There’s lots to think about when taking the plunge into plant-based eating and the last thing you want to be doing is flicking around some dried start salad while everyone around you is enjoying a hearty meal in some fancy restaurant. So here are some useful tips into staying on track with both healthy eating and with your vegan principals.
This is the ideal situation where you can call ahead to the restaurant or check out their menu online to see if there is anything you can eat. Let your friends know if they are inviting you that you will need a vegan meal, especially if you are new to veganism, and be prepared to answer the usual questions of where you will get your protein from.
Don’t be shy
You definitely do not want to sit somewhere with your tummy grumbling, however much you don’t want to make a scene, so politely but firmly ask what options are available and be sure that you are in your right to do so. If there are no vegan options on the menu, ask the chef to come up with alternatives, or if you are going to a friend’s house, rather than take a bottle of wine, offer to take a dish that you can also eat.
In cases where you find yourself in a situation where there really are no options, take a look at the menu ingredients including the sides and ask if the chef can put a few things together to make a meal for you. For example, if there is pasta or rice on the menu anyway, and spinach and broccoli on the side menu, ask if they can simply create a rice and vegetable dish for you without butter or milk. In most cases, they will revel in the challenge and if not, at least you tried and maybe they can offer you something else.
If the waiter has no idea about veganism, or no tolerance for it, simply be patient and take this as an opportunity to help expand someone else’s mind….and by that I don’t mind to teach them or to be condescending. I mean literally to engage into a friendly conversation about what you can and can’t eat, and why it’s important to you. No need to go too deep, but just mention a couple of things. If enough people do this often enough, in a nice way, the more the individual and establishment will realise that they must move with the times and not only step up to offer more options on the menu, but also educate themselves in turn into why this is even important.
In the worst case where you know there will next to nothing, simply eat ahead of going out. It’s not ideal, but at least you won’t be in a bad mood and in the surprising event that there is something, you can enjoy munching without having the stress.
If travelling or in doubt of where to opt for, Asian cuisine is a great start to place your bets. You can always order vegan sushi, try stir fry veg, rice or noodles and find some delicious soups or tofu options. Just always be sure to tell them that you are vegan so not to use mayonnaise, fish sauce or any other ingredients containing animal derived substances.
Finally, there are some great apps and websites like Happy Cow and Is it Vegan? which can help you find the optimal places to eat, ingredients to buy and choices of items to buy to take to homes as presents. It takes time to navigate around the vegan world of ingredients with so many items being in code and under illusionary names, so give yourself time and don’t get stressed about it. This journey is meant to be fun.
Remember that the world does not need a handful of perfect vegans, it needs millions, even billions of imperfect vegans and people doing their best. So be kind to yourself and get ready for some fun surprises and stories to look back on as you embark on your evolving journey.