Vegan eating habits are best for your health, and you know it. However, becoming a vegan in this meat-centric society of ours can be challenging at times … especially when you are new on the scene and looking to enjoy a relaxed eating out experience.
Things tend to get simpler once you have some years of experience behind you and learn to anticipate the typical challenges that vegans invariably run into while enjoying a meal outside, but at first, you may want to brace yourself for the occasional setback.
In case you’re relatively new to the vegan lifestyle, here are some useful bits of advice that will help you minimize the chances of feeling frustrated when you go out to have a nice vegan meal.
Know the vegan restaurants in your surroundings
The first thing you want to do as a vegan who enjoys eating out is to effectively look up all the true vegan restaurants in your area of residence. You can do this very easily by checking online on Facebook or Google, and you have plenty of dedicated websites like Happy Cow and apps which aggregate local listings of vegan restaurants. Know these options, learn how to use them, and get familiar with your best available options within a reasonable distance of where you live. Not only will this benefit you directly, you may also find some great options that might seduce even your most stubborn meat-loving friends.
Ethnic restaurants will often feature vegan-friendly options
When there is no true vegan restaurant within a reasonable distance, your next best option is to check for ethnic restaurants – since these types of places will typically feature a diverse selection of vegan-friendly dishes alongside with regular meat/fish options. Even when no true vegan options are seemingly listed on the menu, you’ll find it’s much easier to modify dishes available in an Indian, Chinese, Mexican or Thai restaurant to align with your vegan lifestyle. But more often than not, you’ll likely realize that all ethnic restaurants will indeed have a much broader (and tastier) set of options that suit you, compared to regular restaurants.
Make a point of calling ahead to non-vegan restaurants
Sometimes you’ll have no other choice but to head out to a conventional restaurant, either because no true vegan options are available or because you’re dining out with a group of non-vegan friends who happen to also dislike ethnic cuisine. In this scenario, you’ll have no choice but to spark up your negotiation skills and find ways to make do with what’s available. A good starting point will be to ask around or call ahead to a couple non-vegan restaurants nearby, and check if they have any offerings that would be suitable for vegans. You may be surprised to find that many traditional restaurants these days indeed have a few vegan-friendly alternatives lined up, since they have wisely learned to cater to the increasing demand.
Check for vegetarian options that may not be listed on the menu
Life is full of surprises, and sometimes you may just find yourself pushed into a restaurant with no time for calling ahead or doing preliminary research. In this situation, you will have to reach out to the waiter and present your dilemma, while asking whether they have any vegan options available that may happen to not listed on the menu. Alternatively, they will typically have some vegetarian options that may do the trick, provided they hold the dairy and other offending ingredients. Just remember the waiters are there to help you, and they will likely have some experience dealing with similar requests – so do not hesitate to politely present your case as soon as you have a chance.
Learn to combine side dishes to suit your diet when needed
If you often dine out with people who do not appreciate vegan food, there will be times when you’ll just end up sitting in a restaurant with seemingly no viable options, no matter how good willing and friendly the waiter happens to be. In these moments, it’s up to you go get creative and just scan the menu looking for suitable side dishes that you can effectively combine into a balanced and tasty makeshift vegan dish. Worst case scenario, there will always be some rice and salad available as well as some beans, lentils or mushrooms that can be ordered as a side dish on the side You may occasionally be lucky to strike a chord in the heart of a cook who may willing, upon request, to concoct something suitable for you by putting together vegan ingredients only. Just make sure to specify that you won’t eat any butter or anything else of animal origin, since those details are not always obvious for someone who is not aware of the vegan mindset.