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March 1-7, 2006

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Silicon Veggie - Elisa Camahort

Silicon Veggie

Veggie Options in The Fast Food Nation

By Elisa Camahort


AS A VEGETARIAN I'm not a big fast-food-joint patron. But every now and then you have limited options: heading down Highway 5 with Casa de Fruta far behind you, or at the end of a long day when your carnivorous S.O. is offering to pick up dinner—if he can use a drive-through.

Which fast food places are a vegetarian's best bets? Glad you asked.

Burger King wins because it serves a veggie burger. It's not vegan, but it's cooked in the microwave, not on the grill, so that's a comfort—and beyond what most burger joints do to accommodate veggie customers. Their fries are deep-fried in vegetable oil. They could only improve on their salad offerings, because all the larger-sized salads come with meat.

One less ubiquitous but equally friendly choice is El Pollo Loco. It offers a veggie option on every part of its menu: a veggie burrito, a veggie bowl, a cheese quesadilla and several vegetarian side dishes including steamed vegetables.

Taco Bell has always had appropriate items on its menu like cheese quesadillas and bean burritos, but they were pretty high fat. Now, they're offering a "fresco" alternative for menu items, substituting salsa for sauce and cheese. You can order just about any item on the menu without meat, and most of the time they get it right. (One note of caution: I am unconvinced their rice is free from chicken broth. They could improve their website by listing ingredients.)

Wendy's is an acceptable option, because it serves baked potatoes. It also wins points for offering healthy sides, like low-fat yogurt with granola or mandarin orange slices. My experience is that the potatoes are often small, but it's a change of pace over salad and fries!

McDonald's is disappointing. It offers a fruit and walnut salad, a fruit and low-fat yogurt parfait, and that's it, other than fries. You can order salads without chicken, too. But it's always nice to have something that feels like an entree.

The place to avoid if you want a real meal is Jack in the Box. The extent of their offering is sides: salad, fries, onion rings, stuffed jalapeños. Health food, huh? It's a shame, because they used to offer a veggie rice bowl, but that's gone.


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