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7 Popular Fast-Food Items You Thought Were Vegetarian But Aren't

These meatless foods still contain non-vegetarian ingredients.

We all know that pulling up at the drive-thru to grab a bite isn't the healthiest decision, but you gotta eat, and sometimes, that's the most convenient option. But fast food isn't equally convenient for all. Vegetarians, for example, have a harder time staying within their diet while eating fast-food thanks to the most carnivorous nature of chain menus.

And we hate to be bearers of bad news, but we're about to make it even harder. There are actually quite a few fast-food menu items that seem like they should be vegetarian, but actually aren't. That's right, just because something doesn't have meat in it, definitely doesn't mean that it is fully vegetarian.

So before you eat fast food next time, check out this list of tricky fast foods that seem vegetarian but aren't.

Burger King Impossible Whopper

burger king impossible whopper
Burger King/Yelp

While the entire premise of the Impossible Whopper is to be a vegetarian sub for the classic burger, strict vegetarians should steer clear, as the meatless patties are cooked on the same grill as beef patties, much to the dismay of many.

McDonald's French Fries

McDonald's fries
Courtesy of McDonald's

While there are some options for vegetarians at McDonald's, you're going to need to skip the side of fries, as they are made with beef flavoring and are therefore not vegetarian.

Wendy's Parmesan Caesar Salad (hold the chicken)

wendy's parmesan caesar salad
Courtesy of Wendy's

In case you're not up-to-date on your cheese-making knowledge, parmesan cheese is made with rennet. Rennet, of course, being an enzyme that is found in the lining of goat and calf stomach. While some vegetarians would still consider this to be within the vegetarian line, others do not.

Nutritionist and Fresh Starts Registry expert Allie Echeverria says, "Rennet enzyme is an ingredient necessary for making certain kinds of cheese, including parmesan, and it comes from the stomach lining of animals. While there are vegetarian forms of rennet that contain no animal products, those can make aged-cheese taste bitter." Which explains why many restaurants steer clear of the vegetarian version. To add insult to injury with this particular salad, Caesar salad dressing is also a vegetarian no-go, as it's made with anchovies.

Olive Garden Fettuccine Alfredo

olive garden fettuccine alfredo
Olive Garden / Facebook

Sadly, this Italian classic is decidedly non-vegetarian if you have a problem with rennet-made cheese—that delicious alfredo sauce is made with loads of parmesan cheese.

Panera Bread French Onion Soup

panera bread bistro french onion soup

There's nothing like a comforting bowl of soup, and French Onion seems like a low-calorie, meat-free way to dine, but sadly, no. The bases of most soups are made using chicken or beef stock, and you guessed it, Panera's French Onion is no different, as it's made with a chicken stock base.

McDonald's Smoothies

mcdonalds strawberry banana smoothie glass on white background

It definitely seems like a safe vegetarian choice to grab a Strawberry Banana or Mango Pineapple Smoothie from McDonald's. But unfortunately, it isn't—the yogurt in these smoothies is made with gelatin, which most vegetarians avoid since it is made with animal derivatives.

Zaxby's Zax Sauce

zaxby's zax sauce
Zaxby's / Facebook

Eating vegetarian? Forget getting a Garden Zalad with Zax sauce, because that sauce is made with Worcestershire sauce. And fun fact: Worcestershire is made with anchovies and is therefore non-vegetarian.

Emily L. Foley
Emily L. Foley is a freelance journalist with more than a decade of experience covering fashion, beauty, entertainment and lifestyle, and her work appears in magazines such as Allure, Glamour, Marie Claire, US Weekly and Read more about Emily