Meatless Monday: Vegetarian To Go

by Rachel on March 15, 2010

When I decided to go vegetarian — and in case you missed this, I no longer am one completely, due to how much I like bacon — I actually was heavily influenced by the vegetarian food I ate in restaurants. I noticed that these items quite often had more veggies and they often just sounded very appealing. The more I developed a taste for veggies, the more I realized I could go without meat. So if you want to do the whole semi-vegetarian thing, or if you just want to be a bit healthier when eating on the go, here are some great options.

Chipotle. I love burrito bowls from Chipotle (or Qdoba, or whatever the case may be)! Love, love, love. This was my first foray into vegetarianism, and I still eat vegetarian bowls quite frequently at home. With rice, beans, extra veggies, three kinds of salsa, and guac (and maybe some sour cream and cheese!) the chicken is really just an afterthought. You don’t need it and it doesn’t do much to enhance the dish. And hey, if you’re counting calories, personally, I’d rather take those chicken cals and thrown them toward some tortilla chips…just sayin’.

Mongolian BBQ. The first time I ever tried tofu it was adding it to my stir-fry bowl. Hey…baby steps!

Subway. The Veggie Delite was another baby step toward vegetarianism for me! I had no idea I could be so satisfied with so many fresh vegetables.

Panera Bread. The Mediterranean Veggie sandwich also helped convince me that meatless was really delicious and filling.  And having it with black bean soup or the new vegetable pesto soup and a fruit cup is a fabulous way to have a healthy lunch without any meat necessary.

Olive Garden. If you’re staring at ten different types of pasta, I think a great way to make a selection is to look for the item that has the most vegetables. The shrimp primavera at Olive Garden has bell peppers, onions, and mushrooms. Then you can just ask for it without the shrimp and ask for extra veggies — even veggies like broccoli or squash that may not come in it normally. (Most restaurants are pretty accommodating with a request for more veggies, so you can do that even if you’re a meat-eater.)

Red Robin. I haven’t eaten here in years — the whole “free refills on fries” thing is like my Kryptonite — but what’s cool is that you can get any burger replaced with a veggie burger. Since the best part of these burgers is usually the toppings, not the meat, you probably won’t miss the beef — and you can get a much healthier meal. (Except for those goddamn unlimited fries that are SO GOOD.)

Just making small swaps like this can be a really simple way to eat healthier on the go and cut your meat consumption.

What say you, veggie girls? Any other amazing vegetarian options in restaurants to share??

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Emily March 15, 2010 at 6:37 pm

Thanks for the great ideas-I’ve somehow missed that sandwich on the Panera menu. And who doesn’t love Chipotle?

My issue is always restaurants that don’t seem to have *any* vegetarian options. Places like Applebees even have chicken and bacon on their salads! It shouldn’t be so hard to go out with friends and maintain a vegetarian diet!
.-= Emily´s last blog ..Beautiful Breakfast, Made Easy =-.

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2 Melissa (It's a Veggieful Life) March 15, 2010 at 6:43 pm

We have a restaurant here in Maryville (and one up in Knoxville) called The Tomato Head. It has a lot of vegetarian and vegan options, and most times I opt for them. They also have chicken salad and turkey, etc. that are local, farm-raised meat. It’s my favorite restaurant. You pay more, but you know you’re getting healthy, wholesome food. My other fave is a Chipotle-like restaurant called Salsarita’s. Wonderful fresh food! Makin’ me hungry! :)
.-= Melissa (It’s a Veggieful Life)´s last blog ..It’s All Greek (Cream Cheese) To Me =-.

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3 Caitie March 15, 2010 at 7:03 pm

PF Changs!! They have some delicious vegetarian options with tofu!! Deeeelicious!!!

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4 Donmarie March 15, 2010 at 8:27 pm

So…I’m taking the plunge myself . Today I bought my first meatless protein choices. “Chicken” to go on salads or brown rice & portabella veggie burgers for sandwiches. Crossing my fingers.

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5 Rachel March 15, 2010 at 8:29 pm

Cool!! I am sure you will dig it!!

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6 Robin March 15, 2010 at 9:14 pm

I love love love eating at Sweet Tomatoes. The concept is a buffet, but instead of all the heavy meats and pastas up front, you start with a 46 foot salad bar. Once you fill up your plate with every kind of salad you can think of, THEN you hit all the other foods. And they’re great because they mark all of their entrees and soups with what is in them, what is low fat, and what is veg.

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7 Dori March 15, 2010 at 10:34 pm

Chipotle is the greatest! This is weird but I get a burrito with only fire roasted veggies and lots of guac. Nothing else!! It is amazing.
.-= Dori´s last blog ..The Lite Choice – Taste the Difference Tour =-.

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8 Brea March 16, 2010 at 7:14 am

Chipotles is awesome! But I also love the Mediterranean Veggie sandwich from Panera. I only discovered it a couple of months ago and lately have gotten it everytime I go. Great suggestions!
.-= Brea´s last blog ..Stability ball squats =-.

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9 Dani March 16, 2010 at 7:49 am

The veggie bowls from Chipotle are SO good! The tomato and mozzarella panini from Panera is really good too, but I am going to have to try the Mediterranean veggie next time. Pei Wei also has a bunch of bowls that you can sub in tofu rather than beef or chicken. Thanks for the tips!

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10 Cal_runner March 16, 2010 at 11:39 am

In the West Coast (at least in California), I love Rubio’s grilled veggie burrito. I remember looking up menu nutrition and it was not the most terrible thing you could eat outside.I get mine sans the cheese and sour cream just because I like it that way. And even my meat-eating friends love how the grilled veggies adds so much zing to it.
Soup Plantation is another good place to eat a lot of vegetables. Sounds almost like the Sweet Tomatoes place Robin was talking about.
Hope this info helps if any of you are ever traveling on this side of the country or are from around here. :)

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11 Becca March 16, 2010 at 7:59 pm

As a former employee of Panera I definetly recommend the Med Veggie sandwich, but if you’re watching calories/fat intake swap the Tomato Basil for honey wheat or whole grain. TB bread is AMAZING but not the healthiest Panera has to offer.
Also when I worked there I would get hald black bean half black potato, I doubt you can actually order that, but its delish!

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12 Becca March 16, 2010 at 8:00 pm

*baked potato, my bad!

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13 Rachel March 16, 2010 at 9:49 pm

Mmmm a soup combo…that is a fantastic idea!!!

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14 Bridget @PavementandPlants March 16, 2010 at 11:42 pm

I know this is shocking-but Five Guys Burgers and Fries has a great vegetarian option. They cook whatever vegetables you want (I do them all-mushrooms, jalapenos, onions, green peppers) top it with lettuce, tomato, pickles, your choice of cheese, and whatever sauce youd like. It is so delicious.

Even veggie girls need a greasy fix with their friends sometimes!
.-= Bridget @PavementandPlants´s last blog ..Workin’ it out by working out =-.

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