Living Vegan For Dummies
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Adopting a vegan lifestyle is incredibly rewarding. But it’s not without challenges — especially in the beginning. While you’re acclimating to this way of life, here are some tips for dining out that can help.

Ordering meals at a non-vegan restaurant

Going out to eat can feel intimidating for a new vegan. Non-vegan ingredients aren’t always listed on menus, and servers may not be aware of every ingredient in a particular dish. Use the following steps as a guide. Keep a copy on your phone or print out this page as a reference the next time you go to a non-vegan restaurant.
  1. Start by looking at the menu. If the vegan options are clearly marked, you’re good to go. Simply order any of these items.
  2. If only vegetarian items are marked, ask your server which of the options can be made without dairy or eggs.
  3. If the menu doesn’t have veg-options labeled, read it over. See what dishes seem like they can be prepared vegan with a few simple swaps or omissions. Think bean tacos, vegetable fajitas, vegetable stir-fry, spaghetti with marinara, or a hummus plate. Don’t forget the side dishes! Often, veg-heavy dishes are listed there.
  4. When the server arrives, ask about these specific options, and if they can be prepared vegan. (If the server seems unclear about what vegan means, tell them that you don’t eat meat, dairy, or eggs.)
  5. In addition to these items, ask if there are any other vegan options you should know about. If your server is in doubt, request that they ask the chef for clarification.
  6. If no vegan options are available, ask if the chef can make something off-menu for you. Consider the kinds of produce and dishes already on the menu when making a request. For example, at a pizza place, you could request a cheeseless pizza with whatever vegetables are already on the menu, like mushrooms, bell peppers, and onions.

Avoiding hidden animal products at restaurants

The tips in the previous section are good for general restaurant use. Depending on where you’re dining, you may encounter a few more non-vegan ingredients that may not be immediately obvious.
  • Mexican restaurants: Ask if they use lard in the beans, or chicken stock in the rice. If they use these ingredients, you’ll want to avoid any beans or rice. Ask them to omit dairy cheese and sour cream from vegetarian dishes.
  • Mediterranean or Middle Eastern restaurants: Ask about any dairy like yogurt or feta in the vegetarian dishes, and request that they be removed.
  • Thai restaurants: Ask if they can omit fish sauce, shrimp paste, oyster sauce, and eggs from their dishes. (Some restaurants use premade sauces and pastes, which makes removing animal-based ingredients more difficult. Although they may be willing to replace them with soy sauce.) If you’re ordering a noodle dish, choose rice noodles instead of egg noodles.
  • Indian restaurants: Ask which of the vegetarian dishes can be prepared without ghee (clarified butter) or cooked in oil instead. Don’t forget the bread! It can also include dairy in the preparation or be buttered before serving. Roti, poori, and paratha can often be prepared without dairy. (Unfortunately, naan usually isn’t vegan.)
  • Ethiopian restaurants: Ask if the vegetarian dishes are cooked in butter (niter kibbeh) or oil.

About This Article

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About the book author:

Cadry Nelson grew up eating a standard American diet, and then went vegan in 2007. She shares recipes and tips on living a vegan lifestyle on her website, Cadry’s Kitchen. She’s spoken at veg fests about living vegan, and her recipes have been featured on Yahoo, VegNews, Shape, Brit + Co, Parade, PureWow, HuffPost, and Taste of Home.

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