One of the first questions you may ask yourself when you are adopting a plant-based diet is: “What can I order from the menu at my favorite restaurant?” Good question. Here are a few helpful tips.
If there are no vegan choices listed on the menu, most eateries are now happy to accommodate a plant-based diet by preparing a simple vegan dish from items they regularly stock in their kitchen. Start by asking for a pasta dish topped with a variety of steamed veggies, spaghetti served with a basic marinara sauce, or capellini simply tossed with garlic, olive oil, and parsley.
If you are dining out at your local deli or coffee shop, there are some basic tips to follow. Ask for a sandwich or salad to be made with vegan ingredients rather than with animal products. A few examples of common items on a deli or coffee shop menu that you may ask to be made special order are:
Reuben Sandwich: Ask for it to be made with sauerkraut piled high and topped with lots of catsup and/or mustard, pickles and/or pickle relish. In place of of the meat and cheese, ask for thinly sliced tofu, tomato, roasted peppers and/or avocado slices. Make sure to request that no butter or mayonnaise is used.
Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato sandwich: This is an easy one. First, (of course) ask it to made without the bacon. Ask for extra additions such as plenty of lettuce, extra pickles and onions, sliced tomatoes, a variety of roasted veggies, and/or sliced avocado. Ask for whole grain bread instead of white. Hold the mayo. Ask for catsup and/or mustard instead. In a pinch, I have actually ordered a 3 Decker Tomato, Lettuce and Tomato sandwich on whole grain bread – just ask to replace the bacon layer with tomato and… hold that mayo!
Main Dish Salad: Order a vegan version of a main dish salad that is offered on the menu. In place of the meat or cheese (that may be part of that salad), request the addition of nuts, olives, tofu, a variety of steamed veggies, or any kind of cooked beans.
Soup: These days, more eateries are preparing veggie soups on a regular basis. If you do not see anything on the menu, ask the waiter if there are any soup specials made without the use of animal products.
When all else fails: I order several vegetable side dishes as my main course. Baked potatoes are a good stand by, in a pinch. Order a side of salsa as a topper for your potato. Ask for a side of beans, which may be readily available.
Now, you may ask yourself one more thing. “How do I know the meal that I order will actually be vegan?” Great question.
When you are dining out while traveling, vacationing, or just taking a break from cooking at home, you may think you are ordering purely plant-based fare, but in many non-vegan restaurants, that may not be the fact. When you are looking to order a completely vegan meal, always ask for your meal to be made without the use of animal products. Ask your waiter to make sure that no dairy products are used and that no chicken, beef, or fish broths are being used as a base in anything you order such as your “vegetable soup or pasta primavera!”
By being creative, you’ll find something on the menu in most restaurants, even if they do not normally serve plant-based fare. Yes, it is true, you may find some restaurants that cannot prepare a plant-based entrée for you, but I have found that more and more eateries are adding vegan items to their menu on a regular basis.
So, the next time you check out the menu at a restaurant and do not see anything that suits your vegan lifestyle, before heading toward the door, ask this question: “I am a vegan. May I special order a plant-based meal?” More often then not, the answer will be: “Yes, the chef will be happy to prepare something special for you today!”
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