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How to Eat Low-Carb at Wendy's

Low-Carb Fast Food at Wendy's

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Updated April 10, 2014

Wendy's Restaurant
Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Wendy's is the third-largest hamburger fast food chain in the world, behind McDonalds and Burger King. Can you drive through Wendy's and not drive out with sky-high blood sugar? You can, if you are careful.

Where to Find Information About Carbs at Wendy's

There is a nutritional information brochure at Wendy's, but it won't tell you about custom options such as ordering a burger without the bun. Happily, the Wendy's Web site does have that information. If you click on "Food" and either go to the menu item, or to the Nutrition Facts section, you can find a menu item and click on the words "Personalize It". This gives you a list of the components of each sandwich, and lets you check or uncheck each item, and then compute the total for the customized item. (I did find this tool to be a bit finicky, but with a bit of persistence, it worked adequately.)

To see a list of the all the menu items and their nutritional information, you can go to this PDF file, but at the time I wrote this, it did not print correctly from any of my browsers.

Ordering Burgers at Wendy's

Obviously you will want to be skipping the bun when ordering hamburgers, as the buns contain as much as 30 grams of carbohydrate. The good news is that Wendy's not only gives you the burger in a separate box, but will encase it in leaves of iceberg lettuce, so that at least with single-patty burgers, you can actually pick up the burger (with two hands, and carefully). This is an improvement over the limper lettuce that McDonalds uses. (Burger King doesn't give you any at all.) Note: Since this review I have returned to Wendy's and did NOT get the lettuce!

Hamburger does not contain carbohydrate, so any carbs will come from the condiments. American cheese slices, tomato, and onion each have one gram of carbohydrate. Sadly, the "mayonnaise" that Wendy's uses has corn syrup and modified starch in it, so that a teaspoon contains a gram of carbohydrate. OTOH, you won't get mayo unless you ask for it, as it seems to be a condiment for the bun rather than the burger (a common practice). At Wendy's, ketchup adds 2 grams of carbohydrate, and honey mustard sauce 3 grams.

Other Sandwiches at Wendy's

Wendy's fish fillets have 15 grams of carb, so fish is out. The "Chicken Grill Fillet" is your best bet at only 1 gram. It comes in the "Ultimate Chicken Grill" sandwich and you can ask for it in the Chicken Club sandwich (again, of course, skipping the bun). The Homestyle and Crispy chicken patties are breaded, so they are not good choices.

Salads at Wendy's

Of course, salads are going to be the mainstay for low carb eaters. First, it's important to understand the dressings, because there are huge differences between them. For example, the oriental sesame dressing is loaded with sugar, at 19 grams per packet. (That's almost 5 teaspoons of sugar!) At the other end of the spectrum is the Caesar dressing at just one gram of carb. Other standard dressings are Classic Ranch or Ancho Chipotle at 3 grams, and Honey Dijon at 9. Other salad dressings are "available at select restaurants" - check out the brochure or Web site.

Wendy's has four meal salads and two side salads on the menu. The best choices are the Chicken Caesar Salad at 7 grams of net carb without croutons and the BLT Chicken Salad (no croutons, substitute the grilled chicken and get a lower-carb dressing instead of the Honey Dijon) for 9 grams of carb).

The side salads (not counting dressing) are 6 net grams of carb for the regular side salad and 2 for the Caesar without croutons.

Wings and Nuggets

Chicken Nuggets have about 2 grams of carb for each nugget. If you get them, add the Ranch Dipping sauce for one carb gram -- all the other types are significantly more.

Hungry for wings? Go elsewhere, as an order of wings will run you between 56 and 73 grams of carbohydrate! Ack!

Side Dishes at Wendy's

The above side salads are your best bets. You may be disappointed, as I was, to find out that Wendy's Chili has more carb than you'd hope for -- probably because some type of sugar appears in the ingredient list six times! Therefore, a small chili has 14 grams of net carb and a large, 23. (This still could work on some lower-carb diets.)

The mandarin orange segments (which are also in the Mandarin Chicken salad) are in a sugar syrup, and have 18 grams of carb.

We don't need to even discuss potatoes and French fries.

Beverages

Your choices are water, diet soda, unsweetened hot or iced tea, or coffee. Everything else is basically flavored sugar.

To sum up, while no one will pretend that fast food delivers the ultimate in nutrition, with careful choices you can hit the Wendy's drive-through occasionally without wrecking your low-carb diet.

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