McDonald's Vegan Options
As plant-based diets across the world become ever more popular, restaurants (including fast-food chains) have adapted to meet the ever-changing needs of their customers. McDonald’s is no exception to this. In the past few years, McDonald’s has introduced a variety of vegan-friendly menu items, especially in the UK and Scandinavia countries. They have the
- Vegetable Deluxe Sandwich and Spicy Veggie Wrap in the UK,
- the McAloo Tikki in India,
- Vegan Vegetable Nuggets in Norway,
- Falafel Nuggets in Sweden,
- the McVegan and the El Veggo in Finland, and
- the Big Vegan in Germany.
The one country that McDonald’s seems to have been forgotten about is the United States. There are currently no vegan sandwiches, wraps, or breakfast items available on US menus. To add insult to injury, US McDonald’s locations still include “Natural Beef Flavor [Wheat and Milk Derivatives]” in their French Fries even though the rest of the world’s McDonald’s fries are vegan.
The Growing Trend Of Plant-Based Foods
In fact, SPINS reports that the total plant-based market is growing 29% year over year, nearly twice the rate of the overall food and beverage market. For plant-based products to truly bloom in today's market, though, they also have to meet consumer expectations for flavour and taste.
Top Trends In Plant-Based Foods
Fast Food Plant-Based Meats. With cooking fatigue officially setting in for many consumers, restaurant reopenings are providing welcome relief. Low prices and menus with better-for-you plant-based offerings are making fast-food restaurants a top choice in eating out. Whether they're craving burgers, tacos, or breakfast sandwiches, consumers can find plant-based protein options at Burger King, Carl’s Jr., Dunkin’, Qdoba, Subway, White Castle, and more. In addition, McDonald’s McPlant and Taco Bell’s Cravetarian Taco are scheduled for a U.S. launch this year.
Growth in Plant-Based Protein Powders. 2021 is also the year for getting back in shape. With eating and exercise routines disrupted in 2020, fitness and weight loss are becoming top priorities for many consumers.
Although whey protein powder remains the go-to product in sports nutrition, the growing interest in plant-based eating along with innovative formulas that blend plant-based proteins to create complete protein products will boost growth in this segment.
Brands such as Vega and Orgain are using a variety of complementary plant-based proteins, including pea, chia, pumpkin seed, sunflower seed, brown rice, alfalfa, and sacha inchi proteins.
Plant-Based Seafood Investment and Expansion. Last year’s expansion of Good Catch Foods’ plant-based seafood products into the European market put the spotlight on this emerging plant-based category. Products include plant-based flaked tuna, fish cakes, and crab cakes and are known for their realistic taste, texture, and even nutrition—thanks to algal DHA fortification. The influx of capital funding plus the recent partnership with Bumble Bee Foods for distribution signals exciting things ahead for plant-based seafood.
Upcycled Plant-Based Protein Products. Another trend to watch this year is plant-based products that raise the bar on sustainability—via upcycled food waste. Planetarians is working to extract sunflower seed protein from the oil cakes leftover after sunflower oil production (currently used as animal feed), while Outcast Foods, a specialist in upcycling unsaleable fruits and vegetables, is offering fruit and veggie-fortified protein powders. Real Food Bar joined the movement this year with its new plant-based protein bars featuring upcycled kale, sweet potato, and cauliflower.
New Plant-Based Protein Exploration. Consumer demand for new and exciting plant-based protein products is driving sophisticated, science-based exploration of new protein sources. Research underway includes the characterization of proteins from camelina, an oilseed cover crop in the Brassicaceae family, and red seaweeds like nori and ogo. Functional properties, such as gelling and emulsification, will be particularly important for new plant proteins to facilitate use in next-gen plant-based meat, egg, and dairy products.
A Healthy, Sustainable Food Future This year promises to be another big year for plant-based proteins as consumers seek healthy, sustainable, and exciting foods and beverages in the post-COVID period. Companies that keep up with consumer trends to offer consumers the right products with the right ingredients will be poised for success.
Plant foods may have been a part of fad diets over the years, from cabbage soup to all-day grapefruit to tofu, but today’s plant-based offerings have become a part of the natural landscape rather than a short-term trend. And with heightened consumer interest in health-focused and sustainable products, plant-based offerings are primed for growth.
In fact, SPINS reports that the total plant-based market is growing 29% year over year, nearly twice the rate of the overall food and beverage market. For plant-based products to truly bloom in today’s market, though, they also have to meet consumer expectations for flavour and taste. Let’s take a look and see how you can grow your brand with plant-based offerings.
Expanding Roots. It wasn’t that long ago when “Eat your vegetables!” was an admonishment to children at the dinner table. Thanks to changes in mindsets and the availability of a wider variety of plant-based foods – many of which are flavoured or seasoned – consumers across the board are enthusiastically downing products made with vegetables, fruits, legumes, seeds, nuts, oils and botanicals.
- Vanilla/Vanilla Bourbon/Vanilla Madagascar
Cultivating Growth. Various factors are converging to supercharge the plant-based food and beverage market. COVID-19 accelerated what was already a notable change in eating, as people sought to improve their health and well-being by consuming more plant-based items perceived to be better for them.
Beyond COVID-19, a general interest in health, weight management and disease prevention has impacted dietary choices across a range of foods and beverages. At the same time, concern for the well-being of the planet and its resources is propelling a shift to foods and beverages produced in a more sustainable way.
Since the pandemic began, 39% of consumers in the U.S. have considered going vegetarian or vegan. 20% cite health concerns as the primary driver for their choices.
41% of self-described dieters said they boosted their intake of protein from plant sources in the past year and 28% report that they are eating more plant-based alternatives.
Older consumers including Baby Boomers tend to be more influenced by health when buying plant-based foods, while Millennials and Gen Z consumers are motivated by animal welfare and environmental impact, according to the Plant-Based Foods Association.
Alternatives Rock. Products that mimic traditional animal-based foods comprise a large part of the plant-based market. Some of these products are developed to taste and function like the next best thing, while others are part of a new, distinct niche.
Meat/poultry/seafood alternatives. While veggie burgers have gone mainstream, other types of alt-meat, poultry and seafood products are taking off among flexitarian and omnivores as well as vegans, vegetarians and pescatarians, formulated with various plant-based proteins, legumes, nuts and oils.
Dairy alternatives. In many ways, plant-based dairy products got the ball rolling for the broader plant-based sector. Plant-based milk made from coconut, almonds, oats, quinoa and more has transformed the fluid milk category. The dairy market is also making room for plant-based creamers, yogurts, butter, and ice creams as well as cheeses made with coconut oil, starches and, more recently, cashews and almonds. Flavour is a hallmark of many alt-dairy products, which are enhanced with vanilla, fruit and/or spices like cinnamon and pumpkin spice for extra consumer appeal.
Flavour Factor. Flavour is crucial in the acceptance and future success of plant-based alternatives, both in masking earthy or grassy or other potentially off-putting notes and delivering sensory interest to plant foods that otherwise lack flavour. Flavour can be a differentiator for brands that get it right and offer more choices. At the same time, it is also important for producers of plant-based alternatives to balance flavour with texture, colour and aroma, which work in sync to provide a satisfactory eating or drinking experience.
Natural Noshing. Snacks represent another branch of the plant-based market, with an array of products from big food corporations and small entrepreneurial brands alike. Many forms of plants are being fashioned into snacks that encompass salty and sweet and that can be consumed as a treat, between-meal sustenance or meal replacement. From lentil chips to mushroom or fruit-based jerky to avocado ice cream, these products run the proverbial gamut and are bases for a wide variety of flavour additions.
The Bright Side. Fruits, vegetables and legumes have long been consumed as an accompaniment of some kind. As interest in eating more plant-based food grows, such side dishes are becoming more inventive, using different or unique ingredients, including produce that’s novel to consumers in the U.S. market, like jackfruit, yuzu, reishi mushrooms or rainbow carrots.
The Takeaways. As the plant-based market mushrooms in size and scale (pun intended), consumers’ desire to eat more plant-based foods will continue to impact virtually every food and drink category. While alternatives to animal-based products currently represent a small share of those sectors, the rate of growth is strong and one can expect more product development to meet the tastes of today’s and tomorrow’s omnivores. And as fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes and other plant-based foods become the focal point of product development on their own, the field of possibilities for flavour is wide open.
Superfoods as the Superstar. Sure, some plant-based items are creative takes on traditional dishes (think plant-based pizzas, mac-and-cheese and even cauliflower “steak”) but plants are increasingly the main attraction. The field of possibilities for plant-centric fares is wide open, as are the opportunities to impart flavour to such dishes and products. Flavour, through sauces and seasonings, is crucial with products that may not be as familiar to consumers as meat-based entrees.
McDonald’s Vegan Options Overseas
McDonald's Austria is now serving its McPlant burger with a vegan patty throughout the country. Aimed at flexitarians rather than vegans, the McPlant in Austria is served with dairy cheese and egg-based mayonnaise and cooked on the same grill as meat.
McDonald’s isn’t usually the first place vegans think of when deciding where to eat. Compared to other fast-food chains, McDonald’s vegan menu items are, well, a little lame.
Luckily for us vegans hanging on the North American continent, McDonald’s is finally launching a plant-based burger (aptly named the McPlant) in 2021. Though the fast-food giant hasn’t released much info about the plant-based patty, it’ll likely be a “vegan option to enjoy in moderation,” Appelö says. (Most popular plant burgers are high in saturated fat and sodium.)
While we wait for the McPlant to drop, though, vegan eaters will have to make do with the current Golden Arches options. The below list of McDonald’s vegan menu items will get you started if you find yourself stuck at the drive-through.
With this intel in mind (and a few add-ins up your sleeve), you can create a vegan McDonald’s meal that’s actually somewhat satisfying. Now, here’s what you can order.
Fruit And Maple Oatmeal
Dish, Food, Fruit salad, Salad, Cuisine, Ingredient, Bowl, Wok, Produce, Cookware and bakeware,
Need a quick and healthy breakfast from Mickey Dee's that is ALSO vegan? Try the oatmeal, which is a good source of fiber to keep you full and do your gut some good, says Appelö. Just be sure to ask for no cream, and you're good to go. “Topped with raisins, craisins, and fresh apples, this menu item provides a variety of nutrients to give you a good start to the day,” she adds
Per serving: 290 calories, 2 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 130 mg sodium, 61 g carbs, 5 g fiber, 32 g sugar, 5 g protein
Food, Fruit, Side dish,
Even if you're not a kid, the apple slices at McDonald's are a healthy, guaranteed vegan option. Make sure to have some nuts or a packet of nut butter handy to add some satiating protein and healthy fats to make the snack more satisfying, Appelö suggests.
Per serving: 15 calories, 0 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 0 mg sodium, 4 g carbs, 0 g fiber, 3 g sugar, 0 g protein
Dish, Food, Garden salad, Salad, Cuisine, Caesar salad, Ingredient, Spinach salad, Vegetable, Produce, The Southwest Salad is Appelö's top pick for vegans who find themselves at the Golden Arches. Unlike other menu items, it offers some plant-based protein via black beans, so you won't even miss the chicken. Of course, don't forget to order it without cheese and bird!
Per serving: 160 calories, 5 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 380 mg sodium, 25 g carbs, 6 g fiber, 9 g sugar, 5 g protein
Garden salad, Salad, Vegetables, Food, Leaf vegetable, Lettuce, Dish, Cruciferous vegetables, Iceberg lettuce, red leaf lettuce, McDonald's side salad containing romaine, baby spinach, baby kale, red leaf lettuce, carrots, and grape tomatoes. Vegan, check! Just be sure to go for a vegan dressing and you'll be golden. Does the order need a little extra oomph? “Since vegan protein choices are currently limited to beans in the Southwest Salad, someone who is vegan can bring shelf-stable packaged toasted edamame or roasted chickpeas to add to the side salad for a protein punch,” says Appelö.
Per serving: 15 calories, 0 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 15 mg sodium, 3 g carbs, 1 g fiber, 1 g sugar, 1 g protein
Cup, Drinkware, Serveware, Dishware, Drink, Tableware, Liquid, Glass, Ingredient, Maroon,
While many of the McDonald's McCafe beverages are off-limits for vegans, the black coffee or Americano are a surefire bet for getting your dose of caffeine.
Per serving: 0 calories, 0 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 20 mg sodium, 1 g carbs, 0 g fiber, 0 g sugar, 2 g protein
Minute Maid Slushie
Drink, Liquid, Okay, so this isn't the healthiest drink on the block. But if you're in the mood for a refreshing treat (and honestly, bummed vegan McFlurries don't exist yet), then this is a great option.
Per serving: 170 calories, 0 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 15 mg sodium, 45 g carbs, 0 g fiber, 44 g sugar, 0 g protein
Food, Dish, Cuisine, Ingredient, Baked goods, Turnover, Pastry, Puff pastry, Dessert, Produce,
While you can't enjoy their McFlurry or chocolate chip cookie, McDonald's apple pie is actually free of animal products. While it's not certified vegan—this classic dessert is a safe bet, says Appelö.
Per serving: 240 calories, 11 g fat (6 g saturated fat), 95 mg sodium, 35 g carbs, 4 g fiber, 16 g sugar, 2 g protein
Why Is There No McDonald Vegan Food In The US?
There are currently no vegan sandwiches, wraps, or breakfast items available on US menus. To add insult to injury, US McDonald's locations still include “Natural Beef Flavor [Wheat and Milk Derivatives]” in their French Fries even though the rest of the world's McDonald's fries are vegan.
McDonald’s Vegan Options In The USA (2021)
Like the rest of the world, US McDonald’s customers are increasingly looking for plant-based options and McDonald’s isn’t willing to change what is working well for them to meet the needs of the entire planet. The company is relying on adverts that create fear in people that eating a plant-based diet will impact their health.
Such adverts have already caused a huge amount of harm, such as the infamous “Frankly Meatless” television advertisement that blatantly lied about the health effects of eating plant-based diets. Another advertisement shows people enjoying meat-based foods at McDonald’s. When one of them eats an apple, the ad cuts away to an extreme close-up of their apple and the narrator claims that this might not be good for them.
Why Are McDonald's Vegan Options So Limited
McDonald's CEO explains why the chain hasn't added a veggie burger to the menu yet, as Burger King prepares to launch the Impossible Whopper nationally. Vegetarian and vegan options are sweeping the fast-food industry.
Taco Bell is testing a 100% vegetarian menu. Chipotle recently added new vegetarian and vegan items to its menu. And, on Monday, Burger King announced plans to roll out its vegan Impossible Whopper across the US by the end of 2019.
Read more: Burger King is rolling out the vegan Impossible Whopper across America
Yet, as competitors roll out new menu items and announce deals with meat-substitute makers, McDonald's has yet to take action. Currently, Baked Apple Pie is the only vegan item on McDonald's American menu.
In a call with investors on Tuesday, McDonald's CEO Steve Easterbrook explained why the chain hadn't added a veggie burger to the menu.
Before adding a new plant-based menu item, Easterbrook said, McDonald's needs to establish: “Is there an additional complexity? And if there is, is that complexity worth it?”
McDonald's has recently been trying to focus on simplicity, slashing items from its late-night menu and killing its Signature Crafted line of upscale burgers. In the most recent quarter, the chain's 4.5% growth in comparable sales was driven by new combinations of items that were already on the menu, such as adding bacon to burgers and cheesy fries.
Despite concerns that new menu items could slow down workers and increase wait times, Easterbrook said that the chain is paying close attention to and internally discussing vegan and plant-based menu items.
“Maybe more to come,” Easterbrook said Tuesday, though he insisted there was not much to say on the topic “at the moment.”
A lot of McDonald’s vegetarian options are no longer available in the US. Some of these (such as McVeggie). As you can see, McDonald’s Menu items are already fairly diverse, but most US locations are not offering products that are specific to the vegan or vegetarian diet. Some may attribute this to the fact that American McDonald’s restaurants are owned by franchisees, and not McDonald’s itself, but I think this is just an excuse for the American locations to cater to meat-eating customers.
Restaurants in the UK, Scandinavia and Canada continue to be the main sources of vegan options for those living in Europe. These locations have a much wider variety of vegetarian options including new additions such as the McVegan and McVeggie.
There’s nothing more confusing than being vegan in a country where you’re being told you can’t do something. Personally, I feel that it’s absolutely unacceptable to me that in 2017 the Mcdonalds® brand could be so completely tone-deaf to the needs of vegan people in a way that could, potentially, deprive the animal kingdom of our love, not to mention the emotional distress caused by meat consumption.
Though it’s still unclear if McDonald’s USA will ever bring back the McVegan™ burger, at the very least we can all look forward to the day when we no longer have to worry about the McDeath Burger becoming one of the next McDonald’s menu items to come back.
I trust you enjoyed reading the article about McDonald's Vegan Options. Please stay tuned. There are more blog posts to come very shortly.
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