7 veggie fast foods that aren’t as healthy as you think

We took a look at some vegetarian options on fast-food menus to see how healthy they really are

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fast food drive thru

Is vegetarian fast-food healthy?

Every day, about a quarter of Canadians eat from fast-food outlets. There's no question it's convenient - quicker and cheaper, for sure, than sitting down in a full-service restaurant. But bacon cheeseburgers and fried chicken strips don't exactly sound wholesome. That's probably why a lot of us are reaching for vegetarian items on the fast-food menu, like veggie burgers and salad wraps. But are these choices really that healthy? We've taken a closer look at seven vegetarian fast foods.

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mcwrap

McDonald's Santa Fe Signature McWrap

McDonald's recently presented its new vegetarian tortilla wrap, prepared with black beans, vegetables, cheese and sauce.

What's wrong with it:
It sounds healthy and is reportedly uber-tasty, but take a second look. This new sandwich wrap has almost double the calories (490) of a McDonald's hamburger, and more than double the fat (24 grams). Like many fast foods, it's also loaded with sodium, at 980 mg.

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veggie burger

Harvey's Grilled Veggie Burger

This vegetarian patty, served on a multigrain bun, is certified as a healthy menu choice under the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada's Health Check program.

What's wrong with it: It's not much better than the McWrap, with 340 calories and 700 mg of sodium. So why does it get the nod from the Heart and Stroke Foundation? To qualify for certification, an entrée must have no more than 960 mg of sodium, and no more than 15 grams of fat (Harvey's veggie burger has 10 grams).

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Subway's Veggie Delite

Subway's Veggie Delite

This six-inch sub is crammed with a selection of fresh raw vegetables like cucumbers, lettuce, tomatoes and onion. It's low in fat (2.5 grams), and the sodium and calorie counts won't make you cringe.

What's wrong with it: The nutrition information provided by Subway is based on a sandwich without any extras, like cheese or mayo. Add these, and the calories and fat are less impressive. This meal is also pretty skimpy on the protein, with just eight grams, so it might not be long after lunch before you're running out of gas.

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penne

Pizzaville's Spinach and Ricotta Penne

Another fast food certified by the Heart and Stroke Foundation, this pasta dish is served with a spinach-ricotta sauce plus three more types of cheese.

What's wrong with it: Like the Harvey's veggie burger, the fat content of Pizzaville's spinach and ricotta penne isn't modest but rather, at 14 grams, is close to the Health Check upper limit. Plus it contains as much sodium as three slices of Pizzaville's bacon-sausage-pepperoni pizza. This is all based on eating a quarter of a take-out tray, so beware of scooping seconds.

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panini

Tim Hortons' Grilled Cheese Panini

Made fresh to order, this panini is prepared with mozzarella and cheddar cheese and is available on multigrain bread.

What's wrong with it: The only meat-free sandwich option on Tim Hortons' menu, this one isn't going to save your waistline. It contains 490 calories, 19 grams of fat and so much sodium - a whopping 1240 mg - that it has us wondering, is it made with seawater?

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junk food burger

KFC's Vegetarian Burger

We all know what the C in KFC stands for, and it's not carrots. So you may be pleasantly surprised to find a vegetarian burger on this restaurant's menu.

What's wrong with it: This 440-calorie burger isn't any better than the other veggie choices we've examined, with 19 grams of fat and 980 mg of sodium. And, in fact, it may be a whole lot worse. Some other vegetarian fast-food options actually contain assorted vegetables. This non-meat patty is a mix of water, soy and wheat gluten, along with MSG, salt and flavourings. Before it's cooked, it's coated with breadcrumbs and MSG. And it's served on a bun. Maybe it should be called a wheatburger instead?

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veggiehummus

Druxy's Veggie and Hummus Sandwich

The ingredients in this multigrain-bread sandwich sound tantalizing: roasted red pepper hummus, red and green peppers, carrots, tomatoes, lettuce and sprouts. How can you go wrong?

What's wrong with it:
It's actually not bad, with a calorie count of 334, eight grams of fat and zero cholesterol. It's still rather high in sodium at 794 mg. But at least it contains a good variety of fresh, colourful veggies. Other runners-up include Burger King's veggie burger and Taco Bell's bean burrito, with similar calorie, fat and sodium values. Without a similar selection of vegetables, though, they don't take first prize.

Related:
7 healthier fast food swaps
Canada's worst fast food meals
6 diabetes-friendly fast food meals