People often ask if it’s hard choosing to eat vegan. I say that one of the toughest parts about going vegan isn’t any of the things a non-vegan might imagine. I don’t miss meat, I don’t have vitamin deficiencies and I don’t struggle for ideas of what to cook. The hardest thing I have found about my new food choice is eating out vegan. Read on to discover our 5 useful tips for eating out vegan this Christmas.
Saying ‘Yes’ To Eating Out Vegan
Before choosing to eat a predominantly plant-based diet, I used to say ‘yes’ to offers to eat out with friends and family without even thinking about it. You go, you eat, you have fun and you pay for what you enjoy. Now though, when someone asks if I want to meet for dinner, lunch or breakfast, a series of questions pop into my head that go something like this:
- Will my friend want to eat somewhere that also suits me?
- Does the restaurant have vegan options (other than a plain, boring salad with 2 ingredients and no dressing)?
- Will the person or people I’m eating out with comment on my food choices?
- Lastly, and most importantly, will the portions actually be big enough to fill me up?
To a non-vegan, this may not make sense. But to all the vegan readers out there, I know you’ll be nodding along. We can handle the questions, the comments, the opinions … but for the love of god why would I want to eat out if a. I am not going to enjoy the food and b. the food is not going to fill me up. Choosing to eat vegan often means that a higher quantity of food is needed to satisfy your new appetite with most vegan dishes being far easier to digest and sitting much less heavily on the stomach. If I can’t get a decent amount of vegetables, beans or rice for my money, I don’t want to eat out, nor do I want to pay for the privilege.
How To Eat Out Vegan
Christmas time is of course particularly challenging in this department. Eating out vegan at Christmas is even more difficult than the rest of the year. Not only does eating out become so much more popular and frequent around Christmas, but the festive options for vegans are only just starting to be seen. Obviously, the traditional turkey roast dinner is not for us. So where can you eat out this festive season with loved ones that will cater to a vegan diet? If a restaurant doesn’t state they cater for vegans, how can you find enough on the menu to make a meal? And where can you find fully vegan restaurants if you would rather not watch others eat meat?
We’ve compiled 5 handy tips that will help you to say YES to eating out with vegan and non vegan friends, in vegan and non vegan restaurants, in the UK and abroad.
1. Check the Menu in Advance
Jump online, google the restaurant and see if you can find a menu. Every month, more and more restaurants embrace veganism. Places that used to be difficult to eat in are now offering at least one vegan meal. This is not ideal as we all love to see choice when we pay to eat out but the situation is certainly improving for vegan food lovers.
If you find the menu online and there are no vegan options, contact the restaurant to see if it’s possible to pre-order a vegan meal. We did this earlier this year for a celebratory meal at Channels in Chelmsford. The chef prepared vegan options specially and my meal was delicious. The waitress explained that if they informed in advance, they are always happy to cater for vegans but options available on the day might be limiting if they are unaware a vegan eater is visiting.
Channels Bar and Brasserie in Chelmsford is a great option for a celebration for vegan and non vegan eaters. Remember, let the restaurant know in advance that you are vegan to avoid disappointment.
2. Locate Local Vegan Restaurants
Many people who don’t eat vegan, don’t think of eating out and the menu choices in the way vegans might need to. More often than not, a friend who isn’t vegan will happily find a dish they like on any menu so select a restaurant that is vegan conscious and recommend you meet there instead.
Alternatively, find vegan restaurants and ask your friend to embrace a vegan meal with you. Eating out vegan is much more fun when you can choose ANYTHING off the menu. For my birthday this year, my non vegan friend agreed to visit The Oak Tree in Leigh on Sea with me and we both found the food amazing!
The Oak Tree in Leigh on Sea is a great option for anyone keen to try vegan meals, for vegans wanting an all vegan menu and for any of those friends who think being vegan means only eating salad.
3. Adapt Vegetarian Meals
Many restaurants that do not offer vegan food will have a vegetarian option. So if you find yourself eating somewhere like this, ask whether a veggie option can be adapted to a vegan meal. Suggest that salads with cheese have extra avocado instead or come with an alternative dressing. With veggie breakfasts, substitute eggs for extra beans or mushrooms. It is important to remember that not everyone knows that vegetarian meals are not vegan. Sometimes people really just don’t know the difference, I know I didn’t before choosing to eat vegan, so be ready to suggest alternatives to the staff and be clear on what you want to eat. You pay for it so make it your own.
Frankie and Benny’s Veggie Fry Up can be easily substituted with extra vegan ingredients to replace the non vegan ones.
4. Add Side Dishes
Portion size is a really big problem for me when I eat out because since being vegan, the quantity of food I eat as increased. It takes a larger amount of food for me to feel full and satisfied and a typical portion size just doesn’t cut it anymore. This is where side dishes are your new best friend so check menus of non vegan restaurants for their side dishes. Find the seasonal vegetables and just ask for no butter or choose salad sides to bulk out your meal. Ask for extra potatoes or extra sweet potato fries, remembering to ask what oil they are cooked in if it doesn’t say.
Have you tried Mudlarks Garden Cafe in Hertford? This wonderful charity cafe offers job opportunities to local disabled people, running a local garden where their produce is grown and provides excellent vegan lunch options.
5. Eat Beforehand
As a last resort, eat before you go out. If your friend won’t consider another restaurant, the menu is awful for vegans and you are going to really struggle to even piece together a meal with the sides alone, eat beforehand and tag along with friends for a drink. Explain that you will order drinks and maybe a side like chips but not a full meal because there isn’t anything suitable for you but you would still love to be involved.
This is also a great option if you are concerned the portions won’t be big enough for you or if you really don’t want to pay £13 for a salad that you know costs pennies to throw together AND you could make so much more exciting at home. Friends who love you will want your company and not care whether you’re eating or not.
Vegan Restaurants UK
Many high street chains are now embracing veganism and we have been so impressed with the progress this year. Check out Wagamama’s vegan menu or Pizza Express’ vegan pizzas. Check out these awesome eating out recommendations from Veganuary.
Do you know a vegan restaurant in the UK that is worth us checking out? What’s your favourite UK Vegan Restaurant? Leave us a comment below with your recommendation.
Eating Out Vegan
If you have recently gone vegan and are struggling over the holiday season, during special occasions or when you travel, reach out to us for advice, connect with other vegans and let us know if these trusty tips that we use are helpful. As with any dietary requirement, eating out can be hard. But it doesn’t have to mean you can’t be involved, or worse that you have to go against what is right for you and your body just to fit in. Happy eating!
If you are considering going vegan for Veganuary, let us help you!
Throughout the first month of 2019, we will be posting daily recipe ideas to our Instagram and Facebook pages to help more people embrace vegan eating. From indulgent vegan desserts and treats to full blown meal ideas suitable for the whole family, follow along and try something new.
Subscribe at the bottom of this page to enjoy our January 2019 blog where we will be sharing the Surprising Benefits of Going Vegan.