“We dine out often so I can’t commit to being plant-based”. Some may think that this is a pretty valid excuse. Before I was shown just how easy it is to modify a menu at your favorite restaurant to accommodate a plant-based diet (THANK YOU KEENUN!), I would have agreed that it was a valid excuse. Unless you’re ordering a garden side salad, most everything else has some sort of animal by-product in it, whether it’s actual meat, or cheese, or some form of dairy. Here are a few tips on dining out and keeping your meals plant-based.
- ASK QUESTIONS! That’s what your wait staff is there for. If they don’t know the answers, they are usually quite eager to ask the chef or kitchen staff. If you’re in a restaurant that has pre-packaged prepared foods, they will have a reference on hand that tells them the ingredients of those items. You may even be surprised by a visit from the chef himself (or herself). They want you to enjoy your meal and have a good experience while visiting their restaurant. You may even have the opportunity to inspire some plant-based additions to their menu!
- Just ask them to “HOLD THE MEAT” from the item you’re ordering. For instance, many salads at restaurants will have some sort of meat added to them, whether it’s chicken, steak or fish. A simple fix to this is to request they leave the meat in the kitchen. Be on the lookout for other salad items such as cheese, hard-boiled eggs, and salad dressings that may be prepared with milk, cheese and eggs. I typically stick with balsamic dressing. Skip the bacon bits too!
- MAKE YOUR OWN MENU – Let’s face it – ordering salads all the time can get really boring. Check out the sandwich menu and try a veggie sandwich, or a veggie wrap instead! Ask your server what fresh veggies are available in the kitchen that day, and request they toss whatever they have into your wrap or on your sandwich. You can do the same and request a veggie stir-fry over noodles or rice, depending upon which of those items the restaurant has available. You can try that with a pizza also – lots of veggies, but forget the cheese. It’s more like a flatbread at that point, but nonetheless delicious! Surprise yourself with how creative you can get when somebody else has to prepare the meal! Some of the best meals I’ve had were from non-menu creations at restaurants!
- TRY SOMETHING NEW. Visit a local vegetarian or vegan restaurant! Don’t be intimidated – vegetarian and vegan food is pretty delicious! You don’t have to be a vegan to eat at a vegan restaurant.
Now, occasionally, you might end up at a restaurant where there are basically no options, with the exception of a plate of iceberg lettuce. I have learned to check out the menus in advance, call the establishment ahead of time if I have questions, and make informed decisions about whether or not I want to go there. There are enough options for dining out that I don’t have to take my business to restaurants that don’t provide options for those of us who prefer to keep animal products out of our mouths.