How To Eat Healthy When Eating Out

Not eating at home should never be an excuse to eat foods that are not vegan. If you keep a couple of things in mind, eating healthfully when eating out is soon going to become a no-brainer.

Not so long ago, I asked my friends on Facebook what their biggest struggles were when becoming vegan. Many people responded that they didn’t know what to do when they were at a restaurant, having meals with friends or business partners.

Luckily, most restaurants are able to accommodate vegans these days and a decent meal is often just a few questions and a friendly smile away.

The truth is: Finding a healthy vegan meal is possible almost anywhere in the world – as long as you know the right questions to ask.

So make the time to go out with your friends and simply follow these easy tips on dining out as a vegan!

Eating out as a vegan in chain restaurants

Dining out can be delicious – even for a vegan in a chain restaurant!

Many chain restaurants now have more healthy options available – some even have a separate menu listing allergens like wheat, dairy, and eggs. This makes it easy to find out which menu items are cruelty-free.

A big plus: Chain restaurants are very consistent with their food since each restaurant across the country uses the same recipes. So if one location has vegan black beans, another location in a different state will most likely have vegan black beans (but always ask to make sure).

Since everyone is concerned about weight gain and heart health many chains now have special “Heart-Healthy” or “Low Calorie” menus or a heart icon denoting healthier choices. If you have to eat at a chain for a business lunch go straight to this section on the menu or look for the heart icon. That’s usually where you’ll find options that are easy to veganize and have dressings without dairy.

Dining at a restaurant

If you have plans to go to a restaurant and you aren’t sure of the vegan options, just give them a ring and ask. If you call ahead and speak to the manager, you can see if they can accommodate you with a special meal. Every fine dining restaurant I have been to has jumped at the opportunity to make me something special.

The chefs like to be challenged and come up with creative delicious meals using ingredients they have on hand. I was really surprised with the great meal I had at Samar without even calling ahead.

Trust the basics and side dishes

Some of these basic vegan foods can be found at many restaurants!

  • Steamed veggies
  • Baked potato without butter
  • Salad with veggies and plain beans
  • Whole grain pasta
  • Sourdough bread
  • Avocado/guacamole
  • Fruit
  • Hummus with raw veggies and crackers
  • Veggie stir-fry
  • French fries
  • Vegetable sandwich
  • Chips and salsa
  • Veggie fajitas with corn tortillas
  • Non-dairy soups
  • Make your own salad

Types of restaurants that always have vegan options

By ethnicity:
  • Indian
  • Italian
  • American
  • Mexican
  • Asian-style
  • Thai
  • Vietnamese
  • Japanese
  • Chinese
  • Middle Eastern
  • Mediterranean
  • Lebanese
  • Moroccan
Fast food chains and others:
  • Any natural food store or Co-op
  • Subway
  • Quiznos
  • Which Wich?
  • Chipotle/Freebirds/Qdoba/Taco Bell/Taco Cabana
  • Moe’s Southwest Grill
  • Nando’s
  • Starbucks (some have a vegan noodle bowl, all have soy milk)
  • Panera (just added some plant-based options)
  • Leon
  • Pret A Manger
  • Le Pain Quotidien
  • Chili’s (has a separate vegetarian menu with egg, dairy, and honey icons)
  • PF Changs (has vegan choices and brown rice)
  • Jason’s Deli (has a notebook with ingredients listed for every menu item)
  • Red Robin (a Facebook friend said they use original Boca Burgers but be sure to ask about the vegan bread choices)
  • TGIFridays (added Beyond burger)
  • Ruby Tuesday (has a salad bar and veggie trio plate)
  • Flat Top Grill (mid-west chain)
  • Pei Wei (just check sauces for honey)
  • Wagamama
  • Soup Plantation/Sweet Tomatoes Souper Salad Seasons 52 (great if you want to go somewhere a little nicer)
  • Houston’s (yes even steakhouses have good options!)
  • California Pizza Kitchen (they have vegan pizzas and you can get pizza with tons of veggies and no cheese)
  • PizzaExpress
  • Zizzi
  • Denny’s (supposedly has a vegan burger patty but check on the bread)
  • Kona Grill (has a vegan menu)
  • Buca Di Beppo (they even have vegan wine)
  • Gordon Biersch (clearly marked vegan options on the menu)
  • On The Border (portobello fajitas)

Do you have any other tips or discoveries?

Do you know any chain restaurants that have healthy/vegan options that we should add to the list? Please share with us in the comments!