Eating Vegan at Non-Vegan Restaurants
5 Tips on How to Eat at Restaurants as a Vegan
Majority of people who learn I am vegan start off by saying, “Wow! I couldn’t do that. Isn’t it hard?” Honestly, no! Taking part in a vegan lifestyle is not challenging on a day to day basis. In fact, it’s a lot simpler than I thought it was when I was just a vegetarian (check out my vegetarian to vegan journey). However, if I had to pick an aspect that can be challenging at times, it would be eating out at restaurants that are not vegan restaurants. Unfortunately a lot of people are still ignorant to the difference between a vegan and vegetarian. Therefore, I don’t expect most mainstream restaurants to cater to vegan lifestyles.
Does that mean I can’t enjoy a night out with friends? Does that mean I can’t indulge in a quick, easy, yummy meal from the local restaurant? No, but it just takes a little bit more effort.
Do Research Ahead of Time
As soon as I find out where my friends want to go, I look up the restaurant’s menu. Do they possibly have a vegan or vegetarian section of their menu. Sometimes there will be items listed under vegetarian that actually end up being vegan too. If I don’t see a designated section, I then look for the ingredients in the dishes to see if anything qualifies as vegan. Another way I have found out if something is vegan or not is just by Googling “vegan food at ___________(insert restaurant name)”. Typically a lot of blogs come up suggesting what you could order or how you could order the dish to make it vegan. This leads me to my next tip!
Ask for Non-Vegan Items to be Removed/Replaced
Sometimes you may come across a veggie burger that has cheddar cheese as one of the toppings. Simply ask the waiter if you could hold the cheese. Some places are starting to carry vegan Daiya cheese too. It sometimes costs extra, but if you really want that extra topping that’s an option. Due to a lot of allergen issues people face today, restaurants are used to the requests to remove or replace an item in a dish, so don’t hesitate to ask!
Bring Your Own Items
I recently went to The Cheesecake Factory for dinner. Ahead of time I viewed their menu and saw that they do have a veggie black bean burger. However, it came with mayonnaise, so obviously I knew I had to request for no mayo. However, I totally thought about bringing my own vegan mayo in a small container from home, but I forgot. I definitely would have done it though! My sister will also bring her own vegan creamer to coffee shops.
Snack Before (Just in Case)
If the menu isn’t posted online or you’re unsure of the options that the restaurant has to offer, you may want to snack prior to the restaurant. Instead of sitting at the table super hungry watching everyone else eat, fill yourself up a bit beforehand. Then if anything, you could order vegan appetizers or sides like cooked veggies, side salad, fries, etc.
I hate that most people think vegans can only eat salad. This lifestyle is not about taking away options; it’s about discovering new, healthier, and kinder options. However, if salad is truly your only vegan choice at a restaurant you may have to settle for that. It’s better than eating nothing and it’s low on calories typically if you are watching that intake. Just be careful of the dressing. Most dressings are not vegan, but you could ask for a vinaigrette, olive oil, or lemon juice to add some flavor.
The great news for us veg-heads is that more and more restaurants appear to be including vegetarian and vegan options in their dish line-up. So let’s all hope that one day there will be a surplus of vegan options for us to choose from. For now though, try these 5 tips to still enjoy a restaurant outing!