Plant-Based Diet: Tips on Dining Out

Plant-Based Diet: Tips on Dining Out

Restaurants and cafes are good options when you want to meet up with friends or just take a break from the kitchen. I know it’s not easy finding places that offer plant based whole foods, but it can be done.

When it comes to eating out, opt for vegan or vegetarian restaurants or restaurants that offer some vegetarian dishes on their menu. Research with Happy Cow (

Check online menus from unfamiliar places. If you don’t see any obvious options for you, call or email the facility and ask if they will accommodate you.

Already in a restaurant? Ask if they have a vegetarian menu.

Be sure to indicate that you would like a meal free of animal products. Often people don’t know what vegan or plant-based means and you might end up with milk or cheese on the plate.

Don’t be afraid to create your own dish using ingredients from the menu. Most restaurants will be happy to help you.

Eat before you eat. In the restaurant you can order a salad or a vegetable soup. Every restaurant should have at least one of these two items.

Ethnic restaurants are always a good option to find vegan or vegetarian dishes. You can at least get rice and vegetables. Ask chefs to omit salt and oil if possible.

Salad buffets can be hearty. Follow this simple plate rule: ½ non-starchy vegetables (raw and cooked), ¼ whole grain and starchy vegetables, and ¼ protein (nuts, seeds, legumes).

If there’s no whole food dressing at the salad bar, opt for mashed vegetable soup, a veggie curry, or just plain lemon juice instead. This will help you appreciate slimmer options as well.

Some restaurants offer macrobiotic options, meaning a dish cooked without oil and salt, just plain and lean whole foods. I could discover several such places for lunch in Barcelona.

If you know the protein portion of the meal will be disproportionate, ask him to substitute some of the protein with vegetables, whole grains, nuts/seeds, or avocados.

Desserts look delicious in restaurants, but it’s usually better to skip sweets. They are generally high-fat and high-calorie bombs. There are exceptions and some places offer raw desserts like chia pudding or nutty desserts with no added oils and sugar.

Always be polite and friendly to the restaurant staff and your companions. If you’re nice to them, they’re more likely to be nice to you, too. Always be thankful after the staff has met your needs.

Make a change after the above. I always encourage people to ask for oil-free, plant-based, and whole grains, even though I know the place doesn’t offer them. If people keep asking about this choice, who knows? One day the restaurant might add them to the menu.

Thanks to Nele Liivlaid


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