Thrifty Thursday: Eating Vegan on the Cheap - Fast Food Edition

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July 14, 2011

Summertime means summer vacation which for me means road trips!  Unfortunately, being vegan on the road is not always the most clear cut endeavor. Luckily, there are plenty of vegan choices available if you are willing to do a little research and spend a few extra minutes reading ingredient lists! Here are my top five picks for quick, convenient, vegan foods available across the country.

First of all, almost any gas station convenience store will have an assortment of chips and salsa, which are almost always vegan but scan the ingredient list, just in case.  I look out for partially hydrogenated oils in gas station food as well, those fillers and flavor enhancers tend to lurk in the most common places.

Also, the last I checked, Campbell's Classic Tomato Soup available in both the microwavable bowls and "Soup At Hand" are also animal free.  Just zap it in the microwave, if one is available, and voila! (But it's not bad cold either!)

Fresh fruit and sometimes bags of cut veggies is are available at some gas stations these days and is the healthiest choice.

Taco Bell
My personal guilty pleasure once in a while, even though it is loaded with salt and preservatives.  However, in a pinch, taco bell's re-fried beans are vegetarian, as is their guacamole, all their veggies, pico de gallo and most of the tortillas and chips.  

Chipotle
Great even when not on the road, Chipotle's black beans, tortilla, chips, salsas, guacamole and veggies are all vegan friendly.  Watch out for the pinto beans, which are cooked with bacon, and the honey-chipotle dressing.  As an added bonus, Chipotle is now using organic or local beans and veggies at more and more locations.  

Subway and other Sandwich Shops
Traditionally, bread has been made using flour, salt, and water.  These days, the ingredient lists can include all sorts of crazy, none vegan things such as milk powder, whey, and eggs.  As a result, I stay away from bread items at fast food places.  However, the salads are always an option.  Just load up on the veggies and as for oil and vinegar as dressing.  Not ideal, especially is you are starving and looking for more substance, but add some apple wedges and a bag of plain, baked chips (read the ingredients!) and it should hold you over until a better option presents itself.  

Incidentally, Panera Bread does offer vegan bread choices as do many specialty bagel shops.  

Starbucks and other Coffee Shops/Cafes
When in need of a good cup of coffee, gas stations usually just don't cut it.  Most decent coffee places offer vegan milk options as well as flavors.  Starbucks' mocha sauce is vegan friendly, as are most of the syrups and the chai syrup concentrate. However, the caramel sauce and white mocha sauce are not (contains dairy).  Incidentally, the molasses cookies at Starbucks are made with vegetable shortening and are vegan friendly! Also, their 8 Grain Rolls have honey but are otherwise free of animal products.

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