In this post, you'll find 9 tips on eating out as a vegan. I decided to ask some fellow vegan bloggers and youtubers what tips they would like to share on eating out as a vegan and here is what they told me!
But why is this topic important? Well, eating out as a vegan can be tricky. I didn't wake up one day and became vegan. I transitioned slowly but gradually. Stopped eating meat, then cow's milk, then yogurt made from cow's milk, then eggs, then cheese. Actually, for a long time, I was cooking mostly plant-based food at home without me even noticing.
What stopped me from going completely vegan for a long time was eating out at restaurants. Whatever I ate at home I could control, so that was easy. What I ate out and about, was harder to control - or so I thought. I had to learn that I was wrong. Once I started to research more online, pay more attention to the menus and became more confident in my choice to eat vegan it wasn't difficult at all.
#1 Preparation is Key, Research Ahead
Many of the tips I got were on preparation and planning ahead so this seems to be something worth considering when you're eating out. Mary from @_plantbasedmary where she shares all the amazing vegan eats in Warsaw and around the world recommends using the app HappyCow where you can find vegan and vegan-friendly restaurants in your area:
Always do a little research, when you're planning on eating out either in your city or in the place you are traveling to. I love using the HappyCow app, but remember to check if the restaurant you want to go still functions (in many cases opening hours are incorrect). I also use TripAdvisor or Instagram! (@_plantbasedmary)
Also I love the tip about checking the opening hours because it's probably the most annoying thing in the world when you find an awesome restaurant and go there just to find out it is closed. This happened to me in Madrid and I had to learn that there is such a thing as siesta in Spain.
I love what Nele from Nutriplanet shared with me because she is taking the aspect of preparation to a new level.
If you’re not the one who gets to choose the restaurant, do your homework and check unfamiliar places‘ menus online. If there’s nothing for you to have, eat before you go out. Nothing strange about that! After all, you’re attending because of the company and not so much for food! If you can choose where to go, opt for places with vegan menus and/or ethnic restaurants, which are always good options for finding vegan or vegetarian meals. (Nutriplanet )
I totally agree! Also, you could eat a little snack or some veggies before you go out for lunch/dinner. This way, you're not completely stuffed but if they don't have that many vegan options that are satisfying that is also not a problem.
#2 Preparation is Key, Eating Out Abroad
If you're traveling abroad then preparing yourself by learning how to say some basic phrases like 'no meat' or 'no dairy' in the language of the country you're in can be really helpful, as sometimes you can't be sure if they've understood you properly! ( Rhian's Recipes)
When you're going out to eat in a different country, it can even be a little bit trickier. I love what Rhian from Rhian's Recipes shared with me and I can say from experience it is such a valuable tip! Before I travel somewhere I don't know the language, I always make a little cheat sheet with the most useful words and phrases.
#3 Preparation is Key, Know Your Options
I can relate so much to what my friend Chloe from @bakedbyclo told me. Even if you do a little research before and don't end up going there, it is always a good idea to have options available and know where you can go.
Always plan ahead! There have been so many times I've wasted half the night just trying to find a restaurant that has vegan options. Once I ended up in tears because my blood sugar was so low and we couldn't find ANYTHING vegan on our first night in Bruges. After that we did a little research, found the best vegan places to eat and noted the opening hours. It's really important for me to plan where I'm going in advance, especially if I'm visiting a new city, to make sure I can eat at least one thing off the menu. (@bakedbyclo)
#4 Don't Be Scared To Ask
Sometimes you might be at a non vegan restaurant and faced with a menu that has no specified vegan options. I am an introvert myself and was super scared of asking the waiters if they have vegan options but it is totally worth it! They wont mind and in most cases accomodate to your needs without hesitation. (@plantpoweredteen)
As another introvert, I can totally understand what Chelsea (@plantpoweredteen) told me. Yes, asking for vegan options can be scary and make you feel like you're always asking for special treatment. But I think that as long as you stay polite, there is nothing wrong with it. I once was at a hotel in Madrid where they had buffet-style dinner and asked the chef if the pasta was vegan. Unfortunately it wasn't but they offered to cook a small plate of pasta with tomato sauce just for me. Sometimes, the kindness you experience when you kindly ask for something amazes me!
#5 Focus on the Sides
If the place I'm eating doesn't serve a vegan main meal, I like to create a "buffet" style meal with lots of sides. (@bakedbyclo)
I love that one! And that was exactly what I did when I went to a steakhouse with my friends a year ago. Steakhouse doesn't sound like the vegan-friendliest place and trust me, it isn't. But they had great sides and I enjoyed a really nice meal with fries, a lot of grilled vegetables and a salad from the salad bar.
#6 Ask For Substitutes
When you ask for substitutes, I find it extremly helpful to proactively suggest modifications instead of just asking to make it vegan. Some people may not know or be 100% sure what's vegan and what is not, or they may be a bit overwhelmed. This is what the lovely Kathryne from thefabzilla told me:
Request for substitutes. For example in a Thai restaurant I recently dined in, I asked to replace meat with eggplant and vegetables for green curry (of course this is making sure that they use non-animal ingredients in their seasonings). In case of pho, replace broth with water. (thefabzilla)
#7 Be Careful with False Friends
Be careful when ordering things that aren't explicitly marked as vegan. I've ordered a lot of "veggie" burgers and wraps only to find that they come with mayonnaise or cheese that isn't mentioned on the menu. It's always best to double check. (@bakedbyclo)
Luckily, more and more restaurants are seeing the benefit in labeling things as explicitly vegetarian or vegan. But if they are not, it is better to ask if you're unsure.
#8 Allergies are a Common Language
Sometimes it can be difficult to explain your choice for a vegan diet to others - especially if you are in a foreign country where veganism is not so common. I love what the amazing Lisa from www.lisakitahara.com shared with me on this:
With the awareness of veganism seriously taking off these past few years, it's been WAY more easier to eat out vs. when I first went vegan 6 years ago. With a lot of trial and error, I've picked up a few tips/tricks that I'd love to share! First, always be polite to who ever is serving you and I always like to say I'm allergic to eggs, dairy, shell and shell fish and that I also do not eat meat. Allergy is a huge concern for restaurants so I found they take you more seriously. More than 95% of the time (as long as you're not at a steak house) they'll have a side menu with vegan food or the cook will be willing to prepare something totally vegan! (@lisakitahara)
#9 Get Creative
Let's close this off with two more awesome ideas on how you can get creative. Because in the end, eating out is about spending time with friends and enjoying the moment!
What I like to do is call in ahead of time and ask if there are any options, or if certain items on the menu can be made vegan. Another thing I like to do if all to eat is salad on the menu is I'll pack my own protein/grain and just add that to the salad I'm having so that I can still eat out with friends and be satisfied. (Lisa Kitahara - Youtube)
Do you like going out to eat or do you rather cook for yourself and enjoy your food at home? While I LOVE cooking, I also enjoy going out for dinner once in a while - especially since there are more and more amazing vegan restaurants and vegan options to try! I'd love to hear your thoughts and tips on this!