Other reasons for wanting or needing gluten-free foods include:
- Maintaining a healthy diet during pregnancy
- Trying different diets to relieve period or pregnancy symptoms
Fast food restaurants have heard the cry and are beginning to offer more gluten-free alternatives on their menus. For someone with gluten-sensitivity, the key is being aware of what the gluten-free fast food options are — and this article will help you do that.
Before we get any further, let’s quickly recap what gluten is. Gluten is a type of protein found in several grains, including wheat, rye, and barley. It’s what gives pizza dough, for example, it’s stretch, and it’s found in more things than you might expect, including soy sauce and even some potato chips (if they have flour or cross-contamination). According to the FDA, a food item must contain less than 20 ppm of gluten to be labeled “gluten-free.”
Gluten-free fast foods are becoming increasingly popular and more accessible at fast-food restaurants, as owners respond to their customers’ needs. This has made it possible to grab a quick bite to eat without exacerbating your condition. Fast food chains across the globe have therefore tailored their menus to include a variety of gluten-free options, from burgers to french fries.
With the fast-paced nature of these restaurants, it’s important to note that the risk of cross-contamination is an area of concern, especially for those with a high level of gluten intolerance. Though an item may be labeled gluten-free, it could be fried in the same oil as another food item that contains gluten. It's also possible that the same utensils may be used to handle both gluten-free and gluten-containing foods. If in doubt, always ask.
Gluten-free fast food fries
Unless battered, the potatoes used to make french fries are usually gluten-free. If they’re fried in oil, however, there’s a high risk of cross-contamination. Some restaurants combat this by using dedicated fryers for gluten-free items.
Gluten-free fast food for breakfast
Meat and poultry are usually safe gluten-free options, including ham, sausage, bacon, and eggs. The buns used to make sandwiches usually contain gluten, so it’s best to avoid these. If you’re not a heavy breakfast eater, freshly cut fruit cups and yogurt parfaits are also safe gluten-free options. If you opt for granola in your parfait, be sure to confirm that the oats used in the granola are certified gluten-free.
Let’s have a look at the gluten-free fast food options on the menus of eight of the most popular fast food restaurants.
Chick-fil-A has a comprehensive menu of gluten-free fast foods. All their burgers are gluten-free without the bun, as well as their dipping sauces and most of their sides. In addition, they are one of the first fast-food restaurants to offer gluten-free buns with all of their sandwiches. These buns contain premium ingredients such as quinoa, millet, and amaranth, and are enriched with essential vitamins and minerals. To minimize cross-contamination, these buns are individually packaged and the customer assembles the sandwich.
Other gluten-free fast food options offered by Chick-fil-A include:
- Waffle potato fries
- Non-breaded, grilled chicken nuggets
- Fresh salads
- Fruit cups
- Yogurt parfaits
Although Chick-fil-A is not classified as a gluten-free environment, they are taking all the right steps to satisfy their gluten-sensitive customers.
Wendy's offers an impressive variety of gluten-free items. They also seem to be quite aware of gluten-free cooking practices, which is a great advantage. Their gluten-free fast food options include:
- Gluten-free bunless burger
- Meatless and crouton-free salads
- Baked potato
Arby’s offers a few gluten-free fast food options if ordered without a bun, where relevant:
- Angus steak
- Corned beef
- Roast turkey farmhouse salad
Most of their potato-based foods, however, are cooked in the same oil as other gluten-containing foods.
McDonald's has gone all out to ensure all of their burgers are gluten-free. Swap out the burger bun for a lettuce wrap, and you should be able to stay on top of your gluten-free journey.
Other gluten-free fast food options that McDonald's offers include:
- Select salads
- McFlurry with M&Ms
- Fruit ‘n yogurt parfait
Chipotle is one of the best when it comes to reducing the risk of cross-contamination, since the food is made right before your eyes. The assembly-line nature of food preparation is also quite impressive. In order to maintain a gluten-free diet here, steer clear of the flour tortillas. The following are considered safe gluten-free fast food options at Chipotle:
- Burrito bowl
- Corn tortillas
6. Taco Bell
While Taco Bell has several items that do not contain gluten, they’re clearly stated on their website that they are not a gluten-free environment and cannot guarantee that any finished meal will be completely free of gluten. Their gluten-free menu items include:
- Hash browns
- Black beans and rice
- Pintos and cheese
- Spicy tostada
7. Burger King
At Burger King, you can opt for a Whopper or grilled chicken sandwich without the bun. Other gluten-free fast food options available here include:
- Garden fresh salad
- Ice-cream with caramel, hot fudge, or strawberry sauce
- Apple slices
- Sausage patties
It’s important to note that Burger King has publicly stated that although gluten-free fast food options are offered at their food chains, cross-contamination is likely. Therefore, those with severe gluten sensitivities may want to explore another fast-food option.
8. In-N-Out Burger
As with most of the options above, In-N-Out’s burgers are gluten-free without the bun. Those who suffer from Celiac disease tend to frequent this chain because they can order a “protein-style” burger, without the bun but wrapped in lettuce.
Another advantage for this restaurant is that customers may activate an “allergy button” to ensure proper food handling practices are being maintained. Nonetheless, each restaurant in the chain may train their staff differently, so ensure you speak with the manager before dining if you have a serious health condition.
Those are your gluten-free fast food options. Remember to have a game plan before you head out so you don’t have to be scrambling about what to order and possibly compromise your diet.