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Tips for Eating Out on Plant-Based Diet [Video]

Are you concerned about eating out while living vegan lifestyle? Learn those easy tips and hacks for eating out on plant-based diet!

Restaurants and cafes are nice options when meeting friends or if you just want to take a break from the kitchen. I know it’s not easy when eating out vegan but it can be done.

Tips for Eating Out on Plant-Based Diet

Prefer a certain type of restaurants

When dining out, opt for vegan or vegetarian restaurants or restaurants that offer some vegetarian items on their menus. Do your research using Happy Cow (happycow.net), the online vegetarian restaurant guide, or look to vegan/vegetarian/plant-based Facebook groups for ideas.

Ethnic restaurants are always good options for finding vegan or vegetarian meals. You can at least get rice and vegetables. Make sure to ask the chefs to leave out all the salt and oil, if they can.

At Italian restaurants you can usually combine side dishes (rice, potatoes vegetables), salads or whole grain pasta with vegetables. Sometimes it’s possible to order risottos and pizzas (if they have whole grain crust) without cheese.

I find eating at Indian restaurants the easiest as they have lots of legumes on their menus and there’s always lentil stews called dal. You can ask to have rice and vegetables combined and the oils, butter/cream left out. Be sure to ask for dairy-free options as they use a lot of dairy products at Indian places.

Thai and Chinese restaurants offer oil-free rice paper rolls, vegetable woks and curries with rice or rice noodles. You should easily find something to eat in these places.

Miso soup is delicious in Japanese restaurants and so is the vegan sushi, always a good option even if they only have white rice. In larger cities there is a sushi place on almost on every corner.

Mexican restaurants are a good option when eating out on plant-based diet. They serve tons of vegetable and bean burritos. I like Mexican kitchens because they actually use a lot of legumes, rice and veggies, which makes it easy to arrange a balanced meal.

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Do your homework

Check the online menus of unfamiliar places. If you don’t see any obvious options for you then phone or e-mail the establishment and ask if it will accommodate you.

Be specific when eating out vegan

Already at a restaurant? Ask if they have a vegetarian menu.
Make sure you specify you’d like a meal without any animal products (meat, fish, eggs, butter and dairy) rather than saying you’d like a vegan or vegetarian meal. Often people don’t know what vegan or plant-based means and you might end up with milk or cheese on your plate.

At any dining place always ask the server about the ingredients. Explain that you’d like all the oils and sugar excluded from the food if possible.

Create your own dish

When eating out vegan, don’t be shy about creating your own dish from the ingredients off the menu. Most restaurants should be happy to help you. These days, there are so many dietary restrictions that it would be difficult for any chef to create a permanent menu that fits everyone. We guess chefs are used to accommodating different needs daily.

Eat before you eat

That’s not a typo. If the restaurant you’re heading to has next to nothing to offer, eat at home before you go out. Once at the restaurant you can order a salad or a vegetable soup. Every restaurant should at least have one of those two items.

When you’re invited out for an event and there’s hardly anything for you to eat, don’t make a fuss. Just eat before and snack once you are there. Remember, it’s not about the food. It’s about celebrating and being with your friends.

Don’t stress out when eating out on plant-base diet!

Don’t sweat the small stuff when you’re out. Don’t stress over little details like traces of animal products in some foods or bread glazed with egg. If you’re not allergic or intolerant to it, it won’t harm you by having a small quantity of animal products every now and then. (Emphasis on “every now and then”.) Don’t make it a habit and don’t choose to cook it yourself but when it comes to dining out and celebrations, relax – unless you know it’s easier for you to commit to one lifestyle one hundred per cent.

The safest options to choose from

Salad buffets can be hearty for anyone eating out on plant-based diet. Follow this simple plate rule: ½ non-starchy vegetables (raw and cooked), ⅓ whole grains and starchy vegetables and ⅓ protein (nuts, seeds, legumes).

Always start with putting lots of salad on your plate and then stack all the other ingredients on top. Try to limit your oil intake to a minimum. Eat nuts, seeds, avocados and whole olives instead.

If there is no whole food dressing at the salad bar, use vegetable puree soup, a veggie curry or just lemon juice instead. This will help you start to appreciate leaner options too.

Some restaurants offer macrobiotic options, i.e. a dish cooked without oils and salt, just simple and lean whole foods. I have been able to discover several lunch places like this in Barcelona.

If you know that the protein part of the meal is going to be disproportionate, ask them to substitute some of the protein with vegetables, whole grains, nuts/seeds or avocados.

What about desserts?

Desserts look delicious at restaurants but it’s usually better to skip the sweets. They are generally high-fat and high-calorie bombs. There are exceptions and some places offer raw desserts like chia-pudding or nutty desserts without added oils and sugar.

How to be your best self and make a change!

You don’t want to brow beat anyone about your healthy lifestyle. Always be polite and friendly towards restaurant staff and your companions. If you’re nice to them, it’s more likely that they’ll be nice to you. Always be grateful after the staff has accommodated your needs.

When eating out as a vegan, don’t be patronizing either. If someone doesn’t understand your way of eating, remember you were once there yourself. Explain politely what you want and only if people are interested, get deeper and introduce your lifestyle and reasons behind it. Sometimes when you’re in a hurry and not in the mood to start explaining the reasons behind your diet, it’s easier to refer to food allergies or intolerances. Everyone gets that.

I have noticed some people subconsciously feel guilty about their not-so-healthy lifestyles and it makes them feel bad about themselves and they start attacking my choices. This isn’t a good atmosphere to be in so remember, only talk about your lifestyle if people are genuinely interested. Don’t push people into the conversation acting like a know-it-all.

The above being said, do make a change. I always encourage people to ask for oil-free, plant-based and whole grain options even if I know the place doesn’t offer them. If people keep asking for these selections, then who knows? One day the restaurant might add them to the menu.

You can also leave requests or messages on the establishment’s social media site or post an online review. I have done that several times and have received positive responses from the restaurants.

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Easy tips and hacks for eating out on plant-based diet. Eating out as a vegan doesn't have to be hard!

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