Anyone who transitions into a healthier lifestyle normally has a hard break-up with fast food. One reason why fast food is so hard to give up, is because most of it is laden with MSG that’s been linked to addiction and food cravings, not to mention it heightens the taste of any food, whatever it’s used on. This leads you to not only eat more, but crave it all the time. Fast foods are also high in flavor combinations that are addicting to our brains (literally): fat and sugar, fat and salt, carbs and fat, or worse – all of them combined! Our brain goes into a state of euphoria with these foods, which is why those dollar menu items or greasy fries and chemical-filled shakes actually taste good to us, when really our body can’t use them properly (much less even recognize what’s in them!).
Still, fast food is hard to give up, and you don’t have to wear a health halo to make a change either. Most people wouldn’t guess a nutritionist like myself would have ever loved fast food, but it actually made up 90 percent of my diet as a teen and young adult. For me, the addictions were to the mint chocolate chip ice cream and Mocha Blasts from Baskin Robbins, buttered biscuits from Hardee’s, the personal pan pepperoni pizzas from Pizza Hut, fried ice cream from Mexican restaurants, Sonic Birthday Cake Shakes (!!!), and the sandwiches and waffles fries from Chic-fil-A (all packed with MSG and animal products).
All of these were enjoyed weekly (if not more than that) until I woke up and realized my body didn’t appreciate those foods, nor were they humane or ethical (not to mention they didn’t do my budget any favors). But I was like ever one else I knew, and used them for meals because they were quick, easy, and let’s be honest – they tasted good! Then, I started connecting the ingredients that were in those foods with the animals that were sacrificed to produce them, and that was it for me. Not to mention, my health was going downhill in small ways, and I knew something had to change.
Cutting them out cold was easiest for me, and after a few weeks, my taste buds completely changed. If that seems hard or daunting for you, then you’ll appreciate some helpful recipes below that can help you enjoy fast food favorites the healthier way. Guess what? They’re also ALL vegan! You can actually make these recipes at home yourself because most of them are really simple, some are quick and easy, and all of them crazy delicious and filling. Sure, they’re not dripping with grease and won’t give you that sugar high, but they do satisfy, and will help your taste buds start to crave the flavor of real foods.
Here are some fast food favorites made with whole, plant-based foods:
Let’s start with the important stuff first – the fries! Everyone has that one special spot, where the fries are like no other. Well, these fries aren’t just healthier for you, but they actually taste amazing! Homemade fries are something everyone should experience. They’re not just crispier and fresh, but the potato flavor is so much more intense. You can use any potato that you want here in this recipe, which is flavored with the ever-trendy dill pickle flavor. Don’t like dill pickles? Then make these Baked Cinnamon Fries, Ketchup Baked Home Fries (a total “to-die-for” recipe), Chili Cheese Turnip Fries, or one of our most popular recipes, Chickpea Fries!
Hey, I was never a burger nut, but if you are, then good news- you can do just about anything you want when it comes to plant-based burgers. Whether you go for The Ultimate Vegan Burger, or just want a healthier alternative that tastes like the traditional like Burger King, there’s a recipe for everyone. For those that want something special, there’s Black Bean Burgers With Caramelized Onion Chipotle BBQ Sauce, Pizza Burgers (also gluten-free), Game Day burgers, or go all out and make The Vegan Eggplant Crunchburger. For those that want something super healthy and tasty, go with Raw Yam Burgers and Daikon Fries with Ketchup.
Pizza is essentially one of the easiest recipes to turn plant-based. All you have to “battle” is the cheese and meaty toppings, but not to worry – we’ll fix that. Cheesy flavor is easy to do, even without store bought cheese alternatives. You’ve got the option of using nutritional yeast on your pizza, or going with a tasty, homemade ‘cheese’ spread instead. You could also just use a hearty, homemade easy pizza sauce in place of meaty sauces. For meaty toppings, mushrooms, avocados, and if you’re into them, “meaty” crumbles you can buy at the store, all take the place of traditional animal meat. You can also make your own meat crumbles at home. Roasted veggies are surprisingly great on pizza and the crust can even be made healthy too. Try: Socca Pizza, the Ultimate Raw, Vegan Pizza, Sweet Potato and Sesame and Chickpea Pizza, or Summer Vegan Pesto Pizza.
Another favorite by many people are those sandwiches dripping in grease, all wrapped up in a fast food paper casing that’s so packed with ingredients, they’re hard to even eat! I suppose you might get what you pay for, but those ingredients are going to cost you later on down the line for sure. Instead, how about a hearty homemade sandwich such as: The Magical Tempeh Reuben, Chickpea ‘Tuna’ Salad Sandwich, Bad Ass Vegan Fish Sandwiches, The Cracked Sandwich, The Vegan Tempeh Reuben, Southwestern Vegan Grilled Cheese Sandwich, or Roasted Vegan Eggplant Sandwich.
No drive-thru taco joints needed here, or even Mexican restaurants for that matter. All you really is to decide what kinda flavor you’re going for and you can make your own tacos easily at home. Some suggestions include:Spicy Bean Chili and Rice Tacos With Guacamole and Cashew Cream, Super Star Lentil Taco Salad, Lentil Tacos, Tacos Sin Carne, and Falafel Tacos. Oh, and be sure to make your own meaty filling with this Walnut ‘Meat’ that’s also raw; it will change your life, no doubt.
6. Breakfast Biscuits
A hot, warm breakfast biscuit really hits the spot, especially when it’s covered in grape jelly or if you’re a sausage fan, you might go for the meaty biscuits instead. Whatever the case, if you’re a self-proclaimed biscuit lover too (southerners do get an excuse, I guess), then try some of these plant-recipes which are all easy to make vegan: Vegan Buttermilk Biscuits, Vegan Biscuits and Sausage Gravy, or Gluten-Free Biscuits and Mushroom Gravy. And while not a fast food dish per se, who can deny the addicting taste of Red Lobster biscuits? Good news, you can make those too; try Red Lobster Style Vegan Cheddar Biscuits.
7. Sundaes and Shakes!!!
Another big time favorite – soft serve sundaes. And don’t even start on the shakes – an almost daily treat for my former self. Oh wow – so good. Lucky for you, these are super simple too. You can buy store bought vegan ice cream and cover it in a chocolate stevia based syrup, or just make your own at home. Try Raw Banana Ice Cream Sundae, Soft Serve Vegan Sundaes, or Raw Vegan Coconut Flower Sundaes. Or, you can also go for some traditional ice cream recipes instead such as: Decadent Caramel Chocolate Banana Ice Cream, Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter and Banana Blizzard, and Neopolitan ‘Milk’ Shakes. Last but not least, for those that really want to knock it out of the park, make this Peanut Butter Cup Ice Cream and kiss the dairy cream goodbye!
Other Fast Food Favorites
Some other items you might be wondering about can also be made plant-based. Here are some ideas and possibilities for other fast food favorites:
As you can see, no matter if you hit up the fast food joint morning, noon, or night, any option can be made plant-based. If you just change out those items with these recipes, you’ll reduce your cholesterol and risk for cancer, lower your weight, reduce breakouts, have more energy, and your digestive system will be thanking you as another benefit!
Be sure to see all of our other plant-based recipes for even more ideas, and see how to eat healthy on a budget as a plant-based eater for more helpful tips. And finally, if you’re going out to eat, see How to Eat Vegan at a Steakhouse or see if you live near one of these 8 Best Vegan Restaurants in the U.S.
Lead Image Source: Ketchup Baked Home Fries