How to Eat Low-Carb at Jack in the Box

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Photo © Linda Jo Heilman

Jack in the Box is a fast-food chain restaurant with over 2,200 locations in the United States, primarily in the west and southwest, but scattered through other parts of the country as well. It is primarily a hamburger restaurant but offers a variety of other foods. Unfortunately, as is the case with most fast-food restaurants, most menu items are loaded with sugar or other refined carbohydrate.

Nutritional Information

Not every menu item at my local Jack in the Box was on the Web site, but the basic ones are.

On the website you can browse the menu and click on menu items to find nutritional information.

PDFs of Information for most menu items are here:

How Low-Carb-Friendly is Jack in the Box?

Let's face it, no matter which healthy way-of-eating we are following, if we expect lots of healthy food choices at a fast food restaurant we will be disappointed. The question isn't usually about how great a place is, but whether we can find something to eat in a pinch. Fast food restaurants are more similar than they are different. Here are some ways that some rise above the others, and how Jack in the Box rates:

  1. Is there customizable nutrition information available? The trend in fast food Web sites is to provide information about the components of a menu item (e.g. the beef patty, the bun, the cheese, etc.)  This is great because we can find out how much carbohydrate or sugar is in the sauce, the condiments, etc.  And of course we want to know how much carbohydrate is in the bun, since we are usually going to ditch it and subtract it from the total. Jack in the Box: FAIL. No information of this type is provided.
  1. How are the salads and salad dressings? Fast food salads which are intended to be a meal are almost always greens topped with chicken, and then a few other things. Often the chicken is breaded, but there is usually at least one with "grilled" chicken. Salad dressings sometimes have an amazing amount of sugar in them. Jack in the Box: B  I'd say they are slightly above average in this department with two grilled chicken salads (see below) and no dressings with large amounts of sugar.
  1. How much junk do they put in their chicken? Looking through an ingredient list for something like "grilled chicken" can be an enlightening experience, with starches and sometimes even sugars often added (sometimes there are additives in the beef, but in my experience chicken is the main offender). Considering that a serving of plain grilled chicken strips at Jack in the Box has 5 grams of carbohydrate, I give it a FAIL.
  2. How are bunless burgers and other sandwiches served? Note that I can only go by the two locations I've tried, but on this one Jack in the Box is a big FAIL. Not only do they not do their burgers as a "lettuce wrap" like Carl's Jr., Hardees, and In 'n' Out Burger, they don't even give you utensils like all the other places I've checked out (e.g. McDonalds). Apparently they expect you to pick up a double cheeseburger with your fingers?

With 3 fails out of 4 categories, Jack in the Box is surely the least low-carb-friendly fast food chain I have reviewed.

Now let's go through the various menu categories and see what we can find to eat!

"Healthy Menu" Not So Healthy

Right off the top, I'll warn you away from almost everything on the "Better for You" menu, which includes such items as smoothies (1/3 cup sugar in each one, but hey, they're nonfat!), and the Chicken Teriyaki Bowl with (brace yourself) 134 grams of carbohydrate, the same amount that is in their 24 oz Oreo Cookie Shake with Whipped Topping.

Salads

Jack in the Box has two salad choices for us: The Grilled Chicken Salad with 10 grams of net carb (14 grams total carb, 4 grams fiber) and the Chicken Club Salad (make sure to get it with grilled chicken) with 8 grams of net carb (12 grams total carb, 4 grams fiber). If you are on a moderate carb diet, another choice is the Southwest Chicken Salad (with the grilled chicken at 22 grams of net carb. The salad dressings are all 2 or 3 grams of carb per serving. Of course, stay away from the croutons, which come in a separate packet.

Burgers

Jack in the Box offers a variety of burgers (which are all-beef, no fillers), and they will give them to you without the bun, however, you'd best have your own plastic fork and knife with you. The burgers with the buns have between 32 and 52 grams of carbohydrate, and the vast majority of that is going to be the bun, with a few grams for condiments (the ketchup has 3 grams).

Other Sandwiches

As far as I can tell, there are a few sandwiches that don't have breaded chicken: the sourdough grilled chicken club, the Turkey bacon cheddar grilled sandwich, and the Deli Trio grilled sandwich. It could be that on the grilled ones the cheese melts into the bread, although the photos on the Web site don't look melty - more like the bread is grilled but not the whole sandwich. I don't know whether the insides of these sandwiches would constitute a meal.

There is also a Chicken Fajita Pita which you could pick the insides out of (the pita is supposedly "made with whole grain," but the "white whole wheat flour" is right before "yeast" on the ingredient list).

Breakfast

All the breakfasts are carb-loaded. The best thing is probably to order the jumbo breakfast platter and tell the to leave off the 8 mini-pancakes and the hash browns. The only other option is to separate a breakfast sandwich from its bread, croissant, biscuit, or tortilla. Do not make the mistake of assuming that the breakfast burritos have the least carb -- the Steak and Egg Burrito has 57 grams. The breakfast sandwiches with the least carbohydrate are the Breakfast Jacks (regular, bacon, or sausage) at 30 grams each. They have between 16 and 19 grams of protein, but that includes the bun, which would have a little.

Sides

Put the sides out of your mind. Don't even look at that part of the menu. It's all breaded and fried. Even the french fries have extra flour and starch added.

Beverages

Water, coffee, or unsweetened iced tea are your best choices. They also carry Diet Coke and Diet Dr. Pepper.

Bottom Line

Although Jack in the Box is absolutely the least low-carb-friendly burger place I've been to, if you are desperate you can find things to eat there.

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