Healthy food tips

How to Eat Vegan at Popular Fast Food Restaurants

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I was so honored to be listed among the Top Vegan Blogs to Follow last year by Vegan Family Travels, so one of my goals this year is to include a lot more vegan resources for you – starting with those that might make your life just a little bit easier, especially if you are doing curbside pickup. 

Hello, my name is Amanda, I am vegan, and sometimes I eat fast food.

Yes, it’s totally possible. Does going vegan mean you have to give up the convenience of a quick bite between running your kids to activities, or going out for happy hour with your friends?

Definitely not!

Does it mean you will have to find a new option for what you choose for those meals?

More than likely. At least, a couple changes to old favorites. 

(P.S. Don’t want to eat out very much but don’t know how to make vegan dinners? Lettuce Plan is here! We have a weekly dinner menu plan, recipes, a grocery list, and time-saving tips each week. It is the vegan meal plan subscription specially designed to save you time and money. Check it out here.)

I went 100% vegan in September of 2019, so I have officially been vegan for over six months. In those six months, I have learned a thing or two about how to eat vegan at restaurants.

The RN in me has the compulsive need to remind you that vegan does not always mean healthy, it simply means “does not contain animal products.” It is still scientifically shown that the healthiest diet for cardiovascular health (my favorite specialty) is a whole foods, plant based diet rich in fruits and vegetables. So, while these are not suggestions on what to eat on a daily basis, every once in awhile as a treat or in a pinch, go ahead and enjoy those hash browns. 

In effort to help anyone who has stopped eating at restaurants because you aren’t sure if you have options, or you are vegan-curious and the idea of not eating out is keeping you from making the transition, here are my top 5 tips for how to eat vegan at restaurants:

How to Eat Vegan at Restaurants

Do Research Beforehand

If you have an idea where you will go before you head out (brunch with friends, corporate lunch, etc), check out the menu online to see what you might like and what questions you might want to ask. Some questions you might want to ask would include things like “is there dairy in the guacamole?” “Is the house made italian dressing dairy-free?” and “What are the fries fried in/is the griddle coated with oil or butter?”

Pro tip: Did you know that McDonalds fries are dipped in beef broth prior to deep frying so they aren’t even vegetarian? #themoreyoudidntwanttoknow

Don’t Be Afraid To Ask Questions

Do not feel bad about asking questions. This is when it’s helpful for you to do your menu check ahead of time, so you know the questions you want to ask about specific items.

The waiters are trained in the menu so they can have the answers for you! And don’t let anyone shame you for asking questions – if you were vegan due to egg and dairy allergies, you would have to ask these questions anyway. Your dietary choices are no one else’s business. Don’t let anyone make fun of you for being “that” customer. Just ask your questions and enjoy your meal.

The Salad Bar Is Your BFF

Honestly, the best place for you to meet friends or go about your business quietly and not call attention to your particular food is the salad bar. You get your own plate, you get to go through the bar and choose exactly what you want and how much. Most salad bars have all the ingredients listed above the dish so there are no unnecessary questions.

It doesn’t have to be just greens (or “rabbit food,” as some of my patients unlovingly refer to salad). Many places have hot salad bars as well. Whole Foods has a vegan mac and cheese that is to DIE for. I’ve also seen other hot food like pasta salads, soups, and even some vegan tofu Chinese food. If you are looking for a casual dining place with tons of options, look for options with a salad bar.

Don’t Miss The Appetizers Menu

Do you know how many vegan options can be found on appetizer menus? Go for easy options like side salad, hummus and pita chips, baba ganoush, pretzel sticks, and fruit platters.

Don’t forget the soups! Some soups like black bean, vegetable, or minestrone are often accidentally vegan, just make sure they are made with vegetable broth instead of animal broth.

Be Comfortable Making Slight Modifications

Have you seen the movie Julie and Julia? There is a scene where Julie goes to “the dreaded cobb salad lunch” where she and her table mates each order a cobb salad with various modifications. The point of this reference? It’s totally okay to order things off the menu with slight modifications!

For instance, at Applebees, I order the Tuscan Garden Shrimp salad without the shrimp, and it’s delightful. 

In all honesty, this is the most important point in ordering vegan food at restaurants – accept that you will probably be making modifications and that’s a completely normal part of going out to eat. 

In order to make grabbing a quick bite to eat as fool-proof as possible, I created a free download for how to order vegan options at 10 popular fast food chains. I’ve been as far west as Nevada and as far north as Maine, and I don’t believe any of these are purely regional. Click on the picture to download this resource for your reference, especially if you are new to the vegan eating lifestyle. 

sign up for how to order vegan fast food

While I have many things in the works for vegan resources, I welcome any and all other questions and suggestions for resources I can create. Leave me a comment and let me know any other vegan tips you would like to see.

P.S. Don’t forget to share for future reference!

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