Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Eating Vegetarian at Burger Restaurants

Red Robin Bleu Ribbon Burger

You can always get fries at burger places.  It didn’t take me long however to get a tired of McDonald’s fries when I was out and about doing pediatric home-based therapy, and looking for food without meat.  Some burger restaurants offer onion rings.  Of the major burger chains, only Burger King offers a veggie patty.  Most burger chains now carry salads, and some offer fruits, smoothies, pies and such.  If you’re actually looking for a Veggie Burger, one of your best bets is Red Robin. 

Featured in this blog post:   

Burger King
Carl's Jr
Red Robin

Click on the restaurant links for menus. 

BurgerKing:  In addition to fries, you can get onion rings, apple fries, Dutch Apple Pie, Hershey’s Sundae Pie, shakes, frozen Coke, and frozen Cherry from Burger King.  They also offer a Garden Salad. 


Burger King’s Veggie Burger features the Morningstar Farms® Garden Veggie Patty.  The Morningstar website lists the ingredients of the patty as mushrooms, water chestnuts, onions, carrots, green and red peppers, black olives, brown rice, and rolled oats.  It contains 110 calories and 3.5 grams of fat.  Compare that to 15 grams of fat for a ground beef patty! 
Closer inspection of the label however reveals texturized vegetable protein in the patty, which experts like Sally Fallon caution against.  (See YouTube video below.)  At least the vegetables are listed as the first ingredient.  Admittedly, the TVP helps give the veggie patty a more pleasing, meat burger-like texture.  I found the BK Veggie Burger pretty satisfying.  It was served to me pretty quickly, which tells me that it was likely microwaved, something else I try to avoid.  I wouldn't do it often, but I would definitely have the BK Veggie Burger again.  Here's my burger:

No veggie burger at McDonald’s, but they offer a variety of salads.  Choose from Caesar Salad, Southwest Salad (roasted corn, black beans, poblano peppers, and tortilla strips), Asian Salad (snow peas, mandarin oranges, edamame), Side Salad, or Fruit & Walnut Salad (apples, grapes, candied walnuts, and vanilla yogurt).  For your sweet tooth, McDonald’s has countless options:  McCafe ice coffees and lattes, smoothies, sundaes, shakes, McFlurries, cookies, baked apple pie, and apple dippers. 

Order a baked potato from Wendy’s with sour cream and chives, or broccoli and cheese.  You can get a Garden Side Salad, or Caesar Side Salad.  Ask for the Baja Salad (pico de gallo, guacamole) without chili, or BLT Cobb Salad without the bacon.  Try one of these three salads without the chicken:  Apple Pecan Chicken Salad, Spicy Chicken Caesar, or Berry Almond Chicken Salad.  Wendy’s also offers apple slices, and for your sweet tooth, their famous chocolate Frosty. 

I suppose any burger place would be willing to sell any of their burgers with just the trimmings, minus the meat, but Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. advertise Veg-It choices.  Have Veg-It Guacamole Bacon Six Dollar Burger, minus the bacon and patty at Carl’s Jr.  Hardee’s pitches the Veg-It Thickburger.  Both establishments have natural cut fries.  Hardee’s has beer battered onion rings.  Carl’s has fried zucchini.  Both Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. offer malts and shakes.  Hardee’s also has apple turnovers.  Carl’s Jr. has smoothies, chocolate chip cookies, strawberry swirl cheesecake, and chocolate cake.  

Although I had been to RedRobin Gourmet Burgers before, I was not looking for vegetarian options at the time.  A friend recently turned me on to this tidbit:  You can order any burger at Red Robin’s with a Gardenburger or BOCA Burger patty!  Menu selections vary by location, but you can count on at least 10-12 burger variations with vegetarian or vegan patty.  I have overviewed choices available in my area Red Robin restaurants. 

The Garden Burger:  Lettuce, tomato, pickles, and Country Dijon Sauce on a whole grain bun. 

Red Robin Gourmet Cheeseburger:  Lettuce, tomato, pickles, onions, mayo, and choice of cheese:  Cheddar, American, Swiss, Bleu, Provolone, or Pepper Jack. 

Banzai Burger:  Grilled pineapple, cheddar, lettuce, tomato, and mayo. 

Whiskey River BBQ Burger:  Whiskey River BBQ sauce, cheddar, crispy onion straws, lettuce, tomato, and mayo.

Guacamole Bacon Burger:  Skip the bacon.  Guacamole, Swiss, onion, lettuce, tomato, and mayo. 

Sautéed ‘Shroom Burger:  Sautéed mushrooms, garlic parmesan butter, Swiss. 

Burning Love Burger:  Fried jalapeño coins, salsa, Pepper Jack, lettuce, tomato, and chipotle mayo on jalapeño cornmeal Kaiser roll. 

Blackened Bayou Burger:  Roasted red pepper, angry onions, Pepper Jack, Dijon sauce, cabbage-carrot mix, and optional Tabasco sauce on a jalapeño cornmeal Kaiser roll. 

A1 Peppercorn Burger:  Skip the bacon.  Pepper Jack, A1 Peppercorn spread, crispy onion straws, tomatoes. 

Bleu Ribbon Burger (below):  Tangy steak sauce, bleu cheese, crispy onion straws, lettuce, tomato, and chipotle mayo on an onion bun.  This was my first veggie burger selection at Red Robin.  I’m a sucker for an onion roll.  Not really a bleu cheese fan, but this was a good sandwich.  I had the Gardenburger patty.  I’m a big eater, but I couldn’t quite finish this burger. 


Royal Red Robin Burger:  Skip the bacon.  Fried egg, American cheese, lettuce, tomato, and mayo. 

Bruschetta Chicken Sandwich (personal photo below):  Substitute Gardenburger or BOCA Burger for chicken.  Bruschetta salsa, pesto aioli, provolone cheese, romaine, and balsamic cream on ciabatta bread.  This was my most recent veggie burger from Red Robin.   The pesto was a bit skimpy, not like in the menu photo at all, but good flavor with this sandwich.  I loved the ciabatta. 

Crispy Artic Cod Sandwich:  Substitute Gardenburger or BOCA Burger for fish.  Coleslaw, tomato, pickles, and tartar sauce. 

Next time I think I may try the ‘build your own burger’ option.  You can choose a vegetarian Gardenburger or vegan BOCA patty, and the bread, cheese, sauces, and condiments you want.  I’d go with the Gardenburger always, because I don’t favor all the soy and wheat gluten ingredients in BOCA.  I love the onion roll and ciabatta bread, so I'd go with one of them.  I’d also get the crispy onion straws again.  Guacamole would be good too. 

Not in the mood for a burger?  Red Robin also offers Classic Creamy Mac ‘N’ Cheese with a four cheese sauce, served with focaccia bread and a side salad.  Other selections include Mighty Caesar Salad, and French Onion Soup.  From the appetizer menu choose onion rings, fried cheese sticks, fried jalapeño coins, fried zucchini, artichoke & spinach dip, or guacamole, salsa & chips.  The kid’s menu offers a grilled cheese sandwich, and Red Robinette Spaghetti.  For your sweet tooth, choose Hot Fudge Sundae, Mother Robin’s Brownie Sundae, or Mountain High Mudd Pie. 

Reasons to be “Almost Vegetarian”

There are many reasons to be “almost vegetarian”. 

For lifelong devoted vegetarians, being a vegetarian is often about not killing animals.  Some religions, like Hinduism, mandate vegetarianism, because they consider killing something for food to be a selfish act. 

Personally I’m not crazy about killing animals for food.  If I had to kill them myself, I’m sure I would be a die-hard vegetarian.  For me, it has been hard to completely give up meat, having been raised on meals consisting of meat, starch and vegetable.  If any component is missing, I often feel unsatisfied, like I didn’t really have a meal.  Yet in the last couple years, I have found increasingly more motivation to move in a vegetarian direction. 

I discovered a book, The Body Ecology Diet by Donna Gates, that has really impressed me.  This book describes dietary practices that help restore balance to the body’s internal environment.  Among other things, Donna recommends meals consisting of 20% meat and 80% vegetables, or 20% starch and 80% vegetables.  She specifically discourages combining animal protein and starches in the same meal.  Because the digestive processes are so different, they conflict with each other.  I became increasingly convinced that indeed when I eat meat and starch in the same meal, I have more reflux symptoms.  Since it is particularly difficult for me to give up starch, I figured if I ate more vegetarian meals, preparing vegetarian versions of favorite foods, I would have less reflux. 

Meat is difficult to digest.  According to Donna Gates, it takes about five hours for meat to clear the stomach.  I have thought for a while now that my body does not digest animal protein very well.  I was sick in February, and decided that my system was compromised due to being ill, so I would stay away from meat for a week or two, so as to not put additional strain on my system.  After about a week and a half, I noticed that I had not had any right heel pain in a week. 

Prior to this, I had been having right heel pain for months.  I was convinced that it was biomechanical, from how I sat on my couch when using my laptop.  One of the visiting specialists at my Naturopath’s office had said to me, “Right heel?  In Chinese Medicine, that’s your colon.”  Wow!  What a coincidence.  I have since noticed the return of varying degrees of right heel pain when I occasionally eat a little chicken, fish, or shrimp. 

Many doctors and nutritionists advocate vegetarian meals as being beneficial for people who need to decrease saturated fat in their diet due to heart disease or high cholesterol.  According to the Environmental Working Group, who supports the MeatlessMonday initiative, skipping meat not only lowers the risk of serious health problems, but cuts carbon emissions.  Here is a statement from the EWG: 

“If we Americans skipped meat and cheese just one day a week for a year, we’d cut carbon emissions as much as taking 7.6 million cars off the road would! Cutting back on meat not only helps the environment, it also lowers your risk of serious health problems such as obesity, heart disease, stroke and some types of cancers.”
You can sign a pledge to give up meat one day a week through the EWG Meatless Monday initiative.