It’s a common misconception that all you can eat on a vegetarian diet is vegetables. Unlike veganism, being a vegetarian allows you to still eat bread, dairy, and other products. While it is easier to eat more healthily when you cut meat out of your diet, everyone craves some junk food now and then. However, it’s not so easy to find something vegetarian-friendly on the menu. Going out for a quick bite to eat with friends can be difficult. Even dining at fast-casual restaurants and pubs can become a frustrating ordeal. Most vegetarians will be no stranger to trying to assemble a meal from side dishes. But it’s 2018 now, and retailers are finally paying attention to demand. Plenty of places are expanding their vegetarian offering.
Fast Food Favourites
Whether it’s the Drive-Thru or a late-night residency at an indoor table, McDonald’s is an international junk food staple. Over in America, they use beef flavourings when cooking fries. Luckily for us in the UK, they use a separate fryer for fries and veggie products. This means you can tuck into a large fries anytime. If you order a veggie burger with no mayo, it’s also suitable for vegans. Unfortunately, McDonald’s removed the cheap egg & cheese wrap from its breakfast menu and increased the price of an egg & cheese McMuffin. You could still get porridge, a toasted bagel, or a hash brown. Or treat yourself to a McFlurry.
The fries at Burger King are also suitable for vegetarians and vegans. You might think that a chain whose branding features a giant meat burger wouldn’t be the best place to go. But if your friends drag you to Burger King, you can get a Veggie Bean Burger. Sadly, their veggie patties are not vegan as well. Depending on your tolerance for chicken, you could even go to KFC with friends. Some restaurants offer a plain salad pot with no meat. Some also offer a Veggie Ricebox. This may be too healthy to satisfy your junk food cravings, though. Their fries are sometimes cooked in the same oil as the chicken, so taking that risk is up to you.
Some restaurant chains offer higher-quality fast food at a slightly slower pace and higher price. These chains are also catching on to catering to a growing demographic. Around 3% of British adults are completely vegetarian, which is almost 2 million people. The veganism trend has seen the British vegan population grow from 1% in 2016 to almost 7% this year. It’s about time these groups had more menu options. It may be a chicken restaurant, but vegetarians can still go for a cheeky Nando’s. There are burgers, pittas, or wraps available with fillings such as sweet potato and butternut or mushroom and halloumi, as well as the “supergreen” or “beanie” options. There are also vegetarian sides, like sweet potato mash.
Pizza Hut is an excellent choice if you crave something savoury and high in calories. There are vegetable pizza options, but you can’t go wrong with a classic Margherita anyway. Even vegans can enjoy a pizza with Violife dairy-free cheese. Vegetarians can go all in on mac and cheese or garlic bread. The desserts are all vegetarian-friendly, too. For more pub-like fare, you can visit a Harvester or Brewers Fayre safe in the knowledge that they have vegetarian and vegan menus. These are the best places to go out to eat with friends because there is something for everyone. From veggie burgers to halloumi and chips instead of fish, there are also a variety of meals such as noodles, lasagne, quiche, roulade, tagine, and jambalaya.
Sometimes even if you aren’t going out to eat you just want something quick and filling. For people with no dietary restrictions, they have free reign of the ready meal aisle. The choices for anyone else have long been limited. Fad diets may be annoying, but the benefit of their popularity is that supermarkets follow the money. Demand for vegetarian, vegan, and even gluten-free products has led to retailers selling wider ranges. Ben & Jerry’s vegan ice cream recently came to the UK. Big brands supporting dietary needs like this keep paving the way for future developments. At the moment, you can still do a shop at a local supermarket and satisfy your ready meal needs. Just remember that “free from” does not mean meat-free!
A great place to buy vegetarian ready meals is Morrisons. Whether fresh or frozen, you can pick up a variety of pasta and potato dishes. A quick turn in the microwave or oven and you can indulge in layers of cheese and pasta with a vegetable lasagne. Quite a few of the year-round party food options at Tesco are vegetarian. They also have an own-brand meat-free section, though they keep discontinuing items (hashtag bring back spinach and courgette frittatas). Asda has more options for pasta and vegetable ready meals than the others do. It’s worth alternating between shops to choose between their individual own-brand ranges.
The downside of shopping as a vegetarian is that the alternatives can be expensive, though they are not as costly as vegan ones. In general, though, the own-brand meat-free ranges are fairly priced. There will usually be some kind of deal, such as 2 items for £2.50. A quick tip: there is always at least one Quorn product for £1. They tend to change every week, so you might have to wait a while for your favourite to be on sale again. Even the pricey Linda McCartney range has items on sale every few weeks. Frozen food can take longer to cook, but you can make a meat-free fry-up whenever you have the craving for something greasy.