So you’ve decided to switch your eating habits to a plant based diet. Congratulations! Good for you! You’re making a big difference both for your own health and for the health of the planet.
By eating a plant based diet, you’re creating 50 % less CO2 than someone who eats meat, dairy, and eggs. You’re also steering clear of carcinogenic sources of food. The World Health Organisation recently reported that 50g of meat a day (that’s less than 2 slices of bacon) increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 18%.
You’ve made a great decision! But now you’ve been invited to dinner with your friends at your standard hangout, and they have nothing vegan on the menu. No problem, here’s How To Order Vegan at Non-Vegan Restaurants – and why it’s so important that you do!
Scrutinize the menu
When you get to the restaurant, give the menu a quick one-over. Note any vegetarian options, or any dishes that have vegetables, beans, or other vegan ingredients in them. If they’ve got it on the menu, you know they’ve got it in stock in their kitchen.
Hold the dairy and eggs, please
If there’s a vegetarian option on the menu, but it’s topped with cheese or eggs, kindly ask your waiter if you can have the dish but without the dairy or eggs.
If they ask if you’d like something else as a substitution to the dairy and eggs, suggest something you’ve seen in one of the dishes on the menu, for example half an avocado or some additional veggies.
Compose your own
In some cases, you’ll find yourself in a particularly non-veggie friendly restaurant without even a vegetarian option on the menu. It’s ok, you can still get something vegan!
Say there’s a meat dish that has a side of grilled vegetables, another dish has a side of rice or potatoes, and in the list of extras you see there’s a small garden salad, and bread rolls. Fantastic!
Ask your waiter if the chef could put together a dish of grilled vegetables with rice for you. If you’re extra hungry, add the small garden salad as a side (and maybe the bread roll too).
Give your waiter or chef some suggestions
A lot of people are unfamiliar with what being vegan actually means, so sometimes people’s reaction to someone who is mentioning the word vegan can be completely blown out of proportion. Vegan!? But then you can’t eat anything! Help your waiter or chef out by giving suggestions of what you do eat.
I was in a brunch restaurant once with very few vegetarian (and no vegan) options on the menu. I asked our waitress if she could have the chef make me one of their brunch sandwiches wit avocado and a side salad. I ended up getting a fantastic and very filling plate of food.
It’s so important that you’re polite when you visit a restaurant and ask for something that’s not on their menu. The restaurant wants to please you as a customer but (and this is common sense) that doesn’t mean you should be rude or put up a fuss about the food you get.
Be polite when asking for something special. A passionate and well experienced chef has the ability to adapt to different diets and come up with a dish on the fly, based on the ingredients he or she has got on hand. So if they do, show your appreciation to your waiter and (if you get the chance) to the chef.
Get a salad and then tuck into your emergency snacks
Let’s face it, there’s likely going to come a time when you end up at a restaurant that simply isn’t able or willing to give you more than a simple garden salad. But don’t let that ruin your evening! Keep some emergency snack bars or dried fruits and nuts stashed in your bag that you can tuck into to top up your unfulfilling meal.
Give the restaurant a heads up
If your restaurant date is booked ahead of time (as opposed to a spur of the moment let’s go grab dinner-situation), consider calling the restaurant in advance and giving them a heads up that you’re vegan.
The chefs will appreciate the extra time they get to order any extra ingredients they might need, and to come up with a dish for you. And you’re spared the effort of sorting it out when you’re seated with your friends, date, or family at the restaurant.
Why should you bother ordering vegan at non-vegan restaurants?
If you’re thinking that you’re better off just ordering whatever they’ve got on the menu (chalking it up as an exception to your usual plant based diet), consider this: by asking the restaurant for something vegan, you’re contributing to them potentially putting something vegan on their menu permanently.
You’re enlightening the restaurant to a demand they’re currently not catering to. And in doing so, you’re inspiring them to add something new to their menu that’ll potentially generate new customers.
I have seen this type of change occur in so many restaurants and cafés around the city of Stockholm, where I live. You can go almost anywhere in Stockholm and find something vegan on the menu, or easily substitute an ingredient or two in a dish to make it vegan. It all started with one person after another enlightening chefs and restaurant owners that there is a demand for vegan food.
By inspiring change in restaurants and cafés, you’re doing good for your own and other people’s health, and acting in favour of the planet.
This is fantastic!! While I wouldn’t say I am strictly vegan, I do like to stick with plant based foods especially when I’m out to eat. I love these tips and I love that you said by asking for a vegan option at non-vegan restaurants are enlightening them on the demand. Thank you for the great tips!
You’re welcome Kelly! I’m glad this was helpful, and I’m also happy to hear that you most often choose plant based foods!
I often find myself in this situation. Most restaurants are fairly accommodating, but I have to say I’ve been in several that were absolutely not helpful at all and I was hungry. It’s a bit boring to eat a side salad and perhaps a purse stash when everyone else is eating full-blown main dishes, appetizers, and dessert. But it’s the lifestyle I’ve chosen and wouldn’t trade it for all the non-vegan food ever. I’m healthier and so is the planet (and all the animals)! When I can, I always choose restaurants with vegan options.
It’s so unfortunate when restaurants are unwilling to be helpful or accommodating to their guests. Especially considering that special requests sometimes can be due to serious life threatening allergies or intolerances. I do hope that more and more restaurants educate themselves on what vegetarian and vegan entails, and offer more of it on their regular menus. I’ve definitely seen this shift happening in Stockholm. I completely agree with you though Debbie, this is a lifestyle I’ve chosen and I’d rather eat a simple salad and then grab a snack later, than eat some meaty dish.
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Such a great idea. Thanks for sharing.
Kisses from Berlin
Valentina | DAILY SUIT
Thanks Valentina! Are you vegan too? How do you usually order if you’re at a restaurant that’s not vegan?
Hi, You’ve no idea how bad some places are! I live in cattle country and not eating meat is almost heretical! I don’t care too much as I can get vegan food when I go to the bigger centres. I make better food at home anyway and I’m not giving up my vegan lifestyle to please some red neck!!
So sorry to hear it’s such a struggle where you are. I admire your perseverance though, keep at it. I hope more and more people will become aware of the benefits of a vegan diet, both for our own health and for the health of the planet.