Eating Out As A Vegan
A vegan is a person who does not eat any food derived from animals and who typically does not use other animal products. About eating out at restaurants as a vegan. I can totally relate to your struggles with eating out. Even to this day, I find restaurant experiences as a vegan can be very hit or miss depending on the restaurant/chef.
The good news is that more and more restaurants are becoming sensitive to dietary restrictions and allergies, opening up new options on menus for those who need them. Plus, the more demand there is for something, the more change there will be in the future. I personally look forward to the day when vegan options on a menu are the norm, rather than scarce or uncommon.
Veganism In The Modern World
Around the world, people are eating more meat-free and vegan food than ever before.
But vegan food is not just a modern invention, and meat-free diets are not dependent on cutting-edge alternatives. Some anthropologists believe that early humans mostly gathered and ate plants. They supplemented a primarily plant-based diet with occasional animal protein and meat. Studies on the Paleolithic or Stone Age diet reveal that early humans collected up to 55 different types of plants to eat and relied heavily on vegetarian foods for nutrition and survival.
Prior to the foundation of The Vegetarian Society (VegSoc) in 1847, the word vegetarian itself was not widely used. It was not until the 1960s that a meat-free diet became popular in the U.S. and UK. But meat-free diets were and are present in a variety of forms in different countries around the world prior to this.
The history of plant-based food does not belong to Western countries. And in some regions, plant-based food has been present for thousands of years. Each nation has its own unique version of a meat-free diet, with its own history, influences, go-to ingredients, and delicious national dishes.
Many followers of Ancient Dharmic traditions such as Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, and Sikhism, along with some followers of Abrahamic religions such as Islam, Judaism, and Christianity, adhere to a meat-free lifestyle as part of their religious doctrine. Because of this, the history and development of religions frequently shaped national attitudes to meat consumption.
Countries With A History Of Veganism
Vegan cuisine and vegetarian culture are found in many countries around the world. It is frequently deeply rooted in tradition, religious beliefs, and cultural landmarks. More than a modern trend, a Western lifestyle, or a youthful fad, following a plant-based lifestyle, can be a deeply personal choice with myriad complex connotations.
The following countries have either a history of veganism and meat-free foods, an ongoing plant-based movement, or an up-and-coming vegan demographic.
The earliest record of vegetarianism dates back to 5th Century BCE India. The ancient religion of Jainism promotes a meat-free diet. Jain vegetarianism is one of the most strict and rigorous religiously motivated diets on the Indian subcontinent. Hinduism and Buddhism also incorporate a vegetarian diet and originate in approximately 1500 BC and the 5th century, respectively.
In Indian culture, the practice of nonviolence, or ahiṃsā, has informed meat-free living. It is present in Jainism, Hinduism, and Buddhism. The idea that all living beings, including animals, have a spark of divine energy in them inspires the concept of ahiṃsā. According to Jainism, the universality of divine energy means that to hurt others is to hurt oneself.
According to ABC, approximately 50 million Chinese people follow a vegetarian diet today—less than four percent of the total population. But plant-based foods are still an integral part of the national cuisine, including both tofu—which has been consumed in China for more than 2,000 years—and vegetarian meat.
According to the online tour operator China Highlights, the majority of Chinese vegetarians are meat-free because of their religious beliefs. Approximately half of the world’s Buddhists live in China, making up around 18 percent of the total population.
Buddhist monks and nuns, in particular, tend to follow a strict vegetarian diet. They frequently exclude animal products such as eggs and dairy, too. Buddhism, in general, has had a significant impact on Chinese cuisine. It has also informed regional dishes from other East Asian countries such as Korea, Cambodia, and Thailand. In China, the number of Buddhist, vegetarian restaurants has increased year on year. The vegetarian meat industry is still growing—partly thanks to the Buddhist population.
Plant-based foods are an integral part of Japanese cuisine, too. While being fully vegan can be a challenge in some regions, meat-free staples such as tofu play a key role within Japan’s food-centred culture. In the Japanese archipelago of Okinawa, plant-based foods make up the vast majority of the traditional diet. Though as an island country, Japan’s national and regional cuisine historically includes a significant amount of seafood and fish.
With the introduction of Buddhism to Japan around the 6th Century, eating meat became taboo due to the First and Fifth Moral Precepts; the prohibition of the killing of animals, and the classification of meat as a bodily toxin. The Five Moral precepts are central to many Buddhists’ moral philosophy, and the staple diet of Buddhist monks—Shojin Ryori—is vegan by default.
Because of veganism’s association with strict religious scripture, it didn’t catch on as a “trend” or lifestyle in the same way it has in other countries. But today, most major cities and towns offer vegan options, and there are frequently vegetarian restaurants near Buddhist temples.
Vegetarianism has a long history, and Ancient Greek philosophy includes explicit references to animal advocacy. Before the word vegetarian was popularized, living without meat was often described as the Pythagorean Diet. Pythagoras, a philosopher and mathematician, believed a vegetarian diet was healthy for both body and mind.
Pythagoras also believe that all living beings—including animals—had souls and could experience suffering. Because of this, and because he believed that a vegetarian diet was optimal for humans, Pythagoras claimed that eating animals was unnecessary, and therefore indefensible.
Many of his followers, Pythagoreans, also followed a meat-free vegetarian diet. In more recent years, and as meat consumption increased overall in Greece, it remained a primarily luxury item reserved for the wealthy. This was largely due to the prohibitive cost of raising animals for food. Instead, fruit, vegetables, and other nutritious foods made up the bulk of the traditional Greek diet, much as they do now.
Jamaica is the birthplace of Rastafari, a religious and social movement that has since spread around the world. Most followers of Rastafarianism follow dietary restrictions outlined in the biblical Book of Leviticus, avoiding both crustaceans and pork. But many Rastas follow entirely vegetarian or vegan diets, also based on Leviticus, along with the influence of Indian dishes on the national cuisine.
Much like the religious diets of Jains, Hindus, and Buddhists, some consider Rastafarian Ital as a proto-vegan diet. The Rastafarian diet—known as Ital, derived from “vital”—emphasizes natural, frequently local, and organically produced foods. To a certain extent, Rastas have also commercialized the ital diet. Dishes, drinks, and smoothies prepared to Ital specifications are widely available.
In recent years, Israel has secured its place as the leading vegan country in the world. Vegans now make up more than five percent of the population. Tel Aviv, in particular, features world-renowned vegan restaurants. More than 400 restaurants in the populous city are widely considered to be vegan-friendly. Some Israeli vegan advocates note that for those who keep kosher, checking ingredients and thinking about what you eat, in general, is familiar.
Eating from the land, both seasonally and locally, is at the heart of Israel’s national cuisine. Much of Israel’s traditional dishes emphasize fresh vegetables, fruit, and pulses. And dishes such as couscous, houmous, falafel, aubergine-based baba ganoush, and stuffed vine leaves—or doma—are all frequently cited as vegetarian staples.
In Dimona, Israel, the all-vegan Village of Peace has been eating plant-based food for the last 50 years. Located in the Neve Shalom compound, the Village of Peace is home to a religious community called the African Israelites of Jerusalem. While not Jewish, the members consider themselves the “spiritual descendants” of ancient Israelites.
Challenges Of Being Vegan
Going Out To Eat
The major problems of being vegan really start with eating at restaurants. Going out to eat can be tough in some places such as Greece where veganism is not widespread. While there are more and more vegan restaurants in Athens, it’s much more difficult to find vegan food on the islands or in smaller cities.
The question of whether or not a certain item is a vegan continues when you go grocery shopping. I have always been quite good at reading labels because even as a vegetarian I wanted to know what I was eating. But grocery shopping is one of the major vegan difficulties as there are some really bizarre animal-based ingredients. For the most part, I don’t buy processed foods in the supermarket anymore.
Most vegans probably agree that eating vegan is not all that difficult unless you go out with non-vegans. People seem to feel that just mentioning that you’re vegan means you judge them. As a result, they go on the defensive and start asking questions they wouldn’t ask a meat-eater. Don’t get me started on all the “hilarious” comments people make. And then when you don’t find those jokes funny people will say you don’t have a sense of humour.
So this may top my list of the biggest challenges of being vegan. Please know that being vegan is not enough to make two people get along. Sadly, the vegan movement is full of horrible people, including racists and sexists. (Read Veganism in an Oppressive World to get a glimpse of how vegans of colour feel about the vegan movement.)
On top of that, you have the vegan police who judge everything you do. Making connections with other vegans who actually agree with you on other issues can be quite a challenge in and of itself. As a result, many vegans actually prefer to deal with all the awkwardness of being the only vegan in their circle.
What You Need To Know About Eating Out As A Vegan
More and more of us are going vegan. The environmental and ethical case for a diet free of all animal products, including meat, fish, dairy and eggs, is compelling. According to research from the University of Oxford, going vegan is the “single biggest way” to reduce your impact on the planet.
And that is before you consider the ethical arguments against eating industrially farmed animals, which have an appalling quality of life and are often pumped full of powerful antibiotics that may pose a risk to human health. But if you are a lifelong meat-eater, it is hard to know where to start. We asked some leading vegans for their advice for adults who want to make the transition.
Should You Jump Right In? Or Is It Better To Dip Your Toe Into A Plant-Based Diet First?
“I don’t think there is a right answer about whether to do it immediately or not,” says Henry Firth, one-half of the vegan social-media sensation Bosh!. “It’s about what’s right for you and what’s sustainable for your lifestyle.” Some experts suggest easing into veganism via a sightseeing tour of the world of vegetarianism, while others favour going cold tofu.
Katy Beskow, a longtime vegan and the author of three bestselling cookbooks, suggests a gradual approach. “The availability of vegan products means you can do it so much more easily than before. My advice is to replace products in your diet with alternatives step by step, be it milk, mayonnaise or yogurt. That way, you won’t see a difference.”
How Do I Deal With Negative Responses From Meat-Loving Family And Friends?
Kill the haters with kindness – and delicious food. “You can make your meat jokes or tell me I’m going to die, but I’m comfortable with my decision,” says the author and columnist Isa Chandra Moskowitz. “Treat people with kindness, even if they are being jerks. And cook for them – you get to show them how yummy things are. It’s a really beautiful gesture that stops people from being aggressive and helps them to see that the food is good – and you’re OK.”
Be empathic towards people expressing negative attitudes. “I can understand when people have some negativity towards veganism because I was in that position once,” says the YouTuber, chef and author Gaz Oakley. “It was just fear of the unknown and not being educated on the matter.”
Treat such encounters as a teaching opportunity – but don’t lecture people. “If I’m at a party and someone makes a little dig about veganism, it’s just about educating them and making them feel at ease. Say stuff such as: ‘I never thought I would be a vegan until I saw this or found out this.’ Don’t be judgmental or argue back. Just try to educate them as best you can.”
How Do I Make Sure I Am Getting Enough Protein?
“It’s the only time people ever ask you about protein when you go vegan,” Beskow says. “Protein deficiency is a really rare thing in the western world. It’s just about combining protein such as beans, pulses, seeds and nuts. It sounds as if you’re eating rabbit food, but you’re not. You can just sprinkle a handful of toasted pine nuts over some pasta or add a can of beans into your chilli.”
Heather Russell, a registered dietician at the Vegan Society, says there is no cause for concern. “A common myth is that it’s difficult to get protein from plant foods. In reality, they can provide all the essential protein building blocks that we call amino acids. Good sources include beans, lentils, chickpeas, soy products, peanut butter, cashew nuts and pumpkin seeds.”
What About Vitamins And Minerals?
If you are going vegan, it is important to make sure you get enough vitamin B12 – commonly found in meat, eggs and fish – as, without it, you will feel exhausted and weak. You can get B12 from fortified foods including “dairy alternatives, breakfast cereal, dairy-free spread and yeast extract”, says Russell.
Alternatively, you can take a B12 supplement, which you can buy in most pharmacies and health-food stores. Russell also advises you to think about your calcium intake. “Fortified plant milk contains the same amount of calcium as cow’s milk, and fortified yogurt alternatives, calcium-set tofu, and a soya and linseed bread fortified with extra calcium are also really rich sources.”
Veganism Seems Expensive. How Do I Make A Plant-Based Diet Affordable?
Zephaniah hears this a lot. “I speak to single parents who say: ‘When I’m going down to the supermarket, you think I’ve got time to go and nip into a health food store and read all the labels? I’ve got three kids in tow!’” He tries to allay their concerns. “Basically, we want fruit, vegetables and lentils of various kinds. Forget about all the posh cuisines and all that stuff. That’s all right if you’ve got the money for it. But veganism, in principle, should be really cheap.”
If you are on a limited budget, steer clear of processed foods. “It’s a myth that vegan food has to be expensive,” says Firth. “In order to keep it cheap, though, it’s a good idea to avoid products that even say ‘vegan’ on them. So you’re not going to go to the expensive supermarkets and buy products in plastic that has been made in labs or factories; they’re going to be expensive. You’re just going to go back to basics and eat fruit, vegetables, grains, nuts and beans – and you are going to be incredibly healthy, as well as saving money.”
Do I Have To Give Up Going To Dinner At Other People’s Houses?
That depends on whether you trust them to respect your dietary preferences. “If I’m going to a friend’s house who really respects my veganism and will make the effort to look after me, I will,” Zephaniah says. “But, on the whole, I don’t want people to bend over backwards for me, so I’ll say: ‘Let’s go out,’ or: ‘I’ll come round and you have your dinner and we’ll have some drinks.’”
A good approach for any well-mannered guest is to offer to bring a vegan dish with them. “By offering to bring some food, you’re contributing and you’re getting a chance to show delicious food to everyone who is not vegan, as well as taking the stress or annoyance out of the hands of the host,” says Firth.
If the host prefers to cook, remind them of what you can and can’t eat – animal products have a way of slipping into things – so that they don’t accidentally put fish sauce in your curry. You may even want to suggest a recipe for them to try. But the most important thing is to have a frank conversation with your host before you turn up at their front door. “The one thing you don’t want to do is just turn up without having made a plan or had a conversation,” says Firth. “That’s going to annoy anyone.”
What Should I Do If I Have A Wobble And Really Crave Some Meat?
Breaking a decades-long attachment to the smells, flavours and textures of meat can be hard. Perhaps you are hungover and craving a bacon sandwich or at a barbecue when the smell of sausages wafts over to you. The good news is that nowadays it is easy to recreate the flavours and textures of meat in vegan food, whether it is a plant-based burger that bleeds like real meat, jackfruit “pulled pork” or seitan with the texture and crunch of fried chicken.
“In my recipes and YouTube videos, I often recreate certain dishes, whether it’s vegan chicken, beefsteaks or turkey – whatever else I can veganise,” says Oakley. “You can get that same texture and taste when you’re vegan. You’re spoilt for choice these days. You can get chicken, ribs, bacon, steaks, burgers, sausages – everything is available. When I went vegan four years ago, those things weren’t there.”
What If I Am Not That Keen On Eating Plants?
“Eat familiar recipes and replace ingredients with plant-based alternatives,” says Beskow. Take shepherd’s pie: “Instead of mince, you can use a can of green lentils. That way, you are getting some of your five a day because you have onion, carrot and celery, just as you would with any shepherd’s pie, but you’re hiding those lentils in there.” If you simply cannot eat your greens, do as parents of toddlers do and puree some vegetables, then bung them in a pasta sauce.
But you are going to have to get over your vegetable phobia at some point. “Vegan or not, you should be working vegetables into your life,” says Moskowitz. “I don’t know if it’s good to say: ‘I don’t like any vegetables, so I can’t go vegan.’ You’re going to have trouble actually living.”
Is It Difficult To Maintain A Healthy Weight On A Vegan Diet?
If you only eat salad, perhaps – but what a joyless life that would be. “Well-planned vegan diets can support healthy living in people of all ages,” says Russell. “They can provide all the calories and nutrients needed to hit nutritional targets and maintain a healthy weight.” Being vegan doesn’t mean you are on a diet.
Beskow urges converts to indulge in all their favourite treats from their pre-vegan lifestyle, in moderation. “If you are used to eating biscuits, you can buy lots of biscuits in supermarkets that are accidentally vegan … Have some crisps, enjoy your food – that’s what it’s all about. People see veganism as so restrictive and about saying no, but it’s about saying yes – but to different things.”
It Is Difficult To Find Vegan Options Where I Live. How Can I Keep My Diet Varied And Interesting?
If you are fortunate enough to have access to a garden or an allotment, get out there. Growing your own fruit and vegetables can be a great way to keep a vegan diet interesting. “I live in the middle of a field in Lincolnshire,” says Zephaniah. He has devoted a part of his garden to growing vegetables; in summer, he always has a glut. “I hardly have to go to a supermarket – I’ve got too much food. I have to give it away to the neighbours.” Firth says: “You don’t need loads and loads of quirky ingredients.
You can get a few base ingredients from your local shop and cook up thousands of delicious treats.” Most supermarkets, even in rural areas, will be able to cater to vegan diets. “I live in East Yorkshire and we don’t have any specialist vegan shops around us,” says Beskow. “But that’s OK because I don’t tend to shop in health-food shops or vegan shops anyway. Everything that I need is in the supermarket or the local market.” She advises following the Instagram account Accidentally Vegan, which uploads supermarket products that happen to be vegan.
What About Children? Is Veganism Safe For Them?
Children can be healthy vegans. “It is possible to provide all the nutrients needed for growth and development without animal products,” Russell says. She advises parents to consult the Vegan Society website, which has detailed guidance on vegan diets for children of all ages, including infants, and can offer advice on which fortified foods and supplements may be necessary for them to take.
Restaurants That Cater To Vegans
These are our 12 favourite vegan-friendly chain restaurants to hit up when we need to satisfy both the compassionate members of our clan and the ones who aren’t vegan.
When you’re here … you can still be vegan! You got a salad (with oil and vinegar instead of “Italian” dressing). You got bruschetta (just request it with no cheese). You got breadsticks (which have a garlic topping made with soy, not butter). You got minestrone soup, and you got all the pasta and marinara sauce you can fit down your gullet. Request some veggies to top it with and you got a party.
The Cheesecake Factory
There are plenty of vegan options scattered throughout the novel that is The Cheesecake Factory’s menu, including the Vegan Cobb Salad. And while there are no vegan cheesecake options offered (yet), you have to admit … it’s healthier this way.
So there aren’t a ton of super-awesome vegan options at TGI Fridays, but it does have one that’s so good, we had to include it on this list. We’re talking about the Beyond Burger—available at all the chain’s locations nationwide. (There are over 465 of them.) All you have to do is order it without cheese and mayo and you’ll be biting into a bona fide vegan burger.
Blaze Pizza’s traditional, high-rise, and gluten-free crusts are all vegan, and the restaurant also offers vegan cheese and all the veggie toppings you can fit on a pizza. For the sauce, try the classic red or the spicy red—and throw on some BBQ drizzle, balsamic glaze, or Buffalo sauce (all vegan).
Daily Grill offers vegan starters such as a trio of hummus, sweet potato fries, and herbed brown rice with almonds. And for the main course, you can get the penne pasta primavera, the angel hair pasta Pomodoro, or the grilled vegetable plate. You can also get a house salad with Asian ginger dressing or balsamic vinaigrette.
Freebirds World Burrito
There are more than 70 locations across the U.S., so people all over the country can enjoy this chain’s yummy vegan burritos, bowls, and salads. The restaurant has also teamed up with Beyond Meat to offer Beyond Beef Crumbles in the Feisty flavour, which you can add to any Freebirds order. All the tortillas are vegan, and the only things you need to avoid if you don’t want to contribute to the suffering of animals are the queso, the ranch dressing, the BBQ sauce (which contains fish, for some reason), cheeses, sour cream, and (of course) meat.
Bareburger has a huge vegan menu, with six unique vegan burgers, Beyond Meat sausages, shakes, and more. Plus, you can customize your burger with delicious options—including the Beyond Burger; a black bean, roasted corn, and poblano patty; quinoa, chia, and green pea patty; and sweet potato, kale, and wild rice patty—and with various toppings, such as vegan mayo, vegan cheese, and even a vegan egg. Bareburger even has a vegan kid’s menu!
Pizza chain Mellow Mushroom offers a vegan menu that includes tofu, tempeh, and Follow Your Heart cheese. Vegan sauces include red sauce, olive oil, sweet chilli glaze, and jerk sauce. With the meat-free options, vegan cheeses, and all the veggie toppings you could ever want, this pizza joint definitely delivers. It also offers hoagies (the french and multigrain bread are vegan) and salads (the balsamic and herb vinaigrettes are vegan)—just make sure you swap out all the nonvegan meats, cheeses, and sauces for their superior vegan counterparts.
No need to waste your time skimming over descriptions of dishes made from dead animals here—Yard House has a separate veg menu featuring Gardein vegan meat products and a vegan cheeseburger with Daiya mozzarella on a made-in-house patty. It also offers tons of other vegan entrées, many animal-free sides, and even a vegan dessert option! Best of all, it has locations nationwide, so there’s probably one near you.
Becoming a vegan isn't as tough as people think, and it certainly doesn't make you sick or weak. It's simply a decision you make to improve your health and protect animals from needless slaughter. People don't have to eat meat to survive or even thrive.
With all the information I've listed, one thing that really stood out to me was that you can make the decision to be vegan on your own terms. As a vegan, I always try to let others know that while there is a lot of help out there for those who may need it, we are a normal population. We just choose not to consume animal products or animal by-products because we choose to live a life that reflects our values and lifestyle.
I trust you enjoyed reading the article about Eating Out As A Vegan. Please stay tuned. There are more blog posts to come very shortly.
Want To Learn How To Create Delicious, Cruelty-Free, Healthy AND 100% Vegan Meals? Try These Awesome Vegan Cooking Courses With A Free 7-DAY MEMBERSHIP
Your Opinion Is Important To Me
Ideas? Thoughts? Questions? I would love to hear from you. Would you please leave me your questions, experience, and remarks about Eating Out As A Vegan, in the comments section below? You can also reach me by email at Jeannette@LivingTheVeganLifestyle.org.