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Weight Loss & Diet

Eating Vegan for Weight Loss and Health at Restaurants

Eating Vegan for Weight Loss and Health at Restaurants
Author
Natalie Stein

Exercise, Fitness & Nutrition Expert | Lark Health

Find Out What to Look for on Menus According to Science, Plus Your Guide to Vegan Picks at Top Restaurants

In this article:

  • Plant-based or vegan diets can have benefits for health and weight loss. But meat-eaters may have trouble switching plant-based dishes for regular meat-based ones.
  • A new study shows that meat eaters are more likely to order vegan options when at least 75% of the menu options are vegan.
  • Many restaurants now offer vegan options. These are some picks from the biggest chains.
  • Lark can guide you in making healthier choices at home and in restaurants every day. The goal can be long-term weight loss and improved health.

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There are many potential benefits of vegan, or plant-based, diets. Health effects, according to the American Heart Association, can include lower risk for these.

  • Obesity
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke and high blood pressure
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Many cancers. 

And a review article in Advanced Nutrition says a plant-based diet can be better for the environment, with reduced:

  • Greenhouse gas emissions
  • Land use
  • Water use

You do not need to give up animal products all at once. The occasional swap of a vegan meal for one with meat or dairy products can have benefits. 

If you normally eat meat, here is a tip for getting more plant-based meals. Make them available! When eating out, for example, go to a restaurant with at least 75% of menu items being plant-based. That is what a study published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology says.

Here is a reminder of what is vegan and what is not.

Vegan (Plant-Based) Not Vegan (Animal-Sourced) Look for or order…
  • Vegetables
  • Fruit
  • Grains
  • Tofu, soybeans, and soy-based meat substitutes such as veggie burgers
  • Peanuts, nuts, seeds
  • Peanut, nut, and seed butters
  • Oils
  • Coconut, almond, soy, and other nut milk
  • Coffee and tea without cream or milk
  • Beef, pork, chicken, and turkey
  • Tuna, shrimp, and other fish and shellfish
  • Eggs
  • Milk
  • Other dairy products, such as cheese, yogurt, and ice cream
  • Cream-based sauces and dressings, such as Alfredo and ranch
  • Butter and lard
  • Without meat or cheese
  • Unsweetened soy, almond, coconut, or oat milk
  • Extra vegetables
  • Black beans or plant-based refried beans
  • Vinaigrette, salsa, or marinara sauce
  • Whole-wheat bread or pasta, brown rice, or oatmeal
  • Fresh fruit cups

Not every restaurant will have at least a 75% vegan menu. And many restaurants will not point out vegan options. But many restaurants have them all the same. These are some plant-based menu options at some of the biggest restaurant chains in the US.

McDonalds

There are few plant-based choices at the biggest chain in the world. Even fewer are healthy. You could order a hamburger or sandwich with lettuce, tomato, and no beef patty or chicken. A more nutritious choice is oatmeal with diced apples and without brown sugar, cream, or dried fruit.

Starbucks

This chain says it supports sustainable choices. To make any drink vegan, choose plant-based milk, such as coconut, almond, or oat. Avoid chocolate curls, though cocoa powder is fine. Also know that many sauces, whipped cream, and protein powder are not vegan. Hot and cold unsweetened coffee and tea are best bets.

These food items are plant-based and nutritious.

  • Strawberry Overnight Grains with oatmeal, quinoa, chia seeds, strawberries, and almonds
  • Oatmeal with vegan milk and nuts
  • Chickpea Bites and Avocado Protein Box
  • Chicken Quinoa Protein Bowl without chicken or cotija
  • Fresh fruit
  • Peanut butter, Avocado Spread, or nuts

Chick-Fil-A

Chick-Fil-A avoids the worst of the health and environmental offenders because there is no beef or pork. But it does not have much for vegans. You can try these.

  • Flaxseed flour wrap with lettuce, tomato, and Light Italian or Balsamic Vinaigrette
  • Fruit Cup
  • Spicy Southwest Salad with Chili Lime Vinaigrette and without chicken, cheese, or tortilla strips
  • Market Salad with Zesty Apple Cider Vinaigrette and without chicken, blue cheese, or granola

Taco Bell

Taco Bell’s lists of ingredients state “certified vegan” when appropriate. There are a few decent choices here.

  • Veggie Power Menu Bowl with lettuce, tomatoes, black beans, seasoned rice, onions, and guacamole.
  • Mild through Diablo Border Sauces and Red Chili Sauce
  • Black Beans and Refried Beans.

Ordering “fresco style” gives you tomatoes instead of sour cream and other dairy-containing items. 

Wendy’s

Wendy’s does not have many vegan-friendly, healthy choices. But you can try an Apple Pecan Salad with avocado and without chicken or blue cheese. A Baked Potato with avocado is another idea.

Burger King

You can make the Impossible Whopper vegan. But the jury is still out. The patty has as much saturated fat as a beef patty. And the NY Times says it may not be as good for the environment as Impossible Foods, the manufacturer, leads you to believe. And it goes on a refined white bun, so the meal is not too nutritious.

Dunkin’

You can at least get a breakfast sandwich here. And order your beverage with oatmilk or almond milk instead of milk.

  • Multigrain Thin (note that the Multigrain Bagel has more refined flour than whole-grain flour) with Veggie Sausage (only at some locations)
  • Avocado Toast (only at some locations)
  • Unsweetened coffee or tea with oatmilk or almond milk 

Subway

You can “eat fresh”-er when you eat vegan because you are avoiding processed meats. Remember you can always order “extra” or “more” vegetables. Your healthy sandwich or salad can include any of these.

  • Hearty Multigrain bread or a Tomato Basil or Spinach Wrap
  • Veggie Patty
  • Spinach, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions, green peppers, olives
  • Buffalo Sauce, Honey Mustard Sauce, Sweet Onion Teriyaki Sauce, Subway Vinaigrette, Oil Blend, yellow or brown mustard, 

Domino’s 

Domino’s does not have vegan cheese. Luckily, you can add flavor with vegan sauces, seasonings, and other ingredients. There are some vegetables here. But you will want to be careful about getting too many refined carbs from pizza crust, sandwich bread, and pasta.

Consider these.

  • Classic Garden Salad with Balsamic or Italian dressing and without cheese
  • 2 slices of Pacific Veggie Pizza with Thin Crust or Brooklyn Crust and extra sauce, without cheese or feta or provolone cheese, and with added green peppers and extra tomatoes
  • ½ order of Penne Pasta in a dish with marinara sauce, tomatoes, roasted red peppers, green peppers, spinach, and mushrooms
  • ½ Mediterranean sandwich with marinara sauce and without cheese.

Chipotle

Chipotle has many plant-based items. Many of them are nutritious. And their mix-and-match model for ordering lets you choose the exact items you want while avoiding the rest. The Vegan Bowl is already put together for you. Or you can make your meal with any of the following.

  • Sofritas
  • Guacamole
  • Cilantro-Lime Brown Rice
  • Black Beans or Pinto Beans
  • Fajita vegetables, lettuce, and tomatoes
  • Any type of salsa

Tortillas and chips are vegan, but they are high in refined carbohydrates.

No Cost Health Kit to Lower Your Risk of Diabetes

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Weight 160lbs
Height 64
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Risk

Losing weight and eating well can have big returns. They can boost health, energy, and confidence. And they can be part of your daily routine. You can even eat your favorite foods and lose weight.

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