Plant-Based Dining in Beef Country
Dining out on a plant-based diet can be a challenge, even for seasoned vegans, and the thought of eating out on the road can seem especially daunting.
But don’t despair - with a little flexibility, creativity, and research, you’re bound to find some decent options no matter where you are. It's getting easier and easier to make these choices when away from home as plant-based diets becomes increasingly popular.
|We recently returned from a short trip to gather family memorabilia from a relative, and were pleasantly surprised to find great plant-based choices for food on the road. It seemed especially ironic when we ate at a restaurant in the middle of beef country. But we had one of the best grilled veggie dishes I have ever had at Harris Ranch in the middle of California on Fwy 5.|
There was just not much else around these parts. The dish was served with mushrooms, peppers, asparagus, and one half of a lightly grilled head of romaine lettuce. We were very happy.
When it comes to plant-based dining, the internet can be a great help. Use your laptop or phone to search for “vegan” or “vegetarian” on Yelp.com. Another good online resource for traveling in the U.S. is Happycow.net. Simply enter your location and you should be able to find some suitable restaurants in the area.
If it turns out that you’re not able to find a vegan or vegetarian-friendly restaurant, here are some tips for improvising. You’ll find that most restaurants today have something that can work.
Make Better Choices with these 10 Tips
- Ask for suggestions, do your homework.
If you know people where you’re going or who have been to that area before, ask them for recommendations for vegan-friendly eateries. If you’re in a strange city or town, ask the locals for advice, people are often surprisingly happy to help.
- Asian restaurants.
Chinese, Thai and Vietnamese restaurants typically offer vegetable-based dishes with rice or noodles that can be served with tofu as the protein instead of meat. (When we have Vietnamese, I always ask for the steamed tofu instead of fried.)
- Italian restaurants.
Opt for vegetable-rich pizza without cheese, or pasta with tomato sauce, making sure that the sauce doesn’t contain cream or cheese.
- Indian restaurants.
Indian restaurants typically have vegetarian options, but they also rely heavily on dairy, so you’ll need to ask your server for options without cream, Indian cheese (paneer), yogurt, or milk,
- Be sure to look at the available sides on any menu.
You’ll often find a nice selection of veggies, rice, potatoes or beans, and you may be able to create a custom meal with only sides.
- Soup and salad are typically available in most restaurants and diners.
Salads and soups frequently come garnished with bacon or cheese, so you may need for these to be omitted, but usually, this is not a problem for the restaurant. Also make sure that soups are made from a vegetable base, not chicken broth or beef stock.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for meat or dairy to be left out.
Sometimes a dish, especially when freshly prepared, can be made without meat or dairy, such as the cheeseless pizza mentioned above. Often restaurants will happily prepare a vegan dish for you from scratch, as well.
- In a pinch, remember that almost all fast food restaurants offer salads or salad bars these days.
You may have to ask them to hold the chicken, bacon bits, or cheese, so be sure to give the ingredients a once-over or ask the server for details before ordering.
- Look at the menu carefully before you sit down.
Many eateries have their menus displayed in their windows, or will gladly share their menu with you before sitting down. Make sure that you see some good options before you choose a place.
- Finally, don’t be afraid to leave if you need to.
If you happened to land somewhere where there really are no suitable options, politely explain that to the server and go someplace else.
Good luck with dining out! Please let me know any other tips you have on eating out while avoiding meat and dairy. Your feedback is always appreciated!