We’ve talked a lot about different tips and recipes for home-cooked, plant-based meals, however it’s probably time to address the elephant in the room. What about when you don’t feel like cooking, and you’re looking forward to a night out?
I’m going to be real about the fact that focusing on a plant-based diet can complicate eating out in the beginning. Following the tips below, and allowing a little flexibility with the lack of control over possible processed foods or more oils than you might typically use in your plant-based home-cooking will have you back to enjoying nights out stress free!
Choosing the Restaurant
- Do a little research – Most restaurants have online menus so you can scope out your options. You don’t have to decide your order days in advance, but it may save you time and headache if you know there will be options for you ahead of time. If you’re not confident with online information, give the restaurant a quick call and ask if they serve vegan options.
- Try a variety of ethnic restaurants – It is always exciting when you find a specialty gem that offers custom vegan options. However, without doing much hunting you will find that most ethnic cuisines offer several options that are already vegan or take minimal tweaking. Ethnic options also tend to be a little healthier than American restaurants. Think veggie fajitas, vegetable or tofu pad thai, falafel and hummus, or pasta with vegetable sauce… is your mouth watering yet?
Things to Look for & Questions to Ask
- Look for symbols – Some menus have a “V” or a leaf symbol by menu items signifying vegan or vegetarian options. Make sure you clarify what the symbols mean, but these may be good places to start.
- Check for a vegetarian section – Entrées or items in this section may be vegan already, or be easily modified to be made vegan.
- Ask if items contain dairy products or if they can be removed – Be sure to ask your server if questionable menu items contain cheese, milk, egg, butter or ghee (common in Indian restaurants.)
Picking your Plate
- Order extra veggies or sub tofu – If you are ordering an entrée that typically comes with meat, substitute tofu or avocado if those are options, or double up on veggies.
- Get creative with sides or appetizers – If you aren’t seeing any main dishes that spark your interest try a combinations of vegetable sides or apps.
The longer you pursue your plant-based or vegan lifestyle, the more familiar you will get with your local restaurants and get a feel for what your options are. In the mean time don’t stress. Just remember to be an advocate for yourself, and be clear with your server on your restrictions.
Dining out is fun, and we all love a break from the kitchen, or a night out with our friends. Luckily we are in a time where more and more people are going vegetarian or vegan, so new places with more options are popping up all the time! What are your favorite places to go, or meals to order on your night out?