By: Natalie Michie
Many vegans might agree that fast food restaurants aren’t their first choice when it comes to getting a proper meal. However, sometimes these pit stops are unavoidable. My shift to a vegan lifestyle has certainly not stepped in the way of my love for junk food, so I can relate first-hand to having moments when you just want to go to your favourite drive-thru, burger joint or sandwich shop and pig out.
If you’re vegan and are at a loss at the fast food counter (because let’s face it - it’s a stereotype that all vegans are healthy), go ahead and try out some, or all, of the items listed below!
Taco Bell has a wide range of vegan options. If you’re looking for a quick bite, they do a great job of accommodating plant-based diets. Although there aren’t many meals on the Taco Bell menu that are originally made vegan, it is very easy to “veganize” most items.
For any items with beef or chicken, you can easily swap out the meat for hardy black or refried beans. Plus, for any meal that has cheese or a dairy-based sauce, you can ask for it to be made “fresco-style,” and Taco Bell will replace the dairy with guacamole or pico de gallo. Add to this any of their salsas and their vegan seasoned rice, and you’re good to go. This method will allow you to stay ethical without feeling like you are losing out on the substance of the meal.
Along with swapping out animal products for vegan substitutes, Taco Bell also has some delicious items that are accidentally vegan, such as the chips, fries and cinnamon twists! The Mexican restaurant chain also added a “How to eat vegan at Taco Bell” section to their website, so props to you for thinking of us, Taco Bell.
As a frequent consumer of overpriced specialty coffee drinks, the vegan options offered at Starbucks are of great importance to me. Not only do they offer dairy-free milk alternatives like soy, almond and coconut, as well as vegan syrups like vanilla, caramel, hazelnut and mocha,, but if you’re looking to grab a snack or even a quick meal, they’ve got you covered.
Most bagels at Starbucks are vegan, like multigrain, plain and cinnamon raisin. My all-time favourite snack to get when I’m on the go is a multigrain bagel with a packet of the organic jalapeno avocado spread. It’s delicious!
If you’re looking for a hot breakfast to go with your coffee, you can also opt for their whole grain oatmeal with any of the topping choices. One of my favourite treats from the coffee company are Justin’s Peanut Butter Cups. Don’t let the “contains milk” message on the back of the package steer you away - the company added that to their packaging a few years ago because they process their chocolate in a facility that processes products with dairy as well. Although the peanut butter cups are dairy-free, the company included this as a precautionary message to help customers who are severely allergic to dairy.
In August 2017, Starbucks came out with a more substantial meal option for vegans, which was a welcome change. The baby greens and brown rice protein bowl has 15 grams of protein, and I can assure you that it will fill you up.
Being that Tim Hortons is the staple fast food restaurant in Canada, they’ve got to have some vegan options, right? Fortunately, the renowned doughnut chain has a vast selection of vegan-friendly items! Although they have not yet hopped on the dairy-free milk bandwagon for their coffee and teas, they do have a pretty good selection of vegan food options if you’re looking for something to eat with your (black) drink.
Similar to Starbucks, Timmies offers some helpful breakfast options for those who follow a plant-based diet. Their menu offers oatmeal with two different flavours to pick from, maple or mixed berry. Plus, most of their bagels are vegan, including plain, blueberry, everything, cinnamon raisin, sesame seed, poppy seed, and pretzel. For spreads, you can opt for jam or peanut butter. I recommend trying the cinnamon raisin bagel with peanut butter, it’s amazing!
If you want to get some in your five a day, the harvest vegetable soup is a warm, hearty option that is perfect for a cold Canadian winter day.day. They also have a vegan garden salad, which you can eat on its own or on a roll for a makeshift sandwich. Just make sure you steer clear of the specialty bagels, 12 grain bagel and any croissants, as they have animal products in them, according to the company’s Ingredient Information guide.
If you’re a carb addict like me, you’ll be pleased to know that both the savoury potato wedges and the hash browns made at Tims are vegan-friendly. This is ideal when paired with a salad or coffee, or even juston their own. And for those who argue that a meal can’t solely consist of potatoes, to that I say, who hurt you?
Subway is definitely my favourite fast-food restaurant if I’m looking for a satisfying quick meal. With the bread options ranging from hearty Italian bread to wraps and ciabatta, stopping at Subway for a veggie sub is always a good option when you’re on the go.
Go ahead and pile on any of the vegetable toppings, and then top it with your choice of sauces. Options include yellow mustard, oil, vinegar, sweet onion sauce, Italian dressing and Buffalo sauce. You want to avoid any dairy-based sauces, so just keep an eye out for sauces that look creamy. Don’t be afraid to clarify with employees which sauces have dairy and which don’t. You also want to avoid sauces that have animal products other than dairy, such as the honey mustard sauce.
My favourite is a veggie sub on toasted Italian bread with sub sauce and salt and pepper, simple but so tasty!. If you’re a first-time Subway visitor and you don’t know what veggies you want, you can make it easy by ordering the Veggie Delite, which is just an assortment of vegetables with your choice of sauce.
Specific options vary per location, so feel free to visit your favourite fast food restaurant and ask what options they have that suit your diet. Most places have vegan bread and non-dairy spreads that you can order if you’re in a pinch. No matter how meat-based a restaurant seems, there is almost always something you can find to eat, even if it’s just grabbing a salad and some bread and passing it off as a sandwich.
Point is, it’s not as hard as you might think to find vegan options at any food joint. I hope you found this helpful, and I encourage you to go out and try "veganizing" menu items at a fast food franchise near you!
At the end of the day, despite our differences, junk food holds a special place in all of our hearts!
This piece was edited by Sukaina Jamil.