04.Choosing healthy veggie fast food
Accredited practising dietitian Kate Marsh gave us her top tips for choosing the healthiest vegetarian fast foods:
- Be mindful of cheese overloads – steering clear of cheesy pizzas and salads, and removing the cheese from burgers will help keep salt and sat fat to a minimum.
- Avoid deep-fried veggie foods (spring rolls, fried tofu, tempura veggies ) and creamy sauces or dressings as these can be as fatty as meat based foods.
- Look for menu items with alternative protein sources such as lentils, chick peas, tofu, soy beans and other beans or nuts – not just dairy and veggies.
- Add a vitamin-C rich food to your meals such as citrus fruit, tomatoes, a green salad, capsicum, salad sprouts or berries. Vitamin C improves the absorption of iron, so it’s particularly beneficial when you’re getting your iron from non-meat sources where it’s less readily available.
- Wholegrains such as quinoa, barley, cracked wheat, brown rice and wholegrain breads add valuable nutrition to vegetarian meals.
- Don’t be afraid to tailor your order to your own requirement. McDonald’s calls it the ‘Made for you’ offering, and Hungry Jacks terms it ‘Have it your way’, but gimmicky marketing slogans aside, essentially it just means you can ask them to remove the meat (and cheese if you’re vegan), use wholegrain instead of white bread for extra fibre, get them to hold the sauce, mayo or other dressings to further reduce fat and salt content, or even ask for extra veg or salad to get more vitamins and minerals.
- Opting for the smallest serve size can help keep your kilojoule, saturated fat and sodium intake in check.
What's your favourite vegetarian fast food chain?
Is there a fast food chain you frequent that has tasty, authentic vegetarian meals on the menu? Tell us (and other readers) about it by posting a comment on the Your say tab of this article.
The following chains that we came across during our research may be worth checking out:
- Grill’d (ACT, NSW, QLD, VIC, WA) offers a selection of genuinely veggie burgers.
- Falafels reign at chains Sabbaba (NSW) and Ali Baba (ACT, NSW, QLD, VIC), with Ali Baba even going to the extent of using different equipment and utensils to prepare vegetarian meal options to avoid cross contamination. All menu items at falafel chain Maoz (WA) are vegetarian friendly.
- The entire menu at Lord of the Fries (VIC) is 100% vegetarian – made from textured vegetable protein, they have patties and hot dogs with the taste and texture of beef and chicken.
- A hot dog vendor is unlikely to be a vegetarian’s first port of call, but the potato, smoked apple & sage offering from Snagstand (NSW, VIC) may change this.
- Pie Face (ACT, NSW, VIC, QLD) has vegetarian pies, sausage rolls and other savouries on the menu.