On the Go Plant-Based Options at the Top 5 Fast Food Chains in Canada

Have you ever thought that finding a plant-based meal on the go is too hard? Has that stopped you from becoming more plant-based and/or from wanting to eat more sustainably? From road trips to running late, I’m here to tell you that it’s easier to eat a plant-based and more sustainable meal on the go than you think. 

Animal agriculture accounts up to 14.5% of Greenhouse Gas emissions globally, which is more than all of transportation (cars, planes, trucks, etc) on Earth combined. One hamburger takes up to 660 gallons of water to produce, which is equivalent to 15 bathtubs full. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to go completely vegan, but reducing meat, dairy and egg intake can help a lot. By eating only one meatless meal a week, you can save the same emissions of driving a car for 1860 km. 

There are a lot of barriers that prevent people from eating plant-based, vegan, or vegetarian. For some, meal planning and prepping is too daunting. For others, their budget cannot allow for it. Whatever the case may be, there are some smaller, cheaper, and more convenient ways you can find a plant-based meal. 

Below, I have provided a list of plant-based options for 5 major fast food restaurants in Canada. Though fast food in itself is not the most sustainable choice when it comes to finding a meal, this is meant to provide you with some convenient, cheaper options with the hope that you can find at least one of these options in most towns across Canada. All prices and menu item availability are based on research done in November 2020. 

McDonald’s

  • Hash Browns: $1.79
  • Fries (in Canada):
    • Small: $1.69
    • Medium: $2.89
    • Large: $3.29
  • Apple slices: $0.99
  • Baked Apple Pie: $1.19

Sadly, McDonald’s does not provide “vegan certified” options in Canada yet. Their menu is also temporarily limited as a result of the pandemic. Through my research I was also able to find the Southwest Salad which has black beans for protein (on the extended menu), just be sure to ask for it without chicken and cheese. On their regular menu, they also offer Fruit and Maple Oatmeal, which already comes completely plant-based!

On the McDonald’s website, they said it was a goal to source 100% of their fiber based packaging from recycled sources by 2020. However, it is unclear as to whether they met this goal. Most of their sustainability goals remain vague (according to the information I was able to find on their website).

Since this information is directly from the company’s website, should be taken with a grain of salt (along with the other sustainability campaigns referenced further in this list).

Tim Hortons

  • Bagels: $1.19/each (with choice of peanut butter, strawberry jam, or grape jelly)
    • Carmel Apple
    • 12 Grain Bagel
    • Blueberry
    • Cinnamon Raisin
    • Everything
    • Plain
    • Pretzel-Style Bagel
  • Oatmeal: $2.49
    • Maple
    • Mixed Berry
  • Hash Brown (included with ‘Meal’ options)
  • Almond Milk is available for lattes, etc!

For road trips, I like to take some extra fruit with me (my go-to is banana), and I top the bagel with peanut butter and banana slices for an on the go breakfast or snack.

From what I could find on their website, Tim Hortons is attempting pilots for more sustainable coffee cups, and have already implemented packaging such as straw-less cups. A few of their initiatives are goals they have for future dates, so it is unclear at the moment if they will be accomplished. You can read more about their initiatives here.

A&W

  • Beyond Meat Burger (order without mayonnaise, option of bun or lettuce rap): $6.99
    • Combo with fries and drink $10.98
  • Fries: $3.19
  • Sweet Potato Fries: $4.09

A&W is my personal favourite for a delicious plant-based meal, and there’s rumors of more plant-based menu options becoming available in the future.

A&W has taken steps to make their business more sustainable. Their burger packaging is compostable, they use reusable plates and cutlery at dine-in restaurants, and have joined the National Zero Waste Council! Click here to learn more about their sustainable initiatives.

Subway

  • Veggie Delite 6 inch: $4.89
  • Veggie Delite Footlong: $6.00 
  • Recommend adding avocado to the Veggie Delite 

Breads/Wraps:

  • 9-Grain Wheat Bread
  • Hearty Italian Bread
  • Italian (White) Bread
  • Roasted Garlic Bread
  • Sourdough Bread
  • Spinach Wrap
  • Tomato Basil Wrap
  • Habanero Wrap
  • Wheat Wrap

Sandwich fillings:

  • Shredded lettuce
  • Tomatoes
  • Green peppers
  • Red onions
  • Cucumbers
  • Spinach
  • Olives
  • Pickles
  • Jalapeños
  • Avocado

Sauces/Dressings:

  • Yellow mustard
  • Deli brown mustard
  • Mustard seed spread
  • Oil and vinegar
  • Subway vinaigrette
  • Sweet onion sauce
  • Fat-free Italian dressing

Salads:

  • Veggie Delite: $6.89

Some locations also offer Black Bean Soup.

I would recommend adding some sort of fat to the meal (avocado or olive oil for example) so you can stay satisfied longer. 

In terms of sustainability, Subway has initiatives to locally source *some* products, and has tried to reduce the amount of palm oil used in their products. Read more about their initiatives here.

Wendy’s

**Note that Wendy’s doesn’t have a dedicated fryer for their plant-based menu items, cross contamination may occur**

  • Natural Cut Fries: $1.89
  • Baked Potato (Plain or Chives) (ask for no butter, no cheese and no sour cream): $3.39
    • Substitute with ketchup, BBQ sauce or hot chili sauce
    • Substitute with salsa and avocado 

Salads

*Replace dressing with a vegan dressing listed in the “dressing” section

  • Garden Side Salad (ask for no cheese and no croutons)*: $3.19
  • Southwest Avocado Chicken Salad (ask for no cheese, no chicken and no bacon)*
    • Half size: $8.19
    • Full size: $11.89
  • Taco Salad (ask for no cheese, no chili and no sour cream. Substitute with avocado)
    • Half size: $8.19
    • Full size: $11.89
  • Apple Pecan Chicken Salad (ask for no blue cheese, no chicken and no pecans)
    • Half size: $8.19
    • Full size: $11.89

Vegan Dressings

  • Pomegranate Vinaigrette Dressing 
  • Light Spicy Asian Chili Vinaigrette 
  • Light Balsamic Vinaigrette
  • Salsa

The plant-based options at Wendy’s require a bit more creativity to make, but have healthy fats and proteins that will help leave you satisfied.

Wendy’s also has a few sustainability initiatives which include reducing single-use packaging, however it looks like its still in development and isn’t very robust as of yet.

This list is to help you get ideas on where and how you can order convenient meals that are plant-based. Restaurant menus are constantly changing, but it’s my hope that you can take inspiration from this to come up with your own strategies to make more sustainable food choices when possible. I like to see it as an opportunity to become my own “chef” and make something never before created, all while doing a small good for the planet.

The most important thing to remember is to be creative and have fun with it! Try applying it to sit-down restaurants, or even grocery shopping (especially when there’s a budget involved). The possibilities are endless! 

Happy eating 🙂

11/25/20

Jazlynn Steinbach

Climate Nexus

Business Insider

Cost Finder Canada

McDonald’s Canada

VeggL-Tim Hortons

Latest Menu Price

A&W Canada

Subway Canada

Women’s Health Magazine

VeggL Wendy’s

Wendy’s Canada

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