Vegetarian fast food

How do the major chains stack up when it comes to healthy vegetarian fast food?
 
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02.Which chains cater to vegetarians?

In terms of vegetarian offerings, the chains fall into one of four categories which are summarised below. 

For nutrition details of the 80+ meat-free meals reviewed for this article, see Compare veggie fast food meals.

Cross Veggie-who?

  • KFC and Red Rooster declined to participate in our survey, saying that vegetarian options aren’t part of their primary offering. So unless you’re happy to cobble together a meal by ordering sides like fries, mashed potato coleslaw, corn cobs, peas, dinner rolls or garlic bread, vegetarians are better off eating elsewhere.
  • McDonald’s told us that the majority of its McCafe menu items are suitable for vegetarians, but as they class them as snacks – and the McCafe menu isn’t available at all McDonald’s outlets - we didn’t include them in our review. There are no vegetarian offering on its regular menu other than sides such as a garden salad or fries.

Exclamation Veggies beware

These chains' meat-free offerings contain ingredients which render them unsuitable for vegetarians.

  • Hungry Jack's Veggie Burger contains 66% of the maximum recommended daily sodium intake, a hefty serving of sat fat (45% of the recommended intake - Hungry Jacks has meat options with less), and more kilojoules per serve than all other vegetarian meals in our review – 34% of the recommended intake. More to the point, both the cheese and the veggie patty in the burger contain animal rennet.
  • Although the Noodle Box website states that all meals can be made vegetarian, its online menu shows just one veggie main – the Gung Ho Soy Box. However its allergen guide reveals that the sauce in this dish contains crustacea and their products. If you’re trying to limit your intake of kilojoules, fat and sodium then serve size is key. A large Gung Ho Soy Box contains 42% more sodium, kilojoules and sat fat than a small, which already contains almost three quarters of the maximum recommended daily intake of sodium.

Question Veggie question mark

These chains didn’t respond to our survey, and while they do have veggie menu items we can’t guarantee the ingredients are free from animal by-products.

  • Nandos offers a veggie patty which you can have either in pita or as a burger, according to its website. The Vege Pita is the healthier (and smaller) option, providing fewer kilojoules and less sat fat and sodium than the Vego Burger.
  • A representative told us vegetarian options aren’t part of Oporto’s primary offering, although its Veggie Burger is one of just seven burgers on the menu. Unfortunately for vegetarians, it has more saturated fat than any – and more sodium than most – of Oporto’s single and double fillet meat burgers. And of the vegetarian meals we reviewed, only the Hungry Jacks Veggie Burger has more kilojoules.
  • Pizza Hut has one vegetarian pasta and eight different meat-free pizza toppings on the menu. As at Dominos, even the healthier options push the boundaries with kilojoules, sat fat and sodium, so limiting the number of slices you eat and avoiding the cheesy toppings and cheese-stuffed crusts is key. Choosing the Mia Veggie (Perfecto crust) over the Signature Four Cheese (Perfecto crust) reduces your sat fat intake by 62%.

tick Veggies get a look-in

  • Four pizzas on the Dominos menu are flagged as vegetarian. The healthier of these options still make a sizeable contribution to your intake of kilojoules, sat fat and sodium, so limit the number of slices you eat and avoid the cheesy toppings and cheese-stuffed crusts. You can reduce your sat fat intake by 78% by choosing the Vegorama (Classic crust) over the Simply Cheese (Square Puff crust), for example.
  • Go Sushi has five options on the menu suitable for vegetarians. The hazard with sushi rolls is the salt – just one 110g Vegie Deluxe Sushi Roll has 689mg sodium, or 30% of the maximum recommended daily intake. So if you’re watching your salt intake its best to stop at one roll – and refrain from adding a squeeze of soy sauce.
  • Subway's menu has two vegetarian fillings available in the form of a sub, wrap or salad - although all menu items can be tailored to your requirements on request. The veggie menu items are cheese-free, but don’t be tempted to ask for a slice as the cheese it uses contains rennet. The dressings and sauces on offer also bump up the kilojoules, sat fat and sodium, so pass on these when they’re offered.
  • Vegetarian options abound at Sumo Salad – over 30 at our count. While the options are generally healthy, a few have nutritional drawbacks, such as the 11.9g saturated fat (50% of the recommended daily intake) in its Pear, Brie & Rocket Long Roll and the 1908mg sodium (83% of the maximum recommended daily intake) in its Balsamic Beetroot Salad (regular).

NUTRITION NOTE

All nutrition data referred to above is per serve. Where the serve size options were small, regular and large we used information for regular, and if the options were small and large we’ve used small. 

The total daily intake for the average adult is 8700kJ, 24g saturated fat and 2300mg sodium - but needs vary depending on your gender, size and activity level. Requirements for many people will be much lower.

 

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