Why Eat Gluten-Free Fast Food? If you’re new to the gluten-free concept, whether you were recently advised by your doctor to scale back or simply taking it upon yourself to try following a gluten-free (GF) diet, you might assume that this means all fast food is off the table. This can be especially challenging if you love a good burger or sandwich, since not every restaurant carries gluten-free buns or offers alternative options to wrap up your sammy’s contents. However, there are actually plenty of gluten-free fast food menu options available to eat—the key to identifying these items is first knowing where to look and then what to look for.

To help make this search easier for you, below is a breakdown of the best gluten-free fast-food menu items you can find at a handful of go-to, fast-food spots. But before you can choose the best gluten-free fast-food meal for you, it’s important to understand some of the motives behind why people eat GF food. This understanding can inform some of your decision-making the next time you visit a drive-thru.

Why eat gluten-free fast food?

Why Eat Gluten-Free Fast Food?
Shutterstock

“For those who have celiac disease, gluten-free is a necessity, not a preference. This means that if they want to eat fast food or go through a drive-thru, they only can if the fast food chain offers gluten-free options,” says Amy Goodson, MS, RD, CSSD, LD, author of The Sports Nutrition Playbook and member of our Expert Medical Board. “There are others who might eat gluten-free due to preference, meaning that they are not allergic to gluten and it may not make them sick, they just choose not to eat it for a variety of reasons.”

Trista Best, MPH, RD, LD, at Balance One Supplements, notes three reasons why people may opt to eat gluten-free fast food:

  1. Celiac Disease: “People with celiac disease have an autoimmune reaction to gluten, which damages their small intestine,” explains Best. “This can lead to a range of symptoms, including abdominal pain, diarrhea, and fatigue. For people with celiac disease, consuming even small amounts of gluten can be harmful. Eating gluten-free meals at fast-food restaurants can help them avoid gluten and manage their condition.”
  2. Gluten Sensitivity: “Some people may have a sensitivity to gluten, which can cause symptoms such as bloating, gas, and diarrhea,” says Best. “While not as severe as celiac disease, gluten sensitivity can still cause discomfort and impact a person’s quality of life. Eating gluten-free meals at fast-food restaurants can help them avoid gluten and reduce their symptoms.”
  3. General Health & Wellness: “Some people may choose to eat gluten-free meals as part of a healthy and balanced diet,” says Best. “While not necessary for everyone, some people believe that reducing their gluten intake can lead to improved digestion, better energy levels, and other health benefits. Eating gluten-free meals at fast-food restaurants can be a convenient way to stick to their dietary preferences while on the go.”

Is gluten unhealthy to eat?

“For these individuals, they might seek out fast food chains that serve gluten-free items to match their eating pattern,” explains Goodson. “While some perceive gluten-free foods to be ‘healthier’ than others that contain gluten, that is just not true. Gluten is a protein in wheat and is not bad for you unless you are allergic to it.”

How have restaurants become more accommodating to GF eaters?

Why Eat Gluten-Free Fast Food?
Shutterstock

More Gluten-Free Menu Items

“Many fast-food restaurants now offer gluten-free menu items—such as buns, wraps, and pizza crusts—to cater to customers with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity,” says Best. “Some restaurants also offer gluten-free sauces and dressings. Examples of fast-food restaurants that offer gluten-free options include Chick-fil-A, McDonald’s, and Taco Bell.”

Allergen Information Transparency

“Fast-food restaurants are required by law to provide allergen information, including information about gluten, on their menus,” says Best. “Many restaurants now provide this information on their websites or through allergen guides available in-store. This information can help people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity make informed decisions about what to order.”

Partnerships

“Some fast-food restaurants have partnered with gluten-free brands to offer more options for customers,” says Best. “For example, Subway [and Smashburger] partnered with gluten-free brand Udi’s to offer gluten-free bread.”

Training & Procedures

“Fast-food restaurants have also implemented training and procedures to reduce the risk of cross-contamination, which is a concern for people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity,” says Best. “This may include separate preparation areas for gluten-free items, using dedicated utensils and equipment, and providing staff with training on how to handle gluten-free orders.”

What to be mindful of when dining out on a GF diet

“People who follow a gluten-free diet should be mindful of potential health risks when eating at a fast-food restaurant,” says Best. “Cross-contamination is a common concern, as gluten-free foods may come into contact with gluten-containing foods during preparation. This can happen through shared utensils, cooking surfaces, or fryers.”

“Additionally, some gluten-free options may still contain small amounts of gluten, which can be harmful to people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity,” warns Best. “It’s important to ask about preparation methods, read labels, and communicate any dietary restrictions to the restaurant staff to reduce the risk of cross-contamination and ensure a safe dining experience.”

If you’re vocal about your needs, ask questions, and are careful to read all the fine print on the labels, figuring out which menu items are actually gluten-free can be a breeze. However, we know when you need to grab something and go, reviewing long menus with a fine-toothed comb is easier said than done. So to help you order a genuinely gluten-free fast-food meal in a flash, we took the liberty of identifying a few of the best gluten-free fast-food items you can order at 10 fast-food spots.

Why Eat Gluten-Free Fast Food?
Shutterstock

“McDonald’s does not currently certify any of its menu items as gluten-free, meaning there is no guarantee against cross-contamination for any of their foods,” notes Goodson. “Since McDonald’s no longer offers salads, gluten-free options are limited, but include a plain beef patty (without the bun), fruit and maple oatmeal, Canadian bacon, scrambled eggs, sausage, and a side of apple slices,” she suggests. “You can also opt for their strawberry banana or mango pineapple smoothie.”

Because McDonald’s doesn’t have a separate GF menu and only discloses which ingredients list wheat as an allergen, we did the sleuthing for you! Here’s a roundup of everything you can get that’s gluten-free on the McDonald’s menu.

Breakfast

  • Fruit and Maple Oatmeal
  • Fruit and Yogurt Parfait (Without Low-Fat Crunchy Granola)
  • Egg Patty
  • Ham Slice
  • Sausage Patty
  • Canadian Bacon
  • Thick-Cut Applewood Smoked Bacon Slice

Meats

  • Burger Patty
  • Artisan Grilled Chicken Filet

Salads

  • Southwest Grilled Chicken Salad
  • Bacon Ranch Grilled Chicken Salad
  • Side Salad

Sides and Snacks

  • Apple Slices
  • Yoplait® GO-GURT® Low Fat Strawberry Yogurt

Desserts

  • Strawberry Banana Smoothie
  • Mango Pineapple Smoothie
  • McFlurry® with M&M’s® Candies
  • Chocolate Shake
  • Strawberry Shake
  • Vanilla Shake
  • Hot Fudge Sundae
  • Hot Caramel Sundae
  • Strawberry Sundae
  • Reduced-Fat Vanilla Ice Cream (In a Cup Instead of a Cone)
  • Caramel Frappé
  • Mocha Frappé
Why Eat Gluten-Free Fast Food?
Shutterstock

When it comes to allergens and food sensitivities, Taco Bell has done a great job at providing options able to accommodate all dietary needs, including offering gluten-free fast-food menu items. And just because you have to avoid gluten does not mean you have to miss out on Taco Tuesday! Here’s everything you can get that’s gluten-free at Taco Bell.

Breakfast

  • Hashbrowns

Tacos

  • Crunchy Taco
  • Crunchy Taco Supreme®
  • Nacho Cheese Doritos® Locos Taco
  • Nacho Cheese Doritos® Locos Taco Supreme®

Bowls

  • Power Menu Bowl—Chicken
  • Power Menu Bowl—Steak
  • Power Menu Bowl—Veggie

Veggie Cravings

  • Black Beans & Rice
  • Black Beans
Why Eat Gluten-Free Fast Food? Best Food Options at 10 Chains
Shutterstock

Wendy’s offers a variety of delicious gluten-free ingredients and menu items, too. But similar to McDonald’s or Burger King, you should definitely make your dietary needs and preferences known up front when ordering, so they can be on guard when preparing your food. Next time you’re at Wendy’s, choose from any of these delicious a la carte gluten-free items to assemble a filling meal.

Breakfast

  • Sausage Patty
  • Applewood Smoked Bacon
  • Egg Patty
  • Cranberry Pecan Oatmeal
  • Plain Oatmeal

Meats

  • Hamburger Patty

Salads

  • Apple Pecan Chicken Salad
  • Harvest Chicken Salad
  • Parmesan Chicken Caesar Salad
  • Southwest Avocado Chicken Salad
  • Taco Salad
  • Caesar Side Salad (Without Croutons)
  • Garden Side Salad (Without Croutons)

Sides and Snacks

  • Apple Bites
  • Chili
  • Plain Baked Potato
  • Sour Cream and Chive Baked Potato
  • Bacon Cheese Baked Potato
  • Chili and Cheese Baked Potato
  • Cheese Baked Potato

Desserts

  • Classic Chocolate Frosty®
  • Vanilla Frosty®
Why Eat Gluten-Free Fast Food? Best Food Options at 10 Chains
Shutterstock

Unfortunately, many of Arby’s potato-centric sides, like the crispy curly fries, contain wheat. The potato cakes and crinkle fries, though technically do not contain gluten-based ingredients, might be cooked in oils that may have experienced cross-contamination with wheat-based products. However, there are plenty of ways to place a delicious, gluten-free fast food order at Arby’s and still get your fill.

Breakfast

  • Breakfast Bacon
  • Sausage Patty
  • Scrambled Egg Patty

Meats

  • Angus Beef
  • Corned Beef
  • Pepper Bacon
  • Roast Beef
  • Pit-Smoked Ham
  • Roast Turkey
  • Smoked Brisket

Salads

  • Chopped Farmhouse Salad—Roast Turkey
  • Chopped Side Salad

Sides and Snacks

  • Tree Top® Applesauce

Desserts

  • Jamocha Shake
  • Chocolate Shake
  • Vanilla Shake
Why Eat Gluten-Free Fast Food? Best Food Options at 10 Chains
Shutterstock

Yas, gluten-free king (or queen)! It’s true that you can really have it your way when you dine at BK. Though Burger King appears to longer have a designated GF menu, many of its items are still GF-friendly. However, if allergies are of concern, just be sure to communicate your dietary needs clearly upfront so that they can accommodate your needs; they will gladly do you a solid by removing the bun, among other things. Here are the best GF menu selections from Burger King.

Breakfast

  • Bacon Slice
  • Ham Slice
  • Egg Patty
  • Sausage Patty
  • Oatmeal

Meats

  • WHOPPER® Patty
  • WHOPPER JR.® Patty
  • Hamburger Patty

Salads

  • Garden Salad

Sides

  • French Fries
  • Mott’s Natural Applesauce

Smoothies & Specialty Drinks

  • Strawberry Banana Smoothie
  • Mocha Frappe
  • Caramel Frappe

Desserts

  • Soft Serve in a Cup
  • Hershey’s Chocolate Sundae
  • Vanilla Shake
  • Hershey’s Chocolate Shake
Why Eat Gluten-Free Fast Food? Best Food Options at 10 Chains
Shutterstock

“Fil” up on these tasty gluten-free fast food orders from Chick-Fil-A today!

Breakfast

  • Bacon Slice
  • Sausage Patty
  • Hash Browns
  • Hash Brown Scramble Bowl With Grilled Filet
  • Hash Brown Scramble Bowl With Sausage

Meats

  • Grilled Chicken Filet on Gluten-Free Bun
  • Grilled Nuggets

Salads

  • Market Salad With a Grilled Filet (plain or spicy)
  • Cobb Salad With Grilled Nuggets, Grilled Filet, or Without Chicken
  • Spicy Southwest Salad With Grilled Nuggets, Grilled Filet, or Without Chicken
  • Side Salad

Sides

  • Fruit Cup
  • Side Salad
  • Kale Crunch Side Salad
  • Waffle Potato Fries™
  • Waffle Potato Chips™
  • Cinnamon Applesauce (Buddy Fruits®)
  • Greek Yogurt Parfait

Desserts

  • Chocolate Milkshake
  • Strawberry Milkshake
  • Vanilla Milkshake
  • Frosted Coffee
  • Frosted Lemonade
  • Frosted Key Lime
Chipotle restaurant
Shutterstock

Chipotle makes quality gluten-free fast-food dining na-cho problem anymore, thanks to its wide range of gluten-free ingredients.

Proteins

  • Barbacoa
  • Black Beans
  • Carnitas
  • Chicken
  • Chorizo
  • Pinto Beans
  • Sofritas
  • Steak

Tortillas

  • Crispy Corn Tortilla
  • Tortilla Chips

Sides

  • Cilantro-Lime Brown Rice
  • Cilantro-Lime White Rice
Why Eat Gluten-Free Fast Food? Best Food Options at 10 Chains
Shutterstock

Though KFC’s entrees are not ideal for gluten-free eaters, combining an order with a few of their a la carte sides can make for a delicious gluten-free lunch or dinner. These options are also great for vegetarians, too!

Salads (Without Dressing or Croutons)

  • Caesar Side Salad
  • House Side Salad

Sides

  • Coleslaw
  • Corn on the Cob
  • Green Beans
  • Mashed Potatoes
  • Potato Salad
  • Sweet Kernel Corn
Why Eat Gluten-Free Fast Food? Best Food Options at 10 Chains
Shutterstock

With a name like “Panera Bread,” you might assume everything this franchise offers must be tainted with gluten. But ye of little gluten-free faith—fret not! Panera does provide gluten-conscious menu items comprised of ingredients that do not contain wheat.

Breakfast

  • Greek Yogurt With Mixed Berries
  • Eggs Any Style: Over Easy Egg, Scrambled Egg, Egg Whites, or Hardboiled

Salads

  • Green Goddess Cobb Salad With Chicken
  • Fuji Apple Salad With or Without Chicken
  • Greek Salad With or Without Chicken
  • Tomato Basil Cucumber Side Salad

Soups

  • Chicken Tikka Masala With Brown Rice and Quinoa
  • Turkey Chili With Beans
  • Thai Chicken

Warm Bowls

  • Baja Bowl With or Without Chicken
  • Mediterranean Bowl With or Without Chicken

Smoothies

  • Strawberry Smoothie With Greek Yogurt
  • Mango Smoothie With Greek Yogurt
  • Strawberry Banana Smoothie With Greek Yogurt
  • Peach & Blueberry Smoothie With Almond Milk
  • Green Passion Smoothie
smashburger storefront
Paul McKinnon / Shutterstock

If you’re hankering a juicy burger or creamy shake, Smashburger’s selection will really hit the spot. In addition to offering a wide variety of customizable menu options, their option to opt for a burger using an Udi’s Gluten-Free Buns make it one of the few burger chains around that provides a GF-substitute akin to a classic burger. Best of all, you can use the interactive menu online to filter the down selections to see everything that can be made gluten-free.

Here’s everything you can get that’s gluten-free at Smashburger.

Beef & Turkey Burgers

  • Classic Smash
  • Classic Double Smash
  • Bacon Smash
  • Double Bacon Smash
  • Avocado Bacon Club
  • Double Avocado Bacon Club
  • BBQ Bacon Cheddar
  • Double BBQ Bacon Cheddar
  • Smoked Bacon Brisket
  • Double Smoked Bacon Brisket
  • Truffle Mushroom Swiss
  • Double Truffle Mushroom Swiss

Black Bean Burgers

  • Classic Smash
  • Avocado Bacon Club
  • Bacon Smash
  • BBQ Bacon Cheddar
  • Truffle Mushroom Swiss

Chicken Sandwiches

  • Classic Smash Grilled Chicken
  • Classic Smash Crispy Chicken
  • Bacon Smash Grilled Chicken
  • Bacon Smash Crispy Chicken
  • BBQ Bacon Cheddar Grilled Chicken
  • BBQ Bacon Cheddar Crispy Chicken
  • Avocado Bacon Club Grilled Chicken
  • Avocado Bacon Club Crispy Chicken
  • Truffle Mushroom Swiss Grilled Chicken
  • Truffle Mushroom Swiss Crispy Chicken

Wings

  • Buffalo Wings
  • Garlic Rosemary Wings
  • Plain Wings
  • Scorchin’ Hot Wings
  • BBQ Wings

Fresh Salads

  • Classic Cobb Salad

Sides

  • French Fries
  • Smash Fries (with rosemary and olive oil)
  • Tots
  • Smash Tots (with rosemary and olive oil)
  • Sweet Potato Fries
  • Sweet Potato Smash Fries (with rosemary and olive oil)
  • Crispy Brussels Sprouts

Shakes

  • Chocolate Shake
  • Strawberry Shake
  • Vanilla Shake
  • Reese’s Peanut Butter Shake
  • Non-Dairy Reese’s Shake
  • Non-Dairy Chocolate Shake
  • Non-Dairy Strawberry Shake
  • Non-Dairy Vanilla Shake

Last Updated on March 21, 2023 by shalw

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You May Also Like

This App Is the Newest Way to Treat Nightmares

This App Is the Newest Way to Treat Nightmares – Jacquie Baker,…

How Luna Came Full Circle From K-pop Idol to Playing One on Broadway

How Luna Came Full Circle From K-pop Idol to Playing One on…

5 Speedy 10-Minute Core Workouts for Instant Abs

5 Speedy 10-Minute Core Workouts for Instant Abs – A solid set…

7 Ways You Could Get “Big and Chiseled” Like Michael B. Jordan

7 Ways You Could Get “Big and Chiseled” Like Michael B. Jordan…