How to Eat Low-Carb at Wendy's

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Wendy's is the third-largest hamburger fast food chain in the world, behind McDonald' s and Burger King. Can you drive through Wendy's and not drive out with sky-high blood sugar? You can if you are careful.

Find Information About Carbs

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, Wendy's Web site does have that information.

If you click on "Menu" and go to the menu item and then click on the words "Customize It". This gives you a list of the components of each sandwich and lets you check or uncheck each item.  It then computes the total for the customized item.

To get information on allergens and ingredients, you can go to the Nutritional Information Page and click around.  I did not find this section to be very user-friendly, but with persistence, you can find what you are looking for.

Ordering Burgers

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 sometimes will encase it in leaves of iceberg lettuce (I believe this is inconsistent from one location to another, 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 McDonald's uses. (Burger King doesn't give you any at all.)

The burgers at Wendy's do 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.

On the other hand, you probably 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

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.


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!


Side Dishes

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 per serving.

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


Your choices are water, diet soda, unsweetened hot tea or iced tea, or coffee. Everything else is basically flavored sugar. (See Beverages with More Sugar Than You Think)

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.

Interested in other fast food restaurants? See Low-Carb Fast Food for information and links.