Alas, the world seems oriented towards meat eaters. The world presumes that everyone eats meat and animal products; so you really don’t know where and when you will encounter products that contain animal products or by-products. Eating out can be particularly tricky because as a vegan you want to be able to have a well prepared vegan meal, knowing that what you’re eating doesn’t impinge upon your personal beliefs and ethical choices.
Here are some tips on eating out for vegans:
1. Pick a vegan restaurant
“Well Duh!” did we hear you say? It may be stating the obvious, but finding a vegan restaurant (as against merely a vegetarian restaurant) can be difficult. Do your research beforehand, look up vegan restaurants online, read their reviews so that you know if these are genuinely vegan eateries.
2. Pick the cuisine
Some cuisines are such that it is easier to order a vegan meal. For instance, ordering a vegan Indian meal can be easier than ordering a vegan Mediterranean style meal.
3. Concentrate on what you can order
Rather than look at the menu and sigh over all the things that you cannot order, look for things that you can order. This way you’re wasting less time.
4. Ask questions
Ask questions about exactly what goes into a dish. Even if the menu lists the ingredients of a dish, these are bound to be only some of the ingredients and not all of them. Ask whether vegan dishes are separately cooked. Watch out for the hidden ingredients – ask about stock, glazes, cooking mediums (type of oil or fat) used and so on.
5. Create alternatives/adjustments
Dishes can become vegan deleting and ingredient here and adjusting an ingredient there. A pizza for instance can become vegan by deleting some of the toppings. A sandwich can be adjusted to become vegan simply by leaving out the meat portions.
6. How to pick soups
It is best to pick clear vegetable broths (ensure that they use no meat stock though). The thicker soups typically contain cream, milk or gelatin.
7. How to order salad
Don’t assume that if it’s a salad it is all veggies. Find out about the dressing. If its mayo, is it vegan mayo? a vinaigrette or olive oil based dressing is a safe bet.
8. Be clear with instructions
When you amend a dish or ask for a particular item on the menu, be clear with your instructions that your order should not contain any animal based products. Let there be no ambiguity. But while you’re being clear, remember also be polite and courteous; it’s not the waiter’s fault that the restaurant is what it is and that your preferences are what they are!