Some national chain restaurants are better than others for those of us following a healthy plant-based diet.
Here are a few national restaurant chains that are better than most as far as making allowances for vegan patrons, including some tips on what to order.
Souplantation aka Sweet Tomatoes
This healthy salad and soup bar restaurant is a paradise for healthy vegan eating. Pass up the pre-made salads and make your own to avoid fatty dressings. Top with vinegar and olive oil.
The major challenge with the Cheesecake Factory is portion sizes. Even for vegan-friendly entrees, plan to take home at least half of your meal or you are likely to overeat. Some acceptable orders include pasta with garlic and marinara sauce, eggplant sandwich, and portabello mushroom “burger”. The Cheesecake Factor encourages their vegan patrons to ask their server for other recommendations as well.
Pick Up Stix
Pick Up Stix is a Chinese-themed quick serve chain restaurant that is expanding rapidly. Their Buddha’s Feast entrée has a choice of brown or white sauce, with or without tofu. They also feature brown rice. Everything is made to order so you can order your food as spicy as you like.
Baja Fresh is a chain of quick serve restaurants with a healthy Mexican theme. Their rice and beans do not contain any animal products. They also have an excellent Grilled Veggie Burrito that may be special ordered without any animal products. It’s a blend of grilled peppers, chilies, and onions layered with black or pinto beans, lettuce, and pico de gallo.
PF Chang’s has an entire section of its menu that caters to vegetarians and vegans. They are also willing to modify most entrees to omit animal products – just be clear with your server what you need to avoid and how you would like your food prepared.
Chipotle has a veg-friendly website that provides detailed nutritional information for all of its food. Their rice and beans do not contain any animal products. The Vegetarian Fajitas Burrito may be special ordered without any animal products.
Pizza Hut has a few crust and sauce options that do not contain animal products, and the salads are made to order so cheese can be omitted. The Thin N Crispy Dough, Hand-Tossed Style Dough, and the Stuffed Crust Dough are animal product-free, as are the Regular Pizza Sauce and the Sweet Pizza Sauce. So it is possible to order a pizza with no cheese and lots of healthy vegetables.
The best choices for salad dressings at Pizza Hut are the Light Italian Vinaigrette and the Vinaigrette. Of course oil and vinegar on the side is also a safe choice if you are dining at the restaurant.
Subway’s Veggie Delite Sub or Salad is a good choice when you are in a hurry. Order it without cheese or dressing and load up on the fresh vegetables. The Italian Bread, Healthy Italian Bread, and Sourdough Breads are all animal-free. The Wheat Bread is animal-free except for honey.
The Wendy’s side salad is small, but it contains acceptable ingredients including iceberg and romaine lettuce, cucumbers, grape tomatoes, and carrots. The Oriental Sesame and Vinaigrette Dressings contain no animal products. Another option is Wendy’s baked potato, without cheese, butter, or bacon bits of course.
Just about every city of a decent size has a vegetarian restaurant chain or two. Here in San Diego, we have Sipz. Washington, DC has Teaism. Check out local websites in your city for vegetarian chain restaurants to try. Often these are unique and interesting choices to bring even your skeptical non-vegan friends.