Surprise-Eating at Restaurants as a Vegan is Easy!

Updated: Mar 9, 2020

Eating out at restaurants, bars, fast food drive-throughs, etc. is one of the hardest parts about being vegan for most people. But thanks to the growing movement of veganism and plant-based food production, it's only getting easier.

Eating vegan when you have a bunch of non-vegan friends and family is hard. I'm not going to lie, it took me about a year to adjust to being vegan with no slip-ups or "cheat days" simply because I didn't know I could find options almost anywhere.

When you're on vacation, traveling, or even just going out to an average American food restaurant, the plant-based options are very limited. Salads are sprinkled with cheese, sandwiches have mayonnaise or butter on the bread- and I could go on about this all day, but let's get to the point.

Although it's an adjustment at first to comfortably eat vegan almost anywhere, it's 100% possible.

The main things to be aware of at restaurants:

Know the "V" versus "VG"

More restaurants these days are displaying a "v" next to vegetarian options on their menu so customers no longer have to ask. Although unless identified as meaning vegan, the simple "V" usually means it is only vegetarian and not necessarily vegan. Some restaurants even have both "V" for vegetarian and "VG" (or some kind of symbol) meaning fully vegan. If the menu does not clarify, make sure to ask your server if those dishes are fully vegan. And if they aren't, always ask if they can be made vegan. Usually they can!

Look for Hidden Non-Vegan Ingredients

A lot of the time, there are small amounts of non-vegan ingredients in vegan dishes on the menu.

The fries may be vegan, but deep fried in animal fat or butter.

The "veggie burger" on the menu may be made with mayonnaise or a dairy-based sauce. For example, the Impossible Whopper at Burger King is a vegan burger patty, but only made complete vegan upon request. The patty is cooked on the same stove as their beef patties, but if you ask for your patty to be cooked with the "non-broiler method" they will cook it separately. The buns at burger king are vegan, so you don't have to worry about that. From here, just ask for no mayo and you're good to go!

Like the tricky veggie burgers, some restaurants use fish sauces or salad dressing with traces of egg or dairy that is not always listed on the menu.

Unless the menu states that the dish you order is completely vegan, just ask to make sure there are no hidden ingredients!

The Side Dish Hack

Something I never thought of when I first went vegan was what I now call the side dish hack. I first discovered this idea from Sarah's Day, one of my favorite naturopathic lifestyle influencers, in one of her YouTube vlogs. Sarah showed her order at the restaurant she was eating at for lunch, which was a simple dish of vegetables and healthy side dishes. In this moment I had a realization: even though a full dish of veggies may not be on the menu, you can easily ask your server for a plate of grilled vegetables or healthy sides that they offer (plus, this is a lot cheaper than ordering an entree!)

I have done this myself from then on, and it is truly a game-changer. Order a side of potatoes with grilled spinach and broccoli at a breakfast place, or order a pasta dish with just marinara sauce (if it's vegan) topped with any grilled vegetables they offer. Depending on the restaurant, you can create several different healthy dishes by doing this. Delicious, fun and healthy!

Use Your Resources

There are endless amounts of apps, websites and blogs that assist you in eating vegan easily: whether it's at a restaurant, finding products at the grocery store, or looking through your pantry.

Here are a few favorites that have helped me the most:

Peta is an organization, the largest animal rights organization in the world to be exact, that contributes to saving animals and ending animal cruelty through every contributing aspect. This site promotes veganism in that way, providing lots of articles that teach you where you can eat vegan, fast food hacks, and even news about vegan options released at restaurants! I highly recommend checking out this website if you haven't.

Lifesum: Diet & Macro Tracker

Lifesum is a lifestyle app where you can track your exercise, meals, water intake, macros and set goals. What I like about this app is that when you sign up it gives you the option to select the kind of diet you follow, one of those options being vegan. From here, it gives you food and recipe recommendations and more. The aesthetic is light and simple, and I find this app easier to use than any other diet tracking app I've used. Their website also has a blog with exercise tips and recipe inspiration!

Happy Cow

Happy Cow is another app that is extremely informative. This one is actually designed specifically for those of us who eat a plant-based, vegan diet!

This #1 vegan food app is practically the Yelp of the vegan world. You can create filters tailored to your diet and find vegan restaurants anywhere in the world! People post reviews and ratings so you can find popular favorites and even rate them yourself! This is my favorite app for traveling as a vegan.

Give these tips and resources a try and let me know what you think in the comments below! I truly hope these ideas and sites are as helpful to you as they have been for me!

What are your favorite plant-based hacks for going out to eat?

(I am not sponsored by any of the sites mentioned above, I simply love them and want to share with everyone what is useful to me!)

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