I was diagnosed with a gluten intolerance six years ago and have been gluten-free ever since.
In that time, it has become easier and easier to find gluten-free foods, especially in New York City where I live.
That is, unless we’re talking about fast food.
Even though an estimated 2.7 million Americans follow a gluten-free diet, fast-food restaurants in the US haven’t done much to appeal to this growing population of people who avoid foods like bread and pasta made with wheat.
In an effort to survey the gluten-free landscape, I set out on a mission to see if I could survive only on fast-food for five days. My most important rule was to only eat at fast-food chains and consume at least three meals a day.
Here’s how I did it:
This was my first time eating breakfast at McDonald’s so it was a momentous moment. My first hurdle was finding something filling that I could actually eat.
What I ate: Yogurt Parfait (without granola) and two bags of apple slices.
Verdict: The yogurt was extremely sweet. I gave up halfway through and decided to move on to the apple slices, assuming that these would be a safe bet. I was wrong. The apples were peeled and had lost all their crunch. Overall, not a good start to the day.
Shack Shack is one of two fast-food chains that offers a gluten-free bun and prides itself on serving 100 percent Angus beef meat, free of hormones and antibiotics.
What I ate: Shake Shack’s gluten-free bun with a burger patty.
The verdict: I was so insistent that my meal be gluten-free that I confused the server when ordering.I ended up with a very bland sandwich that didn’t contain Shake Shack’s typical burger toppings, like tomato and lettuce. While the bread was tasty, it felt dry, and the limp meat inside was a bit disappointing. But at least I was full.
Taco Bell’s website is one of the easiest of all to navigate as a gluten-free eater. It lays out exactly what you can and can’t eat if you have any type of food allergy.
Tex-Mex usually lends itself well to a gluten-free diet since many items are made with corn rather than flour. At Taco Bell you can have your fill of sides (black beans, rice, guacamole) but when it comes to main dishes, your main option is a rice bowl.
What I ate: Power Menu veggie bowl
The verdict: It was good to have some vegetables, but this dish wasn’t very tasty. The guacamole was pretty bland, though the lettuce and tomato salsa tasted fresh. All in all, it wasn’t an overly exciting meal.
Day 1 total:
Cost: $15.92 excluding tax
I woke up feeling extremely tired. I wasn’t sure if the food or the heat in my room was to blame. I decided to hit McDonald’s again because it was convenient. But keeping in mind the mistakes I made the day before, I chose a more hearty dish, which also happened to be the only other thing I could eat on the McDonald’s breakfast menu.
What I ate: Two pieces of bacon and a folded egg, washed down with a strawberry and banana smoothie.
The verdict: Delicious. The bacon was crispy and not at all greasy. The egg didn’t taste too much like an egg or really anything at all, but in many ways, this made it the perfect simple substitute to bread.
When I walked out, I saw another customer had ordered the same thing but was garnishing his meal with fresh herbs. A smart trick!
The drink was very sweet with 39g of sugar, but it was nice to have something fruity.
What I ordered: The veggie bowl with brown rice, guacamole, sour cream, romaine lettuce, and tomato salsa.
The verdict: It felt too healthy to be fast-food and was definitely an upgrade from my Taco Bell bowl the night before. The guacamole was a lot more flavorful.
What I ate:…