By Barbi Lazarus, Donor and Volunteer Resources Coordinator

Disclaimer: This is not another vegan fast food post. While those articles are important (and we even have a whole fast food section here at veg.ca/fastfood!), they’re often meant to highlight what you can find if no other options exist. They’re often about settling for whatever cruelty-free food you can find, assuming you need to throw out any rules you might normally live by in terms of the ethics of supporting chains that profit from animal cruelty or in terms of your own personal health and well-being.

But for me, the following four chains aren’t places I settle for when on vacation; they’re places I seek out. Even when travelling to a vegan mecca like Las Vegas or a relatively veg-friendly place like Tampa, I’m looking for a Tropical Smoothie to grab breakfast or a Whole Foods to stock the room with dessert.

whole foods cookiesNext time you’re travelling to a city without a whole lot of explicitly vegetarian restaurants, fear not. Just do a quick search online to find out if the city or town you’re in has these four chains nearby and I promise you won’t be settling. These places offer good, delicious, healthy, satisfying, even luscious and indulgent, plant-based options.

1. Whole Foods: I must admit I learned this trick from an episode of No Meat Athlete. The salad and hot bar in Whole Foods has an enormous variety of vegan options, clearly labelled as such, and always plenty of seating to boot. In fact, in my experience at most American Whole Foods, there are more items labelled vegan than not. The food is of a wide variety including American, Chinese, Indian, Italian and other ethnic dishes.  Afterwards, head over to their bakery section where you’ll once again be stunned at the huge selection of vegan pies, cookies, muffins and more, once again labelled vegan right on the packaging. That is, of course, if you have room after also wandering over to the freezer section, where all American Whole Foods seem to sell single serving packages of Rice Dream’s ice cream sandwiches and bars, which are out of this world delicious.

tropical smoothie2. Tropical Smoothie: A couple of years ago, Tropical Smoothie, a chain with dozens of locations across many American states, announced that they were introducing Beyond Meat onto their menu for swapping into any of their wraps. Say what! It’s true. This means you can enjoy items like their Jamaican Jerk or Thai wraps done vegan. Have it with one of their gigantic smoothies on the side and no matter what else your vacation brings, you can feel good about having a meal chock full of fresh fruits and veggies and oh so delicious too.

3. Chipotle: With more and more Chipotle locations opening in Toronto, you’re probably already familiar with the plant-based options available. In addition to a standard vegetarian burrito, taco or bowl done with beans and veggies, you can also opt for vegetarian chiorizo at any location. The meals at Chipotle are hearty. You won’t feel like you’re missing out at all if you wind up there for dinner.

4. Subway: I used to turn up my nose at the veggie sub from Subway. Who wants cold veggies with no sauce on a bun which quickly becomes soggy? My, how things have changed. On our most recent vacation, we wound up thinking we were settling for Subway after we wasted time in a not-so-vegan-friendly burger joint and then had a very short amount of time to grab dinner before our plans for the evening. There was a Subway across the street from our hotel so in we went and brought back to the room giant subs on whole wheat buns with not just veggies, but their vegan veggie patty. Asking them to include all the different hot peppers and olives as toppings, I promise you the sandwich was just as flavourful as the non-vegan burger we almost ate! And getting to eat it back in the room in front of an episode of House Hunters: Tiny House? Can’t be beat.