still providing balanced monounsaturated fats. And at 115 calories, 3 grams of fiber, 185 milligrams of sodium, and 4 grams of carbohydrates, the guacamole dip is an excellent substitute for calorie-dense dressings.

This chicken salad bowl has 370 calories, 42 grams of protein, and 10 grams of fiber without guacamole. It also contains 1,080 mg of sodium, 3 grams of saturated fat, and 8.5 grams of unsaturated fat.

4.    Starbucks

It’s difficult to say no to the delicious frappes and sandwiches at Starbucks. But unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do to make the frappes diabetic-friendly. Some of their teas and other beverages, however, are a pretty good option for diabetic customers.

What to Order at Starbucks?

You can make your next run to the coffee shop significantly healthier. Thankfully, beyond their sweet pastries and sugar-laden frappes, Starbucks also offers a range of nutritious options.

What to Order at Starbucks?

  • Mozzarella and Tomato Panini

The unique combination of fresh tomato, basil, and mozzarella cheese is unbeatable. Starbucks serves this delicious low-calorie blend on warm, toasty focaccia bread, which you will love.

You may also have a seasonal fruit cup for added fiber and antioxidants. There are 470 calories in the sandwich, 23 grams of protein, and 5 grams of fiber. But, unfortunately, there are also 21 grams of sugar, 40 grams of carbohydrates, 540 milligrams of sodium, and 7 grams of saturated fat.

  • Cheese + Egg Protein Box

Sliced apple tarts, multigrain muesli bread with cheddar cheese, hard-boiled eggs, grapes, and honey peanut butter are all included in this delicious meal. For people with diabetes, the Cheese + Egg Protein Box sounds like a dream come true.

This recipe has 470 calories, 23 grams of protein, and 5 grams of fiber. The dietary breakdown is as follows: 21 grams of sugar, 540 milligrams of sodium, 25 grams of fat, and 40 grams of carbohydrates.

  • Chicken & Quinoa Protein Bowl with Greens and Black Beans

Jam-packed with healthy ingredients, the Chicken & Quinoa Protein Bowl is an excellent choice for diabetic diners. The fiber and protein content will keep you satisfied for a long time. We recommend asking for half a serving of dressing for a genuinely healthy meal when ordering this dish.

You can also skip the dressing altogether to reduce the sodium content of the dish. Or, you can make it even better by using an avocado spread.

The Chicken & Quinoa Protein Bowl contains 420 calories, 27 grams of protein, and 9 grams of fiber. In addition, the protein bowl includes 1,030 mg of sodium, 42 grams of carbohydrates, and 17 grams of fat.

  • Iced Green Tea

Iced green tea has a unique blend of lemongrass, lemon verbena, and mint. This bubbly, cool refreshing drink is bursting with flavor. Furthermore, it contains just 11 g of carbohydrates.

Do you want something tasty to drink with your healthy meal? Just because the frappes are off the table doesn’t mean you can’t get a different Starbucks drink. The iced green tea at Starbucks is the perfect replacement.

5.    McDonald’s

McDonald’s is another burger place with a delectable menu. Although you won’t find any diabetic-friendly meals on offer, you can tailor their existing options to your specific needs for a more nutritious meal.

What to Order at McDonald’s?

There are typically two dishes that people with diabetes order at McDonald’s. However, slight adjustments here and there can help you reduce your caloric and fat intake.

What to Order at McDonald’s?

  • Filet-O-Fish

This tasty fish sandwich stands out for its relatively low sodium content. To save an extra 90 calories and 10 grams of fat, you can also skip the tartar sauce, although many believe that a fillet-o-fish is incomplete without it.

The sandwich is made up of 390 calories, 17 grams of protein, and 2 grams of fiber, along with 38 grams of carbohydrates, 19 grams of fat, and 560 milligrams of sodium.

  • Cheese Burger

When you’re hankering for a burger, you can’t go wrong with McDonald’s. However, we recommend opting for a traditional burger over the more intricate dishes with add-ons like barbeque sauce or bacon.

A traditional McDonald’scheeseburger contains 15 grams of protein, 2 grams of fiber, and 300 calories. The sodium content is 680 mg, with 16 grams of fat and 33 grams of carbohydrates.

6.    Panera

Panera has a tempting selection of sandwiches, and despite its status as a fast-food restaurant, Panera still caters to health-conscious diners.

Panera sandwiches can be a healthy dinner option for people with diabetes. So, let’s take a look at what this famous fast-food place has in store for you!

What to Order at Panera?

People with diabetes will have no trouble finding a satisfying meal at Panera, as they use only the freshest ingredients and bread for their nutritious sandwiches.

What to Order at Panera?

  • Turkey on Whole Grain

If you want to eat a hearty meal that won’t cause a spike in your blood sugar levels, turkey on whole grain is the way to go.  Skipping the mayo will cut down on fat and calories. You can throw in some avocado slices instead for a richer and creamier flavor.

A half sandwich has 270 calories, 18 grams of protein, and 5 grams of fiber. This sandwich contains 32 grams of carbohydrates, 8 grams of fat, and 590 milligrams of sodium.

  • Steak & Arugula on Sourdough

The steak and arugula sandwich is a high-protein, low-calorie recipe that is perfect for those looking to cut down on their calories.

The sandwich is only 240 calories and contains 16 grams of protein and 1 gram of fiber. However, the sodium content is 440 mg, the carbohydrate content is 25 g, and the fat content is 8 g.

7.    Wendy’s

Wendy’s is one of the most famous fast-food restaurants in the United States. But, unfortunately, their classic burgers are dripping with fat and calories.

So what should you order if you have diabetes? Here are some ways that you can have a  diabetic-friendly, wholesome, and nutritious meal at Wendy’s!

What to Order at Wendy’s?

There are essentially two dishes Wendy’s has to offer people who are looking for healthier alternatives. Fortunately, these two dishes have fewer calories than any other item on the menu.

Grilled Chicken Wrap

  • Grilled Chicken Wrap

Grilled chicken strips, spinach, honey mustard sauce, and cheddar cheese make up this tasty wrap. It is the healthier alternative to the restaurant’s grilled chicken sandwich. You can also add apple bits for an extra boost of vitamin C.

The grilled chicken wrap has 300 calories and 2 g of fiber. In addition, 720 mg salt, 26 g sugars, and 13 g fat round out its dietary profile.

  • Cheeseburger (Jr.)

Wendy’s Jr Cheeseburger is a great way to reduce the number of calories without forgoing the flavor of its super-sized counterpart.

The Cheeseburger Jr. is a wonderful choice because it has only 280 calories, 16 grams of protein, and 1 gram of fiber. It also contains only 26 grams of carbohydrates and 13 grams of fat.

Tips for Diabetic Diners at Fast-Food Restaurants 

Are there any other fast-food restaurants that come to mind? Have no fear. With a few helpful tips and tricks, you can dine out wherever your heart desires.

The key is to keep track of your calories, get to know the menu ahead of time, and eat smaller portions, along with a few other tips.

Here are a few suggestions to ensure that your fast-food meal will not compromise your health.

  • Focus On Protein

When ordering fast food, try to get as much protein as possible. For example, rather than pounded, breaded, or fried food, opt for grilled, baked, or roasted options.

Fast-food restaurants serve cookies, burgers, and bread, all of which can cause your blood sugar levels to spike. Instead, your diet will be much more nutritious if you choose high-protein options such as Caesar salad, grilled chicken, turkey wrap, and so on.

Instead of carb-heavy buns, you can ask for the meat to be served on a bed of fresh lettuce or spinach. Alternatively, you can settle for whole grain or whole wheat bread instead of white bread.

  • Always Choose Water

It’s no secret that a high-calorie, high-sodium, and high-fat meal will leave you thirsty and in want of a drink. You may consider buying soda, which is a big mistake if you have diabetes.  It’s hard to imagine, but a 16-ounce soda contains a whopping 48 grams of sugar!

By turning away from such sugary drinks, you’ll be doing your sugar levels a considerable favor. There is no better way to quench your thirst than with a nice big glass of cold water. You can also go for a glass of seltzer water with a splash of lime for a drink that’s extra refreshing.

  • Order From the Kids Menu

When you crave fast food, ordering from the Kids menu is an excellent way to go. The smaller portions will satisfy your taste buds and help you keep an eye on your calories.  One double cheeseburger and medium fries at McDonald’s, for example, would set you back 757 calories. Meanwhile, A 400-calorie kids’ dinner includes a salad, yogurt, apple, fries with a regular hamburger.

  • Ask for Dressing and Condiments On the Side

That tangy ketchup, zesty salad dressing, and creamy mayonnaise can not only amp up the taste but also your blood sugar levels.

When ordering a hamburger, salad, wrap, or fries, ask for the dressing to be served on the side. Better yet, you can order nutritious alternatives such as hot sauces, salsa dips, or mustard sauce.

These condiments are lower in calories and carbs but not in flavor. Eliminating sugar and creamy dressings from your meal will significantly reduce your calorie intake. This tip is suitable not only for monitoring your diabetes but for your overall health as well.

  • Plant-Based Eating

Whenever possible, order food items with as many healthy ingredients as possible. You may also choose fast foods that are rich in fiber and water. Fruits and vegetables are an excellent source of dietary fiber that will make you feel satisfied without going over your calories.

You’ll find various healthy salads and burgers at these fast-food places that are a great alternative to their standard meals. Even if you’re eating at a fast-food restaurant, skip the desserts. Instead, try a fruit cup of bananas and apples with natural sugars.

  • Skip Super-Sized Portions

It’s no mystery that bigger serving sizes contain more calories. However, you can quickly satisfy your hunger with standard-sized servings and not feel bad for messing around with your blood sugar levels.

If you’re going to Starbucks, order a Petit rather than a Grande cup of coffee. Similarly, instead of getting Whopper with extra-large fries at Burger King, order small fries and a Jr. Whopper.

In a Nutshell

One of the most important ways to control your blood sugar levels is to keep track of what you eat and drink. Now that you have some excellent choices in mind, you can enjoy a hearty feast at your favorite fast-food restaurants. And the best part is that your blood sugar levels will not have to suffer. However, this does not give you free rein to overindulge whenever you want without taking your health into account.

With our advice and recommendations for fast-food restaurants, you can treat yourself to a tasty meal now and again.