April 6, 2012

How to Order Vegan, Gluten Free Or Healthier Options at National Fast Food Chains.

Eating Healthy on the Road.

So, there are times where despite our best efforts, our only options just might be fast food, especially on vacation or a trip. On a road trip or in a podunk town with little to zero options for a healthy meal, I’ve found ways to navigate the fast food menu. I do not, I repeat, do not, advocate the consumption of fast food except for in a pinch and other compromising situations. So I suggest you print this blog in case of emergency!

Here are some of the biggies:

Subway: This one of the most veg and health friendly places if you are in a bind. You can always go with a veggie sub on Italian bread (9 grain wheat contains honey), hold the cheese and mayo, while piling on the veggies, avocado and mustard. You can also get this wrap style or forgo the carbs and chomp on a salad. They do have veggie patties however, if you’re vegan, it’s a no go as they contain egg. For allergy sensitive folks, stick to the salads.

Quizno’s : These guys aren’t far behind Subway. I do love a warm sandwich but Subway has better veggie options. Here I order a veggie sub, no cheese or mayo, add guac and vinaigrette. Toasty yumminess. Also, grab a salad if you’re not doing bread! Again, for allergy sensitive folks, stick to the salads.

Taco Bell: You’d be surprised but the Taco Bell menu can be easily manipulated to bring it down to somewhat healthy.  Everything is still full of high fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated oils, but the menu can be veganized. And again, don’t make this a habit.  So, their new Fresco Style menu is easy to change up. Order the tacos or burritos Fresco style and swap the meat for beans and voila, veganized. The crunch wrap supreme can be veganized by tossing the meat, cheese and sour cream and subbing beans and guac. You can also have a seven layer burrito minus the layers of cheese and sour cream, bam, vegan five layer burrito! So yes, the ingredients in all of these are vegan, but certainly not the best thing for you. Make sure to check the site as each item contains different allergens. Their site is very comprehensive regarding allergens.

McDonald’s: Oh yes, the golden arches. It can be done if there is no choice. Don’t even think about the fries if you’re vegan as they contain beef and milk. Not even kosher! Although, you can go for a side salad and ask for the cilantro lime as that one, despite being chemically, is still vegan. Or opt for salt, pepper and a lemon wedge. The other salads can be veganized by picking off the croutons and cheese. And you can get their new iced coffees sans milk.

Burger King – Well, vegans, no can do on the veggie burger as it contains egg whites but the fries are fried in a separate fryer with no animal products. Not so much for the onion rings, they a cooked in a shared fryer. So allergen diets, beware of the buns as well as the croutons in the salads. I say you’re safest here with a salad and to find out before you drown your greens, what is in the dressings they happen to have available at that store. Again, there is always, salt, pepper and a lemon wedge. I have heard that the french toast sticks are vegan, good in a breakfast time pinch!

Jack in the Box: Here is a place you have some okay options outside of a salad. The Teriyaki Rice Bowls are veganizable by dropping the meat out and are packed with veggies. Sugary ones, but veggies nonetheless. Sometime you just gotta take what you can get. Go for a taco here by ordering it with black beans instead of meat and leaving off the cheese. Fries and hash brown sticks, while fattening, are vegan friendly and only if you must! In addition, Jack food is all made to order so you’re likely to get a fresher meal here then the burger royalty.

Carl’s Jr/Hardee’s: A side salad with no cheese and balsamic vinaigrette seems to be the safest bet here. If you are so inclined to fill your tummy, make sure you share and don’t eat the whole order of fries or hash brown nuggets as those are vegan as well. You can also grab a taco salad without the meat, cheese or sour cream.

Wendy’s: Oddly enough, they are great for gluten free diners. As for vegans, we can have their side and regular salads so long as we pick off the meat and/or cheese and choose an appropriate dressing. The baked potatoes can be ordered plain so you can add salt, pepper, chives and any other healthy toppings on your own. They also offer oranges as a combo side too so if you do happen to go for burger, grab some fruit instead of fries.

Arby’s: It’s pretty tough here. You have to pick a lot off of the salads and read the ingredients on the dressing packets to be 100% safe. The market fresh sandwich bread had honey in it, but is suitable to vegetarians and calories counters as you can make a lettuce, onion and tomato sandwich if you must. The subs can be made veggie as well.

Pizza Hut: Vegans, we are screwed here unless we order multigrain dough with no sauce and tons of veggies. All other sauces and doughs contain dairy.  For non vegans, go for the cheeseless veggie on multigrain.

Domino’s: Crunchy thin crust is the only vegan crust (contains soy for those sensitive to it). Pizza sauce is dairy free so pile on the veggies and order up! Salads are okay without cheese and any of the Italian dressings. Skip the breadsticks as they contain dairy as well. Go ahead and get the pasta primavera but swap the alfredo for pizza sauce (not marinara as it has cheese in it).

Papa John’s: I’m leery as they do not have ingredients listed although they do claim to be all natural. Call and ask the manager before ordering anything regarding vegan and/or allergen ingredients.

Baja Fresh: I love Baja as everything is made fresh with no lard, msg, etc. I go for the tostada salad with no meat, cheese or sour cream and pile on salsa, guac and all their cool fixins from their salsa bar. It’s chock full of beans, rice and crispy veggies. You can also go for the veggie burrito or tacos with no cheese or sour cream!

Chipotle: Another great place in a pinch for healthy fast food. The black beans, rice, guac, and tortillas are all vegetarian so eat away people and create you dish however you choose.

Del Taco:  From what I can decipher, the veggie works burrito without cheese or sour cream is vegan as are their fries. Make sure you ask a manager before ordering.

Starbucks:  Soy latte, soy tea latte, soy chai latte, yum. If you need the extra flavors, they use syrups for most of them and they too are vegan but chemically and high fructose sugary. Also, Frappucinos can be made with soy now so have at it for a sinful treat! If you’re hungry, go for the tofu and noodle bento box or a fruit medley. Starbucks in Canada carries vegan baked goods!

Coffee Bean: Soy lattes and hot tea with soy milk here. No yummy flavored drinks as they use powders that all contain dairy.

Stay tuned as next week I navigate chain restaurants!! Be safe and conscious fast fooders!!

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Editor: Kate Bartolotta
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