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17 Healthiest Vegetarian Fast-Food Orders, According to Dietitians

Go meat-free at your favorite fast-food chains with these vegetarian-friendly options.
FACT CHECKED BY Olivia Tarantino

Whether you're a die-hard vegetarian or just trying to eat more meatless meals, it's not always easy to find a nutritious vegetarian option at popular fast-food chain restaurants. While more and more restaurants are offering vegetarian and vegan fast-food options, others are still stuck in the meaty past. To help sift through all of the options out there, we talked with dietitians to get their ideas on the best vegetarian fast-food meals.

But first, what food is considered vegetarian? A vegetarian diet is based on plant foods including fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds, and grains. Some vegetarians add milk and dairy products, eggs, or fish, while vegans strictly eat plant-based foods only. Research shows that those following a vegetarian or vegan diet may enjoy certain health benefits, including a reduced risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and certain types of cancers.

Tips for eating vegetarian when you're dining out

When eating fast food, it's not always easy to find the healthiest vegetarian options. Here are several tips for finding the best vegetarian-friendly fast food for you:

  • Look at the salads first: Many salads do contain chicken, bacon, or other meats, but oftentimes restaurants will offer options to go meatless.
  • Check the sides: Some fast-food joints add random vegetarian fare in their side section of the menu, such as baked potatoes, parfaits, or applesauce.
  • Search for plant-based alternatives: More establishments are offering vegetable sandwiches or meatless burgers. Sometimes they can be hidden in the burger or sandwich section and usually are listed last on the website.
  • Remember cross-contamination: Even though you're ordering a vegetarian option, the equipment and area where your food is prepared usually come in contact with other animal foods. For example, the frying oil that fries are cooked in may also be used to cook shrimp. The same goes for broilers, microwaves, woks, and other equipment.
  • Ask for modifications: Many restaurants will make modifications for you and remove the chicken or meat. Just remember, what you're left with should be nutritious and filling.

Some establishments have plenty of options to choose from, while you may struggle to find enough choices at other places. Below are some of the best vegetarian options at popular fast-food joints around the country. Read on, then check out the 7 Healthiest Veggie Burgers—and 5 to Avoid.

Del Taco Crunchtada Tostada

Del Taco Crunchtada on a white background
Del Taco
Nutrition (Per meal):
Calories: 330
Fat: 14 g (Saturated Fat: 4 g)
Sodium: 400 mg
Carbs: 41 g (Fiber: 8 g, Sugar: 1 g)
Protein: 12 g

We love that Del Taco has a separate section of its menu for vegetarian and vegan eaters, with options like burritos, breakfast burritos, and quesadillas. One of their healthiest vegetarian options is their Crunchtada Tostada, which is a crunchy corn taco piled with beans, lettuce, salsa, and cheese.

 15 Best Vegetarian Sources of Protein

McDonald's Fruit & Maple Oatmeal

bowl of McDonald's oatmeal on a white background
Nutrition (Per bowl):
Calories: 320
Fat: 4.5 g (Saturated Fat: 1.5 g)
Sodium: 150 mg
Carbs: 64 g (Fiber: 4 g, Sugar: 31 g)
Protein: 6 g

There aren't many vegetarian options at McDonald's. Their fries are safe for vegetarians but not vegans, as one of the main ingredients is "natural beef flavoring"—which surprisingly doesn't contain beef but does consist of milk products.

If you want a healthier plant-based option from McDonald's, their Fruit & Maple Oatmeal is a fairly nutritious choice. It's a bit high in sugar with 31 grams, but you're still keeping your saturated fat low and getting 4 grams of fiber and 6 grams of protein.

Whataburger Garden Salad

bowl of salad on a white background
Nutrition (Per salad):
Calories: 160
Fat: 9 g (Saturated Fat: 5 g)
Sodium: 240 mg
Carbs: 11 g (Fiber: 9 g, Sugar: 3 g)
Protein: 8 g

The Garden Salad from Whataburger probably isn't enough for a full meal, but with 9 grams of fiber and 8 grams of protein, it's a good vegetarian-friendly option to choose when you find yourself at this fast-food joint—especially because their menu is lacking in meat-free options. If you're there for breakfast, you can also choose their Egg Sandwich, which is just a brioche bun, cheese, and egg.

 10 Healthiest Non-Dairy Yogurts

Panera Mediterranean Veggie Sandwich

Panera Mediterranean Veggie sandwich
Panera Bread
Nutrition (Per sandwich, whole):
Calories: 630
Fat: 14 g (Saturated Fat: 4 g)
Sodium: 1,650 mg
Carbs: 105 g (Fiber: 7 g, Sugar: 11 g)
Protein: 23 g

Panera certainly has some healthier vegetarian-friendly options than many other chain restaurants, but a lot of their menu still consists of meat-based choices. For those looking for a meatless sandwich, the Mediterranean Veggie Sandwich is a nutrient-dense solution. Packed with peppers, mixed greens, cucumbers, tomatoes, hummus, and feta cheese, this vegetarian sandwich is one of the healthiest Panera menu items you can order.

Taco Bell Spicy Potato Soft Taco

soft potato taco from Taco Bell
Taco Bell
Nutrition (Per taco):
Calories: 240
Fat: 12 g (Saturated Fat: 3 g)
Sodium: 480 mg
Carbs: 28 g (Fiber: 2 g, Sugar: 1 g)
Protein: 5 g

Taco Bell is famous among plant-based eaters as having one of the best vegetarian-friendly fast-food menus, so you can rest assured that you'll always have decent options when you find yourself there.

One of our favorite vegetarian items is their Spicy Potato Soft Taco, which has only 240 calories and 3 grams of saturated fat per taco. With potatoes, chipotle sauce, lettuce, and cheese, this taco is a flavorful choice every time. You can also make it "fresco" and add in some tomatoes as well.

Wendy's Sour Cream and Chive Baked Potato

Wendy's sour cream and chive potato
Nutrition (Per potato):
Calories: 310
Fat: 2.5 g (Saturated Fat: 1.5 g)
Sodium: 55 mg
Carbs: 63 g (Fiber: 7 g, Sugar: 4 g)
Protein: 8 g

This vegetarian delight is hidden under the "fries & sides" portion of the menu. Potatoes provide an array of nutrients and are an excellent source of vitamin C as well as a good source of both potassium and vitamin B6. They also provide complex carbs and are fat-, sodium-, and cholesterol-free. Don't forget to eat the skin, which contains half of the fiber!

Burger King Impossible Whopper

Burger King Impossible Whopper on a white background
Burger King
Nutrition (Per burger):
Calories: 630
Fat: 34 g (Saturated Fat: 10 g Trans fat: 0.2 g)
Sodium: 1,350 mg
Carbs: 62 g (Fiber: 6 g, Sugar: 14 g)
Protein: 29 g

"Whenever I'm searching for vegetarian fast food, I look for a Burger King," says Stephanie McKercher, MS, RDN, dietitian and plant-based food blogger at Grateful Grazer. "Their soy-based Impossible Whopper has 25 grams of satisfying protein, comes topped with fresh veggies and crunchy pickles, and tastes just as good as the classic beef-based burger they're known for." McKercher enjoys her Impossible Whopper with a small order of fries but also recommends swapping in a side salad to get in some extra greens. But the best tip of all from McKercher? "Ask for the non-broiler method of preparation to keep it meat-free."

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Chick-Fil-A Spicy Southwest Salad with No Chicken

bowl of Chick-fil-A salad
Nutrition (Per salad):
Calories: 570
Fat: 47 g (Saturated Fat: 9.5 g)
Sodium: 850 mg
Carbs: 25 g (Fiber: 7 g, Sugar: 6 g)
Protein: 14 g

Chick-fil-A offers several salads without chicken, making it a vegetarian fast food hero. This salad starts with a fresh bed of greens, topped with grape tomatoes, a blend of Monterey Jack and Cheddar cheeses, and a mixture of poblano chiles, red bell peppers, roasted corn, and black beans. It is served with seasoned tortilla strips, Chili Lime Pepitas, creamy salad dressing, or two packets of Jalapeno salsa. This salad provides four food groups including vegetables, dairy, carbohydrates, and protein (from the beans) which makes it a well-balanced meal.

Panera Mediterranean Bowl

warm Mediterranean Bowl from Panera on a table
Nutrition (Per bowl):
Calories: 520
Fat: 28 g (Saturated Fat: 6 g)
Sodium: 1,100 mg
Carbs: 53 g (Fiber: 8 g, Sugar: 8 g)
Protein: 15 g

Another healthy vegetarian option at Panera is their Mediterranean Bowl, which comes with cilantro rice, quinoa, mixed greens, tomatoes, feta, Greek yogurt, and hummus. This bowl keeps your calories low and packs in 8 grams of fiber and 15 grams of protein.

Taco Bell Veggie Power Bowl

Taco Bell bowl on a white background
Taco Bell
Nutrition (Per bowl):
Calories: 420
Fat: 20 g (Saturated Fat: 5 g)
Sodium: 870 mg
Carbs: 47 g (Fiber: 11 g, Sugar: 3 g)
Protein: 12 g

As we mentioned, Taco Bell is a great place for vegetarians because you can customize any order to have it as you like it. For example, you can order the Power Bowl with chicken, seasoned beef, or steak, or keep it vegetarian-friendly with their veggie version. The veggie bowl will give you beans, tomatoes, guacamole, cheese, lettuce, rice, sour cream, and Avocado Ranch sauce.

 36 Best Vegan Proteins To Crush Cravings & Feel Full

Subway Veggie Delight

6-inch veggie sandwich from Subway on a white background
Nutrition (Per 6-inch sub):
Calories: 210
Fat: 3 g (Saturated Fat: 0 g)
Sodium: 370 mg
Carbs: 39 g (Fiber: 5 g, Sugar: 6 g)
Protein: 10 g

This sandwich has been on Subway's menu for quite some time. Choose the veggies you want to pile on and add some cheese for protein and calcium.

Starbucks Spinach, Feta & Egg White Wrap

Starbucks Spinach, Feta & Egg White Wrap on a green background
Nutrition (Per wrap):
Calories: 290
Fat: 8 g (Saturated Fat: 3.5 g)
Sodium: 840 mg
Carbs: 34 g (Fiber: 3 g, Sugar: 5 g)
Protein: 20 g

Starbucks actually has a few great Vegetarian options, like their Oatmeal and Impossible Breakfast Sandwich, but our favorite is their Spinach, Feta & Egg White Wrap. This breakfast wrap gives you 3 grams of fiber and 20 grams of protein, all for under 300 calories.

Sonic Grilled Cheese

grilled cheese sandwich on a white background
Nutrition (Per sandwich):
Calories: 400
Fat: 21 g (Saturated Fat: 10 g)
Sodium: 1,130 mg
Carbs: 42 g (Fiber: 3 g, Sugar: 4 g)
Protein: 13 g

There aren't many vegetarian items to choose from on the Sonic menu, except the mainly fried snacks and sides, but one decent option is their standard grilled cheese sandwich. Pair it with a small fries and 100% apple juice or 1% milk and you've got a meal.

Carl's Jr. Beyond Famous Star

carls junior beyond burger
Carl's Junior
Nutrition (Per burger):
Calories: 710
Fat: 40 g (Saturated Fat: 12 g)
Sodium: 1,520 mg
Carbs: 61 g (Fiber: 5 g, Sugar: 12 g)
Protein: 30 g

Carl's Jr's serves a plant-based Beyond Burger, which comes with lettuce, tomato, pickle, onion, mayo, and Special Sauce. To cut back on some calories and fat, ask for no mayo.

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Panda Express Super Greens

bowl of greens from Panda Express
Panda Express
Nutrition (Per entree size):
Calories: 90
Fat: 3 g (Saturated Fat: 0 g)
Sodium: 260 mg
Carbs: 10 g (Fiber: 5 g, Sugar: 4 g)
Protein: 6 g

"It's not always easy to find a nutrient-packed plant-based side order, which is why I'm so happy that Panda Express offers its Super Greens side," says Amy Gorin, MS, RDN, a registered dietitian nutritionist in the New York City area and a nutrition partner with Panda Express. "This combo of broccoli, kale, and cabbage is just like it sounds: It's a medley of green veggies that are super for you! In just 90 calories, you get an excellent amount of fiber (5 grams) and a good amount of protein (6 grams), both nutrients that help keep you fuller for longer."

Jack in the Box Side Salad with low-fat balsamic vinaigrette and croutons

side salad from Jack in the Box in a black bowl
Jack in the Box
Nutrition (Per side salad, without dressing):
Calories: 20
Fat: 0 g (Saturated Fat: 0 g)
Sodium: 10 mg
Carbs: 4 g (Fiber: 2 g, Sugar: 2 g)
Protein: 1 g

There's not much to choose from at Jack in the Box when it comes to vegetarian fare. Your best bet is this side salad with dressing and croutons. However, you'll need a little more food to make it a meal. Add small French fries or stuffed jalapeños together with a Tree Top Applesauce Pouch to round out your order.

Dunkin' Donuts Egg & Cheese

egg and cheese breakfast sandwich from Dunkin'
Nutrition (Per sandwich):
Calories: 460
Fat: 13 g (Saturated Fat: 5 g)
Sodium: 1,010 mg
Carbs: 66 g (Fiber: 4 g, Sugar: 8 g)
Protein: 19 g

Most of Dunkin's breakfast sandwiches are made with bacon, sausage, or turkey bacon, but their Egg & Cheese is a fairly good option for those wanting a meatless breakfast. You'll get 19 grams of protein and 4 grams of fiber, but the sodium in this sandwich is a bit high at 1,010 milligrams, so be careful with your sodium intake the rest of the day if you choose this menu item.

This story has been updated since its original publish date to include additional entries and remove outdated information.

Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, MS, RD, CDN
Toby Amidor is an award winning dietitian and Wall Street Journal best-selling cookbook author who believes healthy and wholesome can also be appetizing and delicious. Read more about Toby
Sources referenced in this article
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