How to Eat Low-Carb at Carl's Jr. or Hardees

Low-carb fast food at Carl's Jr. or Hardees

Carl's Jr
Terence Ong/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 3.0

Hardee's/Carl's Jr. is the fourth-largest hamburger fast food chain in the U.S., behind McDonald's, Burger King, and Wendy's. Hardee's and Carl's Jr. are owned by the same company and have similar menus (some key differences noted below), with Carl's Jr. in the Western U.S. (and expanding into other countries) and Hardee's in the rest of the country.

Low-Carb Options at Hardee's/Carl's Jr.

The good news is that as of this writing, this restaurant chain is actually touting lower-carb versions of its sandwiches by making any one of them into a lettuce wrap - it's even trademarked the phrase "Low Carb It". The lettuce-wrapped sandwiches are then wrapped in paper, so they can be picked to eat. Unlike most other fast food chains, no knife and fork are necessary.

Another great thing on their Web site is a "Nutrition Calculator" that allows you to add and subtract ingredients from a menu item and see how it changes the nutritional content. This is great for zeroing in on where the carbs are, and it not only shows the revised totals but has a column comparing to the original, so you can see how much you're saving. For example, the buns on many of the items add 45 grams of carbohydrate.

A lot-so-good thing: many of the beef patties at Hardee's (but not Carl's Jr.) have partially hydrogenated oils (with the terrible trans fats) added to them.

 For more Information:

Salads at Carl's Jr. (No Salads Listed at Hardee's)

Salads are often the mainstay for low carb eaters when eating out, but as usual, watch out for the dressings.

Carl's Jr. has three meal salads and a side salad on the menu.

The best choice is the Grilled Chicken Salad at 10 grams of net carb without croutons. The salad contains a mix of greens plus a little onion and tomato and some cucumber slices. It is topped with chicken and a little cheese.

The side salad is basically a smaller portion of the above salad, minus the onion and chicken. It has 3 net grams of carb.

The other salads are a different story - the Southwest Grilled Chicken salad has 19 grams net carb and the Cranberry Apple Walnut Grilled Chicken Salad has 21.

Salad Dressings: Best bet is the blue cheese at 1 gram of carbohydrate per packet, or the House dressing at 3. The others go up from there, with the worst being the Raspberry Vinaigrette at 12 grams - that's a whole tablespoon of sugar (from - you guessed it - high fructose corn syrup).


There is really only one true low-carb breakfast offering. Hardee's has a Low-Carb Breakfast Bowl, which appears to be eggs mixed with bits of bacon and ham with sausage and cheese on top, for 6 grams of carbohydrate. There's nothing comparable at Carl's Jr.

On the other hand, you could get any of the many biscuit or sandwich offerings, which come with eggs, sausage, etc, and ask for them without the bread.

Or, even better, ask for those items separately, which could be less expensive.

Sides and Other Items

Having provided us with an array of lettuce-wrapped burgers and sandwiches, Hardee's and Carl's Jr. clearly feel they've done their duty for us. Every other item on the menu is laden with sugar and starch. Even a small serving of cole slaw will put you back 18 grams of net carb - yes, that's over 4 teaspoons of sugar in a small serving of slaw! There are even menu items containing almost 100 grams of carbohydrate. Nothing good can come from even looking at those menu items.


As elsewhere, our choices are water, diet soda, unsweetened hot or iced tea, or coffee.

To sum up, Hardee's or Carl's Jr. are not bad places to drop in for a burger on occasion, as you won't have to muck around awkwardly with a plastic knife and fork in a plastic container. Carl's Jr. even has a salad with a variety of leafy greens on it. However, as with other fast food restaurants, the choices for those following low-carb eating plans are quite limited.