A Dozen Tips on Eating Out
Eating out is particularly challenging as a vegan. I don't know about you, but I've had a hard time finding much of anything to eat in most restaurants. Some restaurants have an item or two, but most often I have to search the salad list or the lists of sides to find anything to eat.
For a while, I decided to just stay home; but as vegans, we are customers, too. We are (or at least I am) more than willing to pay for a good meal out.
Here are some tips I've come up with on not going home hungry after eating out:
Eating out may require you to do your homework ahead of time.
If you have vegan friends, ask them where they go when eating out.
If you're going to a particular restaurant with friends, check their menu on the internet to see what they might have to offer you. If you find nothing, call ahead and explain to them that you are coming and ask them what they might make for you. You just may be surprised. Many times they are willing to accommodate.
If there is nothing on the menu but a simple salad that might work for you, take along some salad dressing and some nuts and seeds to add to it. This may not feel like a full meal and worth it, but if you need to go to be with friends for a special occasion, it just make it work.
If you don't call ahead or are eating out on the spur of the moment, check the appetizer, soup, and side dish sections of the menu to see what a la cart dishes you might be able to combine as a meal. For example, when I go to an Irish pub here in town, I order mashed potatoes, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage and ask them to put the three sides on a plate so it looks like a meal rather than bring them in side dishes.
Always carry a little extra money with you when going out. Ordering a la carte can be a little higher priced.
Buffets might seem to be a good idea with the many choices, but be cautious. Most vegetables are loaded with butter and many are cooked with bacon.
If you know for sure the restaurant won't have much to offer and it's impossible or inappropriate to try to change everyone's plans, have a filling snack before going out to make the evening easier on you.
Eat mindfully when you are faced with limited choices. Make the most of what you are able to find on the menu by paying attention to what you are eating and to those with you. Fully enjoy time with friends. After all, you most often eat for fuel and this is a good chance to practice that. Still hungry? Eat when you get home.
If Tip #9 didn’t work, you may be so hungry that you'll need to modify your hard and fast eating rules in order to make it through the evening. Do so cheerfully to get by and get back to your plan once the evening is over. Don't beat yourself up over it. Just order the best that you can from the menu, realizing it was a necessity. Then revert to your plan and move on.
As much as possible, avoid processed food in restaurants, especially fried foods. They are always a mistake. When possible, try to eat in restaurants where they make their recipes fresh rather than from frozen meals.
When appropriate, compliment the chef or restaurant manager on the meal and encourage them to add more vegan choices to the menu.
It'll be great when eating a plant-based diet becomes more prevalent. We’ll be able to stop thinking so hard about what we’re going to eat and can concentrate on enjoying the entire experience.