If you’re Paleo or have ever been Paleo, then you’ve probably experienced the struggle of eating out with friends. Depending on how strictly you follow the Paleo guidelines, your options are limited. Basically, no wheat, no grains, no soy, no beans, and no dairy.
Even though this sounds extreme, the focus is on eating whole, unprocessed foods. Unfortunately, that’s basically the opposite of eating fast food. But hey, sometimes you have zero choice. Sometimes, it’s “we’re stopping at this fast food restaurant and not anywhere else, so eat or go hungry.” And sometimes, you really just want that Shake Shack burger.
Whatever the reason is, despite popular belief, you can find Paleo options at fast food restaurants, though they definitely don’t cater to your diet (or really any food restrictions at all). Here are 12 meals that you can get at your favorite fast food restaurants, though sometimes it means getting a little creative (and sometimes it means a lot of salad).
#SpoonTip: Since the Paleo diet also encompasses no gluten, people who are gluten free can eat these meals as well. Just be aware that if you have Celiac’s or a severe gluten allergy, many of the fast food restaurants cross contaminate their fryers and preparation surfaces with gluten products.
1. Shake Shack: Bunless double burger with bacon
Shake Shack is just as good on a bed of lettuce as it is in an actual burger. And since you’re forgoing the bun, why not add some extra bacon?
#SpoonTip: Nom Nom Paleo has a ton of good Paleo tips for eating out, even at fast food restaurants.
2. Chipotle: Burrito or salad bowl with no beans and rice, double meat, and guacamole
This is basically a meat bowl with guac. And not going to lie, I’ve definitely done this before. Who needs rice and beans anyway? They just fill up your stomach; let’s be real — it’s all about the guac.
3. Burger King: Fries
4. Starbucks: Nuts, smoothies, and part of the protein bistro box
5. Panera: Basically any salad
Panera might not be a “fast food” restaurant per se, but it’s a favorite stop for many people, which means the chances that you’ll go here are pretty high. Good thing they have a big variety of salads and bowls — just make sure to remove any non-Paleo items and opt for the simplest dressing they have (or no dressing at all).
6. Five Guys: Burger wrapped in lettuce
Though it’s not as common to see a lettuce wrapped burger here, it can be done. Bonus — you can still add all the toppings your heart desires.
Don’t forget to enjoy their fries, which are, in my opinion, some of the best fast food fries out there.
#SpoonTip: Five Guys uses peanut oil to fry things, so those with peanut allergies beware. Those who are strict Paleo and don’t eat legumes, take that into consideration.
7. Chick-fil-A: Grilled chicken nuggets and a variety of sides
Another reason to love Chick-fil-A — they actually have a ton of things you can eat on their menu. Let’s start off with these grilled chicken nuggets. You don’t even need a sandwich because the chicken is truly the star. Plus, if you’re ok with eating soybean oil (let’s be honest, if you’re eating at any fast food restaurant, there’s zero way to avoid it), you can enjoy all the Chick-fil-A sauce you want.
But there’s more. There’s a huge variety of salads (just take out any ingredients that aren’t Paleo, like cheese and granola), but more importantly, there’s a superfood side salad with kale and broccolini that is actually 100% Paleo (figures, since it’s called a “superfood salad”).
And let’s not forget about those waffle fries.
8. El Pollo Loco: Grilled chicken and broccoli
This meal is fit for someone who lifts regularly – look at that veg and protein. Shout out to El Pollo Loco for having so many options of non-breaded chicken.
9. Subway: Chicken salad with oil and vinegar dressing or no dressing
Subway may be known for their sandwiches, but go the alternative route and get one of their salads. If you pretend real hard, you can almost imagine it’s Sweetgreen since you’re creating your own salad.
10. Pizza Hut: Traditional Wings
Honestly, the wings are much better than the pizza here. Plus much more satisfying to eat.
11. Wendy’s: All salads (with customization)
Wendy’s has a surprisingly good selection of salad. You can customize each one to suit your restrictions, like taking out the cheese. A good bet, though, is the Asian chicken salad — just take out the edamame if you’re strictly Paleo.
12. In-n-Out: Double double protein-style with grilled onions and mustard, no sauce and no cheese
Californians who know In-n-Out’s secret menu have been in on this meal for ages. Protein-style is perfect for anyone looking to cut carbs or who does not eat gluten. Get it mustard-grilled for an extra kick of flavor, and add grilled onions; hold the sauce and hold the cheese for a true Paleo meal.
Disclaimer: Many, if not all, of these products are cooked with soybean oil, which is not strictly Paleo as it is a soy product. Eat at your own discretion.