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The Alli fast food guide: Menu selections in fast food chains that stay under 15 grams of fat

Updated on October 17, 2008

As the first non-prescription diet drug approved by the Food and Drug Administration, Alli, flies off the shelves of pharmacies all across America, users of this product have to be very concerned about one important number. It’s fat grams, 15 of them, an amount that dieters need to restrict themselves to at each meal.

Why? Alli (pronounced Al-eye), at a half dose of its prescription forebear Orlistat, prevents the body from breaking down and absorbing fat, or at least about 25 percent of what you consume. Perfect you may think, now you can have your cake (or burrito, or pizza, or McMuffin) and eat it too.

Not so fast, dieters. There are consequences. When the body doesn’t absorb fat, it gets pushed along the digestive system to that point of exit. And that’s where the trouble starts.

Manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) uses the following terms to describe what the side effects might be: "Oily Spotting," "Flatus with Discharge," "Fecal Urgency," "Oily Evacuation," and "Fecal Incontinence." Get the picture? This is why independent dietitians and others are urging a go-slow approach to using Alli.

Christine Palumbo, a registered dietitian in the Chicago area told the Chicago Tribune Redeye tabloid that a way to limit these effects is to restrict one’s meals to 15 grams or less of fat. “Everyone’s constitution or system is a bit different, so some may be able to get by with a few more grams of fat per meal, and some will have to get by with a bit less than what’s recommended,” she said.

Also of concern: in restricting fat from our diets, it's still possible to consume lots of calories, generally in the form of processed sugar. Remember Snackwells cookies and other no-fat products most popular before its backlash, the low-carb Atkins era?

[On the plus side, Alli at best will teach people how to eat lower-fat foods in moderation, better yet to eat healthier foods overall. Clinical studies show that Orlistat and Alli users did best when their diets evolved to healthier eating, not just a low-fat diet, and if they incorporated exercise into their lives.]

The tough part is most of us don’t have a fat-gram reading instrument when eating out in restaurants – just the kind of place where you wear nice clothes, are in good company and want to retain composure. So you’re out of luck there. Our recommendation: get a salad with no dressing, at least until you understand what foods you can tolerate while taking Alli. for more on how to eat in finer dining establishments, see "How to order lower-fat, lower-calorie entrees in restaurants: find your most nutritious meals on any menu" by this writer.

Fortunately, fast food restaurants have been forced to publish the nutritional content in their foods, most of which are available online and in their restaurants. Following are excerpts from nutrition content tables supplied by several national quick service chains: McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King, Hardee's, Jack In The Box, Subway, Chipotle Grill and Taco Bell. Only the items with 15 or fewer grams of fat are included.


There are a surprisingly large number of items under 15 grams of fat under the Golden Arches. Just be careful about excluding all types of special sauces (mayonnaise is the base ingredient).


Hamburger – 9 grams fat

Cheeseburger – 12 grams fat

Premium Grilled Chicken Classic – 10 grams fat


Small French fries – 13 grams fat

Chicken McNuggets/4 piece – 10 grams fat

Chicken McNuggets/6 piece – 15 grams fat

Salads (does NOT include dressing)

Asian Salad with Grilled Chicken – 10 grams fat

Asian Salad (no chicken) – 7 grams fat

Bacon Ranch Salad with Grilled Chicken – 9 grams fat

Bacon Ranch Salad (no chicken) – 7 grams fat

Caesar Salad with Grilled Chicken – 6 grams fat

Caesar Salad with Crispy Chicken – 13 grams fat

Caesar Salad (no chicken) – 4 grams fat

Snack Size Fruit & Walnut Salad – 8 grams fat

Dressing that are low fat

Newman’s Own Low Fat Balsamic Vinaigrette – 3 grams fat

Newman’s Own Low Fat Family Recipe Italian – 2.5 grams fat

Newman’s Own Low Fat Sesame Ginger – 2.5 grams fat


Egg McMuffin – 12 grams fat

English Muffin – 1.5 grams fat (no butter)

Biscuit, regular size – 10 grams fat

Biscuit, large size – 14 grams fat

Fruit ‘N Yogurt Parfait (with and without granola) – 2 grams fat

Apple Dippers with Caramel Dip – 0.5 grams fat

Desserts and beverages

Several items and this and other restaurants fall under the 15 gram fat threshold. However, those are not included here because in most cases they are higher in calories, comprised largely of sugar, which should not be the basis of a meal to an individual focused on weight loss. The exceptions are the fruit-based items, listed last above, which do carry beneficial nutrients and fiber not found in, say, sugared sodas.


There are low-fat meals to be had at Wendy’s – but as with McDonald’s, just be careful to stay away from most dressings on salads and mayonnaise and other sauces on the sandwiches.


Mandarin chicken Salad 2 grams fat

Add a packet of crispy noodles for 2 more grams fat

Caesar Chicken Salad – 5 grams fat

Add garlic croutons for 2.5 more grams fat but hold the Caesar dressing, which contains 13 grams fat


Fat Free French is truly fat free (0 grams fat)

Reduced fat creamy ranch has 8 grams fat

Low Fat Honey Mustard has 3 grams fat


Jr. Hamburger – 9 grams fat

Jr. Cheeseburger – 13 grams fat

Han & Cheese Sandwich, Kids’ Meal – 6 grams fat

Turkey & cheese Sandwich, Kids’ Meal – 6 grams fat

Ultimate Chicken Grill – 8 grams fat

Crispy Chicken Sandwich – 14 grams fat*

Roasted Turkey 7 Basil Pesto Frescata – 15 grams fat*

*I recommend going about these last two sandwiches carefully. They dance close to the Alli 15 grams of fat precipice, and one errant dollop of mayonnaise by a new kitchen employee could push you over the edge.

Burger King

Like most of what’s found in hamburger joints, the presence of red meat, deep fryers and the words “crispy” and “croissants” on the menu do not bode well for fat avoiders. Still, there are several items (including small fries, small onion rings, a ham omelet sandwich and Cheesy Tots) that have fewer than 15 fat grams:

TENDERGRILL® Garden Salad – 9 grams fat

Side Garden Salad (no dressing) – 0 grams fat

Hamburger -- 12 grams fat

TENDERGRILL® Chicken Sandwich *with No Mayo -- 10 grams fat

Five-piece Crown-shaped CHICKEN TENDERS® -- 12 grams fat

French Fries - salted (Small) -- 13 grams fat

French Fries - unsalted (Small) -- 13 grams fat

Onion Rings (Small) – 7 grams fat

Ham Omelet Sandwich – 14 grams fat

French Toast Sticks (3 pieces) – 12 grams fat

CHEESY TOTS™ (6 pieces) – 12 grams fat

MOTT'S® Strawberry Flavored Applesauce * -- 0 grams fat

Minute Maid Apple Juice – 0 grams fat

Minute Maid Orange Juice – O grams fat

HERSHEY®'S 1% Chocolate Lowfat Milk ­– 2.5 grams fat

HERSHEY®'S 1% Lowfat Milk – 2.5 grams fat


Hardee's 2/-Pound Monster Thickburger has 108 grams of fat. If you gathered a little Alli Hardee's party, that would require seven people and a dog (for the remaining 3 grams of fat) if the Thickburger was your choice. At breakfast, it would take four of you to eat a Loaded Breakfast Burrito, whichcontains 51 grams of fat. Individually, you're smartest to go with the following:

Charboiled BBQ Chicken Sandwich – 4 grams fat

Hamburger – 12 grams fat

Kids' size small fries – 12 grams fat

Pancake platter (breakfast) – 5 grams fat

Sunrise croissant – 10 grams fat

Tempted by the sides and condiments? Here's what you'd get:

Cheese slices (American or Swiss) – 4-5 grams fat

Bacon (two strips) – 4 grams fat

Small serving mashed potatoes (no butter or gravy) – 2 grams fat

Chicken gravy – 1 gram fat (surprising)

Packets of either hot sauce, or ketchup – 0 grams fat

Packet of horseradish sauce – 2 grams fat

Packet of mayonnaise – 9 grams fat

Honey mustard dipping sauce – 9 grams fat

Jack In The Box

With the signature Bacon Ultimate Cheeseburger holding 77 grams of fat, it is truly out of the box thinking to expect a lower fat meal at JITB restaurants. You gotta be careful, but a few items stay under the 15 gram limit (note: nutrition data here does not include condiments or dressing):

Asian Chicken Salad (with Grilled Chicken) - 1.5 grams fat*

Asian Chicken Salad (with Crispy Chicken - 13 grams fat

Side Salad - 3 grams fat

Southwest Chicken Salad (with Grilled Chicken - 12 grams fat

Hamburger – 14 grams fat

Chicken Fajita Pita - no salsa - 9 grams fat

Beef Monster Taco - 14 grams fat

Egg Roll (1) - 6 grams fat

Regular Beef - 8 grams fat

Stuffed Jalapenos (3) – 13 grams fat

Bacon Breakfast Jack – 14 grams fat

Breakfast Jack – 12 grams fat

Hash Brown (1) – 10 grams fat

Kids’ Meals Chicken Breast Strips (2) - 12 grams fat

Natural Cut Fries - kids portion - 11 grams fat

*The Asian Chicken Salad with grilled, not crispy, chicken also delivers 22 grams of protein -- an excellent choice for anyone who exercises.


Yeah, Jared lost a lot of weight eating here and you might too. But that means no mayo, no oil and no 12-inch subs – however, doubling the meat portion does not double the fat, thankfully. A smart way to make a meal here more filling is to get the soup (for more on that, see also the article on Energy Density by this Hub author).

Six-inch sub sandwiches (includes wheat bread, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, green peppers, pickles and olive, but no oil or mayonnaise). DM means “double meat,” which as the numbers illustrate does not double the fat content.

Ham – 5 grams fat (DM: 7 grams fat)

Oven Roasted Chicken Breast – 5 grams fat (DM: 8 grams fat)

Roast Beef – 5 grams fat (DM: 7 grams fat)

Subway Club – 6 grams fat (DM: 8 grams fat)

Sweet Onion Chicken Teriyaki – 5 grams fat (DM: 7 grams fat)

Sweet Onion Steak Teriyaki – 9 grams fat

Barbecue Chicken – 6 grams fat

Bourbon Chicken – 5 grams fat

Turkey Breast – 4.5 grams fat (DM: 8 grams fat)

Turkey Breast & Ham – 5 grams fat (DM: 7 grams fat)

Veggie Delite – 3 grams fat

Steak & cheese – 12 grams fat

Subway Melt – 12 grams fat

Gardenburger – 7 grams fat

Turkey Breast with Honey Mustard – 4.5 grams fat

Turkey Pastrami _ 6 grams fat

Tuscan Chicken – 8 grams fat

Veggi-Max – 8 grams fat

Deli-style Sandwiches (includes deli roll, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, green peppers, pickles and olives)

Ham – 4 grams fat

Roast Beef – 4.5 grams fat

Turkey Breast – 3.5 grams fat


Turkey Breast (no Chipotle Sauce) – 6 grams fat

Salads (no dressing or croutons, but can include fat free Italian dressing)

Grilled Chicken& Baby Spinach

Subway Club – 4 grams fat

Veggie Delite – 1 grams fat

Breakfast on Deli Round

Honey Mustard Ham & Egg – 5 grams fat

Western with Cheese – 13 grams fat

Breakfast wraps

Honey Mustard Ham & Egg – 7 grams fat


All range from about 1 grams fat (vegetable beef, tomato garden vegetable and minestrone) to 11 grams fat (Brown and Wild Rice with Chicken)

Fat-free condiments are

Honey Mustard Sauce/Fat Free, mustard (both yellow and deli brown), vinegar, and Fat Free Red Wine Vinaigrette and Sweet Onion Sauce (be sure to avoid the full fat versions).

Also, all vegetables (except olives) are fat free - -so pile them on.

Chipotle Grill

The numbers from this popular chain probably are close to what is found elsewhere in the “health-mex” style chains. Unfortunately, no full burrito or tortilla offerings come out to less than the target 15 grams of fat. You can see this when you construct an item that includes the shell, meat, vegetables and condiments. The only winning combination is in a bowl (“bol”) item that uses lettuce (0 grams fat), red or green tomatillo (1 grams fat), tomato or corn salsa (1 grams fat) and chicken (11 grams fat), steak (12 grams fat) or carnitas (12 grams fat). Barbacoa is 16 grams fat, so either eat that in a half portion or not at all.

Menu ingredients

Flour tortillas (13”) – 11 grams fat

Crispy Taco shells – 9 grams fat

Rice – 7 grams

Black and Pinto Beans – 1 G

Fajita Vegetables (fried in oil) – 8 g

Taco Bell

This chain touts a list of items under 10 grams of fat, all under the banner of "Fresco style." Those itmes are:

Crunchy Taco – 8 grams fat

Crunchy Taco Supreme – 98 grams fat

Soft Taco/Beef – 7 grams fat

Ranchero Chicken Soft Taco – 4 grams fat

Grilled Steak Soft Taco – 4.5 grams fat

Bean Burrito – 7 grams fat

7-Layer Burrito – 8 grams fat

Chili Cheese Burrito – 8 grams fat

1/2 opund Cheesy Bean & Rice Burrito – 7 grams fat

Enchirito/Beef – 8 grams fat

MexiMelt – 7 grams fat

Steak Grilled Taquitos – 7 grams fat

Mexican Rice – 3 grams fat

Pintos 'n Cheese - 2 grams fat

Apparently, any item on the Taco Bell menu can be made "Fresco Style" if it contains cheese or sauce. They substitute a tomato-based "Fiesta Salsa" for the fattier cheese and sauce, a trick you might employ at home as well.

Good luck! And check out other articles on diet and exercise from this Hub writer – because if you truly want to lose weight and keep it off, exercise and all-around smart eating is an essential part of the plan.

# # #

Russ Klettke is a certified trainer, speaker and author of "A Guy's Gotta Eat, the regular guy's guide to eating smart" with Deanna Conte, MS RD LD (Marlowe & Co. NY 2005), available where books are sold and in more than 70 public library systems worldwide.

Make smart eating a natural part of your life

ABC News reports


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    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Great post! I'm starting a diet, and even though I've found a bunch of wonderful recipes, I don't always have time to cook between classes and whatnot. It makes my happy that I can still have an occasional burger when on the run. :)

    • profile image

      Melanie Munn 

      9 years ago

      The Egg McMuffin is my fast food breakfast of choice. It's filling without doing to much damage. Thanks for your list.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      This was a seriously great thing to post - thank you very much!

    • SEM Pro profile image

      SEM Pro 

      9 years ago from North America

      Great hub - wonderful research and resource - thanks!


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