How to Eat Raw and/or Vegan in Restaurants
Eating out in restaurants is yet another challenge that is presented to those of us who eat a Raw/Vegan diet. It seems to be second to the Socialization challenge. Like most challenges, it helps a lot to be prepared. Preparation will make the biggest difference, when faced with these situations. But even if you had no time to prepare, all is not lost.
Currently, there aren’t a lot of options for the Raw/Vegan diet, especially when there’s nothing but mainstream restaurants around (mainstream, meaning chain restaurants that are located in many metropolitan areas, like Olive Garden, Applebee’s, etc.). Even with small mom and pop eateries, much of the menu sticks to ‘safe’, tried and true dishes. But things are slowly changing. Not only are more menu options being offered, but more Raw/Vegan restaurants are opening up in major cities, with the Los Angeles metro area being the leader in that. San Diego is another hot spot, as well as New York. It’s the smaller cities that will catch up, eventually. One chain in particular, called Native Foods, offers Vegan food that is very much ‘comfort’ foods like burgers and cupcakes. They just received 15 million dollars for expansion, so that’s good news for those in cities with very few dining out options!
In the meantime, how does one dine out, while maintaining a vegan or raw vegan diet? Let’s take the Vegan diet, first, and how to eat out at a mainstream restaurant. If you’re a vegan, and your diet consists of mostly cooked food with processed fake meats, be prepared to find more offerings for cooked food, rather than the fake meats.
If you don’t see a main course or entree that you can eat, here’s some ideas:
-Order from the side dishes or appetizer menus. Chances are, you can find side salads, roasted potatoes or other vegetable dishes. You can request that no cheese is put on it, since most dishes have some kind of cheese as the ingredient.
-You can use olive oil and vinegar as a dressing (most restaurants have those two items there) if there’s no pre-made vinaigrette available. You can also bring your own dressing in a small bottle, if you have a favorite one that you make for yourself.
-It doesn’t hurt to ask your waiter/waitress if there are any veggie burgers or substitute meats available. Some restaurants might not have their menus updated.
-Make sure that no dairy or eggs are used in whatever you order. Most menus will include the ingredients in the description but just to make sure, you can tell your waitperson that you are a vegan and ask them what’s in the dish.
-Speaking of avocado, if you are able to come prepared, like bringing your own dressing, it’s a good idea to bring some avocado, nuts or other fruits and veggies that you like to add to salads, in case you need them. Some restaurant’s salad offerings lack variety and substance.
Now let’s talk about eating raw, in restaurants, which is an even stickier situation. If you’re raw and out in a mainstream restaurant, chances are your options are even slimmer. It comes down to salads or veggie platters and a fruit bowl or smoothie.
-You can take from the ideas above, about bringing your own dressings or additional toppings.
-If there aren’t any salads offered, you can ask your waiter and waitress if they can ask the chef to prepare a platter of veggies for you, because you don’t eat cooked food. The chef will probably enjoy being creative. To make things less awkward, you can even tell them that you’ve been given doctor’s orders not to eat cooked food 🙂
-If there’s fruit available, and you don’t feel like having a fruit bowl, ask if they can blend a smoothie for you, with just bananas and whatever else they have for fruit. If they don’t have soy milk or nut milk, the bananas will serve as the base. You can even suggest that they blend bananas into an ‘ice cream’ and top it with fruit, as dessert for you.
It takes a certain amount of courage to eat out at mainstream restaurants and risk the chance of sticking out like a sore thumb, especially if you’re not eating alone. Keep in mind that it’s the trailblazers that are catalysts for change. You will not only be inspiring others in your party, but you will perhaps inspire the chef and the waitstaff with your choices. Raw food and vegan food are not ‘new’, but are new in these establishments. It’s time for these concepts to grow and spread more and more, and why not it be you, to help with that? You’ll be glad you did…it will help the world in general, your local community and you!