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How to Eat Low-Carb at KFC

Low-Carb Eating at Kentucky Fried Chicken

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Updated April 11, 2014

KFC restaurant
Photo: David Silverman / Getty Images
KFC (Formerly Kentucky Fried Chicken) is the world's most popular chicken restaurant chain. For a long time, the chicken there was all breaded and high in carbs, but there are now some good low-carb options.

Where to Find Information About Carbs at KFC

A nutritional information brochure is available at all KFC restaurants. It won't tell you about custom options such as ordering a sandwich without the bun, but since sandwiches aren't the star attraction at KFC, it isn't that much of an issue. You can also go to the Web site and find:

Nutritional Information for Individual Menu Items - Click on each item for info

PDF of Nutritional Information for all KFC menu items - Information, including carbohydrates, on all the standard KFC menu items. (Note that availability of items can vary substantially from one outlet to another.)

KFC Ingredient List - Includes allergy information on the menu items.

KFC's Grilled Chicken

Low-carb, low-calorie, and low-fat dieters alike rejoiced in 2009 when KFC finally introduced grilled chicken, complete with the spice mixture that made KFC famous. Unfortunately, it still has wheat in it, so I had to rely on other tasters, who assured me that the flavor of the original KFC was there. (One person, who hadn't eaten KFC chicken in years, did say that it is not nearly as good as homemade grilled chicken.) And the good news is: Zero carbs are in the grilled chicken, as well as half the calories of "Original Recipe" and even more of a savings from "Extra Crispy" and "Hot & Spicy." For example, an Extra Crispy chicken breast has 17 grams of carbohydrate and almost 500 calories compared with 0 grams of carbs and 180 calories for a grilled breast.

However, the news isn't all great, as the chicken is still loaded with additives, including MSG and partially hydrogenated oils. This is true of all KFC Chicken. (Question to KFC: How hard would it be to make a grilled chicken that people with wheat allergies and gluten sensitivity can enjoy?)

KFC Salads

Salads used to be a a decent low-carb meal option at KFC, but the ones they have listed as of 2013 are all with breaded chicken. Probably the best you can do is probably to get a piece of grilled chicken and a side salad.

KFC salads (both meal salads and side salads) are a mixture of Iceberg and Romaine lettuces. The salads except for the Caesar salads also include chopped tomatoes.

Salad Dressings - KFC has better options than most fast food restaurants in terms of salad dressings without a lot of sugar. The best choice is the Buttermilk Ranch dressing at just one gram of carbohydrate per packet. However, avoid the fat-free version, which has a lot of added sugar, to the tune of eight grams per packet. The other low-carb choice is the Light Italian dressing with two grams of carbs. The Creamy Parmesan has four grams. And, of course, skip the croutons.

Forget the Sandwiches and Bowls

At KFC, the wraps and sandwiches range from 27 grams of carbs, up to 49 grams, all of it delivered by refined, low-nutrient, high-glycemic flour. The bowls (Pot Pies, etc) range from 34 grams for the snack bowls up to a whopping 106 grams for the Famous Rice and Gravy Bowl.

KFC Sides

KFC has two low-carb sides: the Green Beans at 3 grams of usable carb, and the Mean Greens at 2 grams. The rest are pretty much outside the realm of low-carb eating. In particular, the cole slaw and baked beans are loaded with sugar, and, of course, biscuits, potatoes, corn, and rice are all high in carbs.

Beverages

The beverages provided at KFC restaurants vary from one location to another. Most have unsweetened iced tea and at least one type of diet soda. But be careful -- there are sweetened flavored iced teas (lemon, peach, and raspberry) which have nearly as much sugar as a cola or other soft drink does. Also, don't think you're doing your kids any favors by getting them the Tropicana fruit drinks instead of soda, as most of them have more sugar than a comparably-sized soda.

Bottom Line

KFC's grilled chicken greatly enlarges the low-carb choices, however, the sides are still mostly loaded with sugar and starch. Choose carefully!
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