Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Tessa's Eating Out Tips

Eating healthy vegan food at restaurants is a learned skill. While much restaurant food is overly salted, loaded with sugar, and marinated in butter, you can increase your chances of eating good food with the following tips:

  • Hungry?  Find good options: Before you go out to eat, use to find vegan-friendly places to eat. 
  • Find great options:  If you can find a specialized raw food or vegan restaurant, SCORE! You will find amazing food and chefs that can make vegetables sing! 
  • Menu Surf:  Before you go out, look up the restaurant's menu online so you can be ready to ask questions or order. 
  • Ask:  Always ask your waiter questions about meal ingredients (mayo or vinegar based?  Is it vegan?) I am okay with a very minor ingredient being non-vegan, but I try to get it removed if possible. 
  • Food Prep is Critical:  determine how a dish is prepared (baked, fried, grilled?).   I've been surprised by veggie chips that I thought were going to be raw and instead they were fried -ugh!  Always ask.
  • Substitute:  If you must remove something from a dish to make it vegan (like cheese), then substitute something else (like avocados). There should be no charge for a substitution and if it the waiter does not mentioned a charge, then it should not be on your bill and request its removal (or ask in advance if the substitution is without additional charge). 
  • Bill Reduction:  If you request to take a meat off a menu item, then ask for the bill to be lowered accordingly. Or find a vegetarian menu option and then add some items. You should not have to pay for expensive meat that you don't eat. 
  • Save an animal:  Instead of pushing meat off a dish when it comes to the table (like ordering a chicken caesar salad and pushing aside the chicken), always request that the meal come to the table without the meat. There is no need for an animal to suffer and die when you're not even going to eat it. Also, that is one less serving of meat the restaurant will need to buy from the meat industry. 
  • Design your own meal:  If you need to design your own veggie meal, scan their side dishes for any veggies that they can grill or sauté for you. The chef can put together a nice veggie plate using "all the vegetables that can be found in the kitchen."  Oftentimes, this option will not be on the menu. 
  • Side dishes:  If a side dish comes with your meal, but you can find no healthy options, then just ask if they'll steam or sauté a veggie for you. Example: I refused all the unhealthy side dishes at a cafe yesterday and was then offered steamed broccoli, which wasn't on the menu. It helps if they know you're eating healthy vegan. Don't let bad food even get on your plate or you'll be tempted. 
  • Final Requests:  After you order your food, ask for "no added oil, butter, or salt." Explain you're aiming for "healthy" - they're good with that. 
  • Facebook Suggestions:  If you love to frequent a place where vegan options are lacking, type a quick suggestion on the restaurant's Facebook page, asking them to add a couple healthy vegan options. Usually, you'll get a nice response from the restaurant and hopefully more food options in the future. 
  • Common Ground:  Places with buffets or salad bars are great places to share a meal with omnivores.
  • Ethnic restaurants often offer great vegetarian/vegan options. You might enjoy trying foods of various cultures, particularly as your taste buds change and become more sensitized over time.  Many countries have more vegetarians (often for religious reasons) than we have in the U.S.  They're great options.
  • Share the Love:  Always tell the restaurant folks that you're eating Vegan.  Why?  The more people who eat that way, the more they will cater to our healthy needs. My husband, Ned, just told me of a steakhouse in Houston that now has 2 vegan options that they didn't have just a short time ago.  (He is an awesome vegan!)
  • Be Proud:  Hold your head high when you politely request healthy vegan options!  Be proud to be a vegan, taking care of your body.  We only get one body to last a lifetime!
Healthy Bon Appetit!

Please add your own healthy restaurant eating tips in the comments.  Hope that helps


  1. Thanks Tessa-- these are EXCELLENT tips!

  2. Thanks for the reminders. I am not 100 percent Veggie yet but am getting there. I've eliminated processed foods.