A year ago today we became vegetarian. Well, officially, we became pescatarian. The children were all for it, but right from day 1 we knew the things they’d miss the most were takeaways. Not necessarily ones we’d buy to eat at home, but when travelling, and on days out – in service stations and high streets, etc. As carnivores we never really studied, or even noticed, the vegetarian/vegan options. Before lockdown, when the kids wanted to meet friends, they met up in town. McDonald’s was the usual meeting place … but once they were vegetarian, apart from the occasional mozzarella bites on the menu, the only thing they liked were the fries. My children like the taste of meat but prefer eating plant-based foods. At the time of writing, they don’t like veggie or bean burgers. We’ve since been looking at the menus from our teenagers’ favourite fast food restaurants to see how they cater to their younger, vegetarian and vegan customers.
To be honest, MaccyD has somehow missed the early opportunity to bring plant-based ‘beef’ and ‘chicken’ burgers to the market. They are meant to be launching McPlant in the UK this year, and we think this could be a gamechanger. Until these are launched, the only vegetarian/vegan meal options currently are based on their Veggie Dippers (made of peppers, yellow split peas and tomato in a crispy crumb). These you can buy as dippers with a choice of dips, or in a bun with lettuce and mayo, or a spiced-up version in a wrap. If you don’t like the Veggie Dippers then hopefully the Mozzarella Dippers will be on the menu, because there isn’t anything else.
There’s nothing vegetarian on their breakfast menu, apart from pancakes and maple syrup.
Greggs, with the help of Piers Morgan, became famous overnight for their Vegan Sausage Rolls … which taste identical to the ‘real’ thing. They were so popular it took three visits to a local Greggs before they actually had some to buy – they were selling so fast. And yes, they really are as good as they claim. This is a plant-based sausage roll, that tastes like the meat version. My kids love them! So what else does Gregg have that is plant-based?
Whenever we’ve had to get up early to drop dad off at the station, I used to treat the kids to a Greggs’ Sausage Breakfast Roll before school. Now, their choice is porridge, pain au chocolate or a croissant, and this doesn’t appeal to them at all. They’d love for the plant-based sausage roll ‘meat’ to feature in a breakfast product in some way.
Their sandwiches are 90% meat-filled, with the exceptions of a Mature Cheese Ploughmans Roll (for vegetarians) and a Tuna Baguette (for pescatarians). Alongside the Vegan Sausage Roll, they also offer a Vegan Steak Bake, Cheese and Onion Bake (for vegetarians), and a slice of Margherita Pizza (for vegetarians).
Burger King launched their Halloumi King Burger … halloumi being a favourite cheese in our family. However, the two halloumi patties are cooked in the same oil that they cook their chicken and fish in. If you are a vegetarian, be careful you don’t accidentally add bacon (a mistake we’ve made before). The two cheese patties are in a bun with lettuce, onion, tomato and mayo. Accompanied with sides of onion rings and their chilli cheese bites – this is a favourite treat when we’re (allowed to be) out and about.
They also offer a Vegan Bean Burger – two vegetable patties in a bun with lettuce, tomato, ketchup and vegan mayo. Us parents quite like this too!
One of the hardest things to ‘give up’ was the Colonel’s famous 11 herbs and spices coating … No need, as they have their Original Recipe Vegan Burger. This is a Quorn fillet coated in the KFC seasoning, and served in a bun with lettuce and vegan mayo (if you want cheese too, you can add it). I have just read that this burger may only be available for a limited time. We really hope this isn’t the case.
As a very different option, KFC offers a Veggie Ricebox … with Tex Mex rice, lettuce, tomato, bean salsa, drizzled in buttermilk sauce with a side of corn on the cob.
Subway is of course the fast -takeaway where you get to pick your toppings … so you are free to pick ingredients that you like the most. Their Veggie Delite is a sub roll full of as much salad and sauces as you can fill it with!
Popular with my teenagers though is their Meatless Meatball Marinara … plant-based meatballs in a warm marinara sauce with plant-based mozzarella slices (or normal cheese if you’d prefer). This is my children’s ‘go-to’ hot Subway meal. Because we are pescatarians, their Tuna Sub is the second choice, with lots of lettuce, onion and tomato. They also do a Plant Patty sub, containing their veggie patty, and served with salad and sauces of your choice.
When I was a teenager, I was a vegetarian for 12 years, but I constantly struggled with limited food choices. Takeaways were a no-go … even restaurants tended to serve the same plates of food, minus the meat! 30 years on, and I’m amazed at all the plant-based options available now. It is so much easier being vegetarian; if an ex-carnivore misses the taste of a certain meal, it’s really not difficult to source a plant-based alternative. One year on, and having just asked the children, we all agree that we can’t see ourselves going back to eating meat – we honestly don’t see the point.