Sticking to a Vegan Diet When Going Out to Eat — A Case For Plant Based

Unless you are going to a vegan-centric restaurant or a restaurant that offers a lot of plant based options, dining out can be difficult. Here are some suggestions for sticking to a vegan diet when going out to eat. (Or in this current culture of coronavirus, take out!)

Do your research beforehand

Call ahead. Ask what their vegan options are or what menu items can be made vegan. (You may even be surprised to find some restaurants have a separate vegan menu). Let the chef know when you’ll be coming so they can be prepared.

Browse the website. Many restaurants post their menus online and have a place where you can search the word vegan. Others will have a section on their website dedicated to nutrition and allergens, which is a great source for vegans. Dishes containing milk and eggs will be clearly marked here. Other restaurants may include codes on their menu, alerting patrons to which dishes are vegetarian, vegan, gluten free, etc.

Be clear. The term “ plant based “ can be ambiguous. It may mean something different to a chef than it does to you. Clearly state that you do not eat meat, fish, eggs, or dairy. If you don’t feel comfortable telling the restaurant staff you follow a vegan diet or you think they’re not understanding your dietary restrictions, tell them you have food allergies instead. Restaurant workers have a much better grasp on food allergens versus all the different types of diets.

Substitute. The majority of restaurants will offer dishes that can easily be made vegan (like eliminating cheese or mayo). Then ask what can be substituted in its place. For example, eliminating cheese and sour cream and replacing it with avocado.

If options are limited, eat something before you go so you’re less hungry.

Other resources.

How to order

Thai, Chinese, and Japanese cuisine are often the easiest to find vegan dishes (or easily tweak menu items to make them vegan). Be sure and confirm though that the food does not contain egg, cream, or fish sauce and that the curry paste is vegan.

Mexican food is usually vegan when meat, cheese, and sour cream are eliminated from menu items. Substitute with black beans, mushrooms, grilled veggies, guacamole, and refried beans (make sure they are made without lard). Also ask if the rice is made using chicken or beef stock.

If you are going to an Italian restaurant, make sure the pasta contains no egg (homemade pasta often does) and the bread is made without dairy products (including brushing it with butter). Pasta with marinara (no parmesan), bread dipped in olive oil and balsamic, and a salad with vinaigrette dressing are usually safe options.

Greek dishes are often easily made vegan by simply eliminating feta cheese and yogurt.

BBQ, burger, and steak restaurants can be difficult- especially when you live in the barbeque capital of the world. 😩 Things to especially be aware of include veggie burgers that contain egg, batter that contains dairy, and seasoning that contains beef. (That’s right, using beef stock seasoning on fries and other side dishes is common. 😱 )

When eating at Indian restaurants, make sure that recipes do not contain butter, ghee (clarified butter), cream, yogurt, or paneer (cheese).

French restaurants are usually difficult since butter and cream is often used in preparation. Call ahead, and they may be able to accommodate you.

Vegan Options at Restaurant Chains

As menus are constantly changing and being updated, be sure to double-check beforehand that these options are still available.

Also note that since the coronavirus pandemic, many restaurants are scaling back their menus and making changes to adapt to these current times. When in doubt, check their website or call ahead.

Buffalo Wild Wings Carrabba’s Cheesecake Factory Cracker Barrel Domino’s Pizza Longhorn Steakhouse O’Charley’s Olive Garden On The Border Mexican Grill Outback Steakhouse Papa John’s Potbelly Sandwich Shop Red Lobster Texas Roadhouse T.G.I. Fridays Restaurants that offer Beyond Burgers

It can be done!

It takes discipline and oftentimes extra planning, but going out to eat while sticking to a vegan diet is possible. Be kind and be patient; not everyone understands what a plant based diet is. You may have been following a vegan diet for years, but it’s a new or unfamiliar concept to many others.

What’s your favorite restaurant? Have you found plant based options there? If not, I like to send friendly emails to restaurants requesting new or additional vegan menu options. 🤗

Be sure to follow me on social media for more ideas and inspiration. 🌱

Originally published at on July 17, 2020.

Nurse, Blogger, and Vegan advocate.