When I tell people I’m vegan, they often say “that must be so challenging to eat vegan!” Well, no, I think it’s really easy actually.
At home being vegan is as easy as eating any other kind of diet. I only buy vegan groceries, so therefore I only have vegan food in my house. When I go to grab a snack or make a meal, I don’t even have to give it a second thought because my only options are vegan food. It’s not like I look in my fridge and see cheesy dishes and chicken wings!
The only part of a vegan diet that can be challenging is dining out. All of the control is in someone else’s hands. But, I LOVE going to restaurants. So what do I do? Here are my tips for how to eat vegan at any restaurant (and not order salad).
As someone who is horribly phone shy (I get nervous just ordering a pizza), this tip is not my favourite, but it’s REALLY helpful. If you have plans to go to a restaurant and you aren’t sure of the vegan options, just give them a ring and ask. If the restaraunt really doesn’t have any vegan options, you can change your plans, (although I have never had that response before). It also let’s the chef know ahead of time that you are coming so if they want to prepare something special they have the time to do so. Then when you get to the restaurant you can relax because you already know the options. I have even called a restaurant and been thrilled and surprised when I was told they had a separate vegan menu! I wouldn’t have know that unless I asked. You can also try looking the menus up online, but it can sometimes not be clear if items are actually vegan, so I always suggest a call.
When I first made the switch, I hated saying the dreaded word “vegan” as I was somehow worried chefs would get mad at me. This isn’t true. I have heard from both chef and waiter friends that they much prefer someone being clear in their limitations so they can address it correctly and without confusion. When you first walk into a restaurant, if you haven’t called ahead, ask the greeter about vegan options. They will be able to tell you before you even sit down. If there is no greeter, ask the server right away. The last thing you want to happen is that you already have your drinks, everyone places an order and then you realize there is nothing for you to eat. Asking as soon as possible ensures a relaxing dining experience.
When you ask, just be polite. You don’t have to shout at the world, don’t make a million demands, and don’t try to deconstruct the ingredient list, just ask if there are any vegan-friendly options with a smile on your face. Not everyone understands what vegan is, so if they don’t know, help them out by just telling them what you don’t eat. No animal cruelty talk here, this isn’t the place or time. If you’re nice, people will be nice right back.
Look for the Codes
Menus often have little icons next to items that indicate which items are vegan or vegetarian, just like they do if it is spicy. Sometimes it’s a little “v”, sometimes a leaf, or other fun icons. Just look for the guide so you can know what they stand for.
Be a Clever Subber
Most menus have vegetarian options which can easily be made vegan. Just ask if the dairy or egg can be removed from the dish to make it vegan-friendly. Sometimes when you remove an ingredient the dish might need something else to boost it up a notch, so what I like to do is peruse around the menu and if I see another ingredient I think would be great, I might ask for a substitution. A good example of this is if I am ordering a veggie burrito, I would ask for the cheese and sour cream to be removed and instead replace it with guacamole. Saying the word sub or replace is key because then hopefully they don’t charge you extra! Sometimes if there are no main dishes that are easily made vegan, I will look to the sides. Often there are lots of side dishes that are vegan-friendly, or can be adapted, so I will order a big plate of those.eat vegan