How to Get Secret Menu Items for Weight Loss

Hidden menu items are all the rage but are they healthy? We uncover how to get secret menu items with weight loss and health in mind!

How to Get Secret Menu Items for Weight Loss

Not-so-secret, hidden menu items are all the rage. Using secret menu hacks for how to get secret menu items may provide healthier and more interesting options than what is listed in plain sight.

This ultimate list includes the best fast food for weight loss and how to order healthier hidden items. Read on to discover all 28 secrets for how to hack hidden menu items at popular fast-food chains!

What Is a Secret Menu?

Secret menus are those that are circulated in the marketplace but not officially published as a regular menu. They can be quite controversial, however. While they often offer "skinny" versions of popular favorites, they can also be complicated for employees and customers.

Pros of Secret Menus

Some secret menu options offer consumers a healthier alternative to items listed on the regular menu. Consumers typically feel the following about brands with secret menus:

• Increased interest
• Increased familiarity with menu and/or brand
• Increased feeling of being an insider with special knowledge

Especially if secret menu items offer healthier foods, brands can change the way customers interact with them. Consumers report feeling positive attitudes towards brands with secret menus, which can affect what consumers intend to order.

Cons of Secret Menus

Studies show that secret menus can also complicate matters and consumers may experience a shift. They can go from feeling more familiar with the brand to feel the relationship is more complex and complicated than it was before they knew about the secret menu.

Another common complaint about secret menus is that they stray from official items. This may make employees upset since they have to make an uncommon item. It can also upset other customers waiting in line due to delays or increased waiting time.

Beyond these reasons, recent research shows that people who order from secret menus report significantly more orders than those who order from the official menu. This can lead to unhealthy habits, though healthier options can and do exist. 

How to Order From a Secret Menu

The following tips are the best-kept secrets for ordering healthier items from fast-food restaurants.

1. Recognize Common Chains Offering Healthier Options

Knowing common chains that thrive on secret menu options is a great way to explore healthier options. Common restaurant chains that offer healthier hidden items include:

1. Starbucks
2. In-N-Out
3. Chick-fil-A
4. Taco Bell
5. Jamba Juice

2. Ask About It

Restaurants that have secret menus are usually not so secretive about it, so ask if a secret menu exists or if a hidden healthier option is available.

Another option is to ask an employee what their favorite item is. Employees have likely tried most of the menu and know about popular picks, even the ones not listed.

3. Create a Combination

Combining components of a common order may just create a new item altogether.

For example, asking for a favorite burger in a wrap or lettuce instead of the usual buns can cut calories in half. It can also create a new favorite option, even if not officially listed on the menu

3. Be Specific

Common chains like Starbucks may have fun names like "Burnt Marshmallow" or "Polyjuice Potion Frappuccino" for secret menu items. Not all employees will be familiar with these items. It helps to be specific about the order and ingredients.

Especially when swapping or substituting ingredients to make an order healthier or allergen-friendly, explain exactly what the order should contain.

4. Vary Valuable Protein Sources

Many establishments honor requests for vegan guests or other consumers requiring alternative ingredients. This means they may have healthier protein sources on hand.

When aiming for weight loss, it can help to keep leaner meats and protein-packed ingredients in mind, including:

• Animal meats: poultry (i.e. chicken, turkey), lean cuts (i.e. beef, pork)
• Fish: tuna, salmon, herring, cod, sardines, shrimp, crab
• Dairy Products: milk, cheese, cottage cheese, eggs, yogurt
• Nuts and seeds: almonds, walnuts, pecans, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, nut butters
• Legumes: soybeans, peanuts, beans, lentils, peas

Popular hidden orders are often variations of regular items and it never hurts to ask if an ingredient may be substituted. Sometimes this is how secret menu items get their start!

Starbucks Secret Menu

Caffeinate the day the healthier (and secret) way with these Starbucks drinks.

1. Short Seasonal (Hold the Whip)

Starbucks is known for its sweet, seasonal drinks. However, most Starbucks holiday drinks are packed with unwanted sugar, fat, and calories.

Cut the calories, sugar, and fat by nearly half by ordering a shorter size (8 oz). Skip the whipped cream for a drink that is barely 100 calories!

2. Cold Foam Cascara Cold Brew

Cascara is an all-natural sweetener that tastes like maple. It adds sweetness without all the calories of conventional sugar.

3. Iced Skinny Mocha

The full-fat hot version of this drink might just be the unhealthiest option on the Starbucks menu. The "skinny" version is sweetened with a Splenda-like alternative. Even the grande size contains only 120 calories, 1.5 grams of fat, and 8 grams of sugar.

4. Skinny Vanilla Latte

For those who do not love plant alternative options, the skinny latte used skim milk and sugar-free vanilla syrup. Finally, cut calories without having to sacrifice the flavor.

5. Iced Coffee with Coconut Milk

A simple solution, coconut milk adds a splash of cream at a fraction of the calories. It is a healthier fat option, containing only 1.5 grams in the grande size.

6. Unsweetened Tea with Coconut Milk

Like the iced coffee, this hidden item uses coconut milk to add creaminess and to a sugar-free drink. 

7. Caramel Frappuccino Light

This beverage is similar to the classic pick. However, the grande contains just 100 calories, which is less than a fourth compared to the original creation.

8. Cool Lime Refresher

Keeping it under 60 calories, a grande Cool Lime Refresher is naturally sweet. It provides a burst of energy and nutrients due to the lime juice.

9. Doppio Unsweetened Espresso Macchiato With Whole Milk

Whole milk may seem like a less intuitive choice, though this drink contains an effective amount of caffeine at the smallest volume of low-calorie liquid available. The whole milk adds beneficial vitamins and minerals, too.

10. Cold Buster

Made with steamed lemonade, hot water, and mint tea, this drink is nearly a medicinal beverage. Reflected in the name, its purpose is to boost immunity through nutritious ingredients like lemon and mint.

Taco Bell Secret Healthy Menu

Wondering how to get secret menu items at Taco Bell? "Think outside the bun" with these unique items!

11. "The Hulk"

"The Hulk" is definitely a green machine, made from a bean-and-cheese burrito with guacamole. Taco Bell's guacamole has a bit less sodium and sugar and supplies fiber, healthy fats, and other essential nutrients. 

12. The Enchirito (a Smothered Burrito with Seasoned Beef)

Started in the 1970s, the infamous "enchirito" combines an enchilada and a burrito. Make it healthier by opting to omit the sour cream and sauce. Add onions, red sauce, and save some for later.

13. Double Grilled Quesadilla

Grilling is a relatively healthy cooking method, especially compared to the frying that often happens with fast food. Double grilled quesadillas are namely grilled twice, resulting in an extra crunch and crispiness that the second round of grilling adds.

In N Out Healthy Secret Menu

Get "In-N-Out" with health in mind by ordering these fast, secret menu items.

14. Grilled Cheese Sandwich

The In-N-Out grilled cheese looks reminiscent of a burger rather than a sandwich. For those looking for something hearty, this cheddar and bread option is filling without the need for beef. It's loaded with sliced tomato and lettuce, which help add a balance of vitamins and minerals to the meal.

15. Veggie Burger

The In-N-Out veggie burger is basically a grilled cheese without the cheese. It's a loaded sandwich that includes onion, pickle, lettuce, and tomato. Opt for mustard instead of ketchup to cut back on added sugar intake. 

16. Veggie Sandwich

In-N-Out already uses vegetable oil which is 100% pure and cholesterol-free. This secret veggie sandwich is made from freshly baked buns, tomatoes, onions, and lettuce and adds a delicious crisp as a vegan option.

17. Protein Style

Get a burger protein style, which means they wrap it in lettuce instead of a bun. It is equally as satisfying without the bloating that can come with many fast food meals.

18. Flying Dutchman

This secret option is as simple as it gets - it is made with no buns, no onions, no lettuce, and just two slices of cheese melted between two beef patties. This menu item keeps protein at the forefront.

Jamba Juice Healthy Secret Menu

Juices tend to be laden in sugar and Jamba Juice is no exception to the rule. However, healthify that juice order with these tips in mind.

19. Butterfinger

This drink gets its secret powers from carrot juice. That means vitamin A, plus lots of protein from the combination of its other ingredients.

To order a "Butterfinger", ask for carrot juice combined with chocolate peanut butter and frozen yogurt.

20. Berry Depressing

The name is misleading since the Berry Depressing drink actually does the opposite - this healthy mix is just a blend of a bunch of berries. It provides a healthy boost of energy and an infusion of flavor.

21. Gummy Bear

One of the less-secret hidden menu items, the Gummy Bear comes in many varieties. Here's the basic formula:

6 oz fruit juice + 4 oz soy milk + ice + a scoop of sherbet

Some people get all the sherbet flavors mixed together, but the healthier option is to choose a smaller size portion and limit the sherbet scoops.

22. Pink Starburst

Yet another popular secret item, the Pink Starburst is made of lemonade, soy milk, frozen yogurt, strawberries, sherbet, and ice. Healthier twists on this original simply include lemonade, soymilk, frozen yogurt, strawberries, and ice.

Again, the key is to limit more sugary add-ons like sherbet and opt for smaller size portions.

Other Secret Menu Options

From Carl's Jr. to McDonald's, slim up other favorite fast food favorites with these secret menu tips.

23. Chick-fil-A

Order an "Unwich", which is simply any sandwich ordered with a side of lettuce to replace the bun.

The "Spicy Char" is another great option since it's made with a char-grilled, unbreaded chicken breast sprinkled with hot and spicy seasonings. It also allows for a choice in bun, and the healthiest option is to use lettuce in the place of bread.

24. Subway

Build a better sandwich by creating an option made with 9-grain wheat bread. Along with the added fiber, add veggies and replace thicker dressings with a low-calorie, low-sodium option.

Oil and vinegar dressing is a simple, healthy solution that is great for adding flavor to any 6-inch.

25. Chipotle

Most locations will honor the request for a single taco!

26. Burger King

Ask for a Mustard Whopper, which replaces the mayonnaise with mustard. This swap naturally cuts down a "whopping" amount of fat and overall calories.

27. Carl's Jr.

"Low Carb It" by asking for a lettuce-wrapped burger, or "Trim It" to get no mayonnaise or cheese, a wheat bun, and chicken instead of beef.

The "Swap Your Combo" is another secret option that allows the greasy fries and sugar-laden beverages to be swapped for salad and bottled water.

28. McDonald's

Grilled cheese is a secret menu item that is a lighter, vegetarian meal.

The "Poor Man's Big Mac" is a cheaper, healthier alternative as well. It removes the third slice of bread and the second slice of cheese, which reduces the amount of calories.

In Summary on Healthy Secret Menu Items

Understanding a secret menu is a great way to expand healthy options. Often, lighter or "skinny" versions can replace original items to promote weight loss.

These items can be convenient and healthy while still supporting busy lifestyles!

References:

Bedell M. Secret Menu: Healthy Starbucks Drinks You Can Order Now. Food Truck Empire. Published March 31, 2019. https://foodtruckempire.com/coffee/healthy-drinks-menu/.

Dretsch HJ, Reid CE. Spicing Things Up with a (Brand) Secret. Adv Consum Res. 2019;47:543.

Eat This, Not That! Editors. Secret Menu Options at Popular Chains You Never Knew. Eat This. Published September 22, 2020. https://www.eatthis.com/secret-menu-items-revealed/.

Elementum. The Story of Things: Secret Menus. Medium. Published March 14, 2018. https://medium.com/@elementumscm/the-story-of-things-secret-menus-9b2c99ef9f12.

Fast Food Menu Prices. Fast Food Restaurant Secret Menus. Fast Food Menu Prices. https://www.fastfoodmenuprices.com/secret-menus/.

HackTheMenu. Healthy Secret Menu Options. Hack the Menu. Published July 9, 2020. http://hackthemenu.com/healthy-secret-menu-options/.

Haq M. 10 fast-food restaurants with secret menu items. USA Today. Published April 10, 2017. https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2017/04/10/fast-food-restaurants-secret-menu-items/99880320/.

Solado S. Shhh! The Best Secret Menu Items from Classic Fast Food Restaurants. Parade. Published July 17, 2020. https://parade.com/617705/solanahawkenson/the-best-secret-menu-items-from-classic-fast-food-restaurants/.

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