Q: How to deal with eating out, especially going to a dinner party or to a “non-vegetarian” restaurant and staying true to a plant based diet?
A: Great question and a legit concern for many plant based eaters. If you strive to keep your diet clean and healthy you might be able to relate. Although many formerly vegetarian non-friendly restaurants are starting to catch on, and offer one or two plant based options, still there are many other places that don’t have a special vegan (mostly not even vegetarian) menu available. But that’s ok! You can still go out, have a good time and enjoy a decent plant based meal pretty much anywhere you go. Let us show you how…
Eating out doesn’t have to be unhealthy, but it does take a little more work.
Here are five tips for success:
Do Your Homework Before You go
If you have the ability to chose the restaurant, great! Happy Cow is a great resource that offers a list of vegan friendly restaurants (and their reviews) in your local area. You should check it out @ www.happycow.net
For any other restaurants, see if you can view their menu online, explore your choices and come up with a game plan before you go.
Be The First One To Order
This is a cool trick. If your friends are not exactly on the same page as you when it comes to diet and nutrition, then ditch them! Just kidding…We have a cool trick for you. Be the first one from the group to place an order. If you wait until everyone else orders to finally make your selection, you may feel tempted to order something not-so-good for you instead.
Skip the drinks (unless you are in a juice bar)
Say “No thank you” to the sodas, ice-teas, alcohol or any nutrient missing drinks. Instead ask for or a glass of fresh clean water.
Customize Your Meal, Ask These Four Questions:
How is it prepared?
Is it fried, baked, grilled, steamed…? Request to have it prepared as you like.
Can I have the dressing on the side?
Request any dressing or sauces on the side so you can control the amount you consume. Also, find out what’s in the dressing and if it doesn’t sound healthy skip it. Instead ask for olive oil and lemon.
Can you substitute salad or veggies instead of fries?
Most places have no issue doing this, you just have to ask.
Do you have whole grain?
Whether it is a bread basket, sandwich, pasta, etc., check first and see what your options are. If there is no healthy choice, skip it altogether
Look At The Side Dishes
Often you can assemble a pretty good meal from a few side orders or appetizers, such as a baked yam, steamed edamame or a cup of fruit. Another excellent option, if available, is glass of fresh in house pressed orange juice.
Keep It Simple
If you feel overwhelmed or lost with the menu choices, simply ask for fresh salad with whatever veggies they might have in the kitchen. Also ask them to bring you some olive oil and lemon juice on the side. Might sound boring first, but this way you are keeping your diet clean, focusing on nourishing your body and staying true to yourself and your health.
Once your food arrives, take the time to enjoy it! This is a perfect opportunity to nourish your body with what it needs to be healthy and strong. Savour the flavours and notice how eating this food makes you feel. More connected you are while you eat the easier it will be for you to make the right food choices in the future.
Tips For Specific Restaurants:
Japanese, Thai cuisines are fairly easy to navigate as a vegan. Stay away from fry suff (tempura, spring rolls, etc) instead ask for plain rice (brown in available) with cooked vegetables or coconut curry. Check out the appetizers for seaweed salad, steamed edamame beans, spinach gomae salad among others.
Fast Food Chains
Stay away! Seriously, do yourself a favour and don’t eat anything that comes from a fast food place.
Most offer a pasta dish topped with cream sauce and meat/fish. Ask your server to veganize it by tossing your pasta (rice or whole grain) in garlic and olive oil and adding any veggies that the kitchen has on hand.
Many places are getting on board and offering veggie pizza topped with Daiya vegan cheese and if they don’t skip the cheese altogether and sprinkle nutritional yeast on your pizza pie yourself.
Typically offer vegan burritos, salads, fajitas, and more! If they don’ t just order vegetarian version without cheese or sour cream and ask for extra guacamole.
There is one more important thing to remember – IT’S NOT ALL ABOUT FOOD|
Perhaps time to time you might end up in a restaurant that will not be keen on accommodating your needs, but don’t allow that to bring you down. Remember that this is just one of the many meals in your life. Instead shift your focus on the company of people you are with, your friends and family. Focus on love that surrounds you. Be really with them and enjoy he moment. It’s ultimately up to you to create a positive experience regardless of the circumstances.
Stay Healthy, stay fit and enjoy life,