How to Eat Vegetarian at Fast Food Restaurants
Can I Get a Side of Fries With My Fries?
To say that vegetarian options on the menus at fast food restaurants are limited is an understatement, to say the least. But sometimes there isn’t a choice but to eat fast food. You may be forced into a drive-thru restaurant when you are eating with a group, traveling, or have limited time.
If you are vegetarian, eating healthily at a fast food restaurant can be even more daunting than for carnivores. At most places, vegetarians have little choice but a carb overload or wilted lettuce. However, there are ways to eat vegetarian at fast food restaurants without settling for just a super-sized order of fries.
Tips for Finding Vegetarian Options at Fast Food Places
At most burger joints, fries and salads are typical options. If you eat dairy products, desserts are available also. Greasy fries and sugary, fatty ice cream aren’t very healthy, though. Your food choices are probably wider than they seem after giving the menu just a glance.
Check the Sides
The sides menu is your best friend if you are a vegetarian. It usually consists of vegetables—or at least things that resemble vegetables if you lump fries in that category. You can get lucky at certain restaurants and find corn on the cob or broccoli offered as sides.
Many places have fruit as side choices as well. You frequently see sliced apples, grapes, or fruit cups.
- Read the descriptions of all the items, including the ones with meat. Sometimes specialty dishes come with a side that isn’t listed under the sides section of the menu. You will find meat over a bed of rice or with coleslaw or paired with other vegetables. Many places will let you order those sides even though they aren’t listed on the official sides list.
Ask About Options and Substitutions
Ask an employee if they have any vegetarian options that aren’t listed on the menu. There may be something used in another dish that you could get as a side.
- Order items and ask for the meat to be left off or substituted for something else. For example, order a sandwich with just the veggies and cheese (if you eat dairy).
Consider Special Menus
During breakfast hours, vegetarian options can be more plentiful for those who eat eggs and dairy. Egg or egg and cheese sandwiches are available. There are usually hashbrowns, pancakes, or other breakfast pastries.
Look at the kids menu. Sometimes the kids have better vegetarian options than the regular menu. Peanut butter sandwiches, grilled cheese, and macaroni and cheese are standard items on kids’ menus. Fruit is usually a side choice for them as well.
Precautions and Items to Avoid
- Gravy often has sausage or other meat in it. It is also usually made with grease from meat as well.
- Ask an employee before ordering green beans, baked beans, and other types of beans. These are frequently cooked with bacon grease and sometimes even have pieces of meat in them. This occurs often in the southern part of America.
- Ask about the ingredients in salads also. Bacon pieces, boiled eggs, and cheese are normal salad toppings. Request that these items be left off if the salads are not premade.
- The same grease that is used to fry meat products is sometimes used to cook fries. If you are a strict vegetarian, you may need to inquire about cooking procedures.
Vegetarian Options at National Chains
Subway is a paradise for vegetarians as far as fast food is concerned. They offer a veggie delight sandwich that can be topped with as many veggies as the sandwich can hold. You can also order a salad made with the ingredients of your choice. Some Subway locations also serve pizza. Cheese pizza is a possibility for those vegetarians who eat dairy. You could also order a pizza with no cheese.
Taco Bell is another restaurant that makes life tastier for vegetarians on the go. There are numerous menu items that are meatless. You can also substitute beans for the meat on many of their other items. My favorite item at Taco Bell is a Mexican pizza with beans substituted for the hamburger meat. Items at Taco Bell can also be ordered fresco for you vegans out there. With fresco, seasoned diced veggies are substituted for cheese.
Burger King offers a veggie burger made with a Morningstar Farms garden veggie patty. It comes fully topped on a sesame seed bun. I have had them before and thought they were very appetizing. Burger King also has onion rings on the menu if you are burnt out on fries. There is macaroni and cheese on the kids menu as well.
Wendy’s offers baked potatoes that can be stuffed with broccoli, cheeses, sour cream, or even salsa. You can get a break from just fries. They also offer mandarin oranges as a side.
KFC is another place with multiple vegetarian options. They have many sides available such as mashed potatoes, corn, green beans, and other vegetables depending on location. Most KFC’s also have a buffet. There are usually many vegetables on it as well as salads.
Fazoli’s is a great place to eat for vegetarians. There are many pasta choices, salad choices, soup choices, and pizza. You can add broccoli to your dish to add green to your meal. You will be sure to leave full since the breadsticks are included with the meal.
Long John Silver’s/Captain D’s
These fish places are better than some burger places for vegetarians. There are many sides available such as hush puppies, fries, baked potatoes (varies by location), corn on the cob, coleslaw, and more. If you are vegan, you should avoid the fried food because they are often cooked with the fish and chicken.
It's Difficult, But Not Impossible
Life is fast-paced. Most of us barely have time to breathe, let alone prepare a nutritionally balanced meal at home. We all know that fast food restaurants in general are not the healthiest places to eat.
However, sometimes we have to eat there because of time, eating companions, or lack of other places to eat. Eating vegetarian at fast food is difficult, but not impossible. The key is to examine all the choices available and try to eat as balanced as possible.
Helpful Links About Vegetarianism and Eating Out
- THE VEGETARIAN RESOURCE GROUP -- FAST FOOD INFORMATION
Vegetarian nutrition information, recipes, books, and publishers of Vegetarian Journal. The Vegetarian Resource Group (VRG) is a non-profit organization dedicated to educating the public on vegetarianism and the interrelated issues of health.
- VegCooking > Dining Out With VegCooking
Hundreds of vegetarian and vegan recipes to search within or browse. Spotlighted vegetarian and vegan foods, products, menus, and restaurants.