How to deal with dining out on a plant based diet

How to deal with dining out on a plant based diet

Whether you’re dining out for work or fun, a plant based or even vegan diet should be a tasty experience!

What do you do when you’re traveling or having a meal-based business meeting and you can’t choose the venue?  Be assured, you can still follow a plant-based diet and have an enjoyable dining experience.  While it’s true that it can require a bit more planning, creating a good meal is still absolutely doable.  You’re not limited to just a salad unless of course that’s what you are craving.

Try these tips for an enjoyable and satisfying restaurant experience when dining out on a plant based diet


Check the menu in advance

to see if it is friendly towards vegans.  Some fast food restaurants have salad entrees now, but some still don’t.  Stick with family style restaurants that have large salad bars and vegetable side dishes.  These days, even good steakhouses have options that can easily accommodate a plant based diet.  Steakhouses offers baked potatoes, sweet potatoes, steamed vegetables, rice, and salads.

Look around the menu and create your own plate.  Of course, living in a major city makes this easier, as there are more options. But, if you live in a smaller town, don’t fret! There are still plenty of options and the veg dining world is exploding everywhere. Look for restaurants with a specific ethnic theme. Ethiopian, Japanese, Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, Mexican, Italian, Indian, and other cuisines from around the world are traditionally whole food, plant-based and it is easiest to find creative, delicious selections there.

Plan ahead

by calling the restaurant to let them know about your preferences.  Ask if they have vegetarian type meals.  Most chefs enjoy the challenge of making something different and will be glad to make you something special.  If there’s little choices, drink a smoothie, protein shake or eat a salad or something more substantial before you head out the door, so you’re not stuck starving and ready to eat dishes you wouldn’t feel comfortable about.   Make your meal a snack instead.

Make a meal with the side dishes

If points 1 and 2 haven’t yielded any tantalizing results, look over the side dishes.  You can make a meal from multiple side dishes, such as asparagus,  mushrooms, broccoli and rice and beans.   Usually there are enough veggie side dishes that you can combine to make an interesting dinner.  See if you can pick multiple single items to one plate.

Also check out these Vegeterian meals rich in both protein and iron

Here’s  a more detailed list of cultural type restaurants.  You’d be surprised at the amount of items and/or side dishes that are available to keep you satisfied.


Most Chinese restaurants offer plenty of vegetable and tofu-based dishes, as well as noodles, rice and soups. It’s best to ask for things to be prepared without oil if possible, and even with sauce on the side, so you can manage the sodium content. Look for the following options on menus:

– Stir-Fried Vegetable Dishes (ask for no oil, ask for no oyster sauce)

– Vegetarian Noodle Soups

– Steamed Rice

– Tofu and Vegetable Dishes (ask for no oil, ask for no oyster sauce)

How to deal with dining out on a plant based diet

Thai or Vietnamese

You will generally find plenty of plant-based options on Thai and Vietnamese menus. It’s best to go for light options, like salads and soups, and always ask for dishes to be made without fish sauce. Some menu items that are good choices include:

– ​Fresh Vegetarian Spring Rolls- also known as rice paper rolls (make sure they don’t contain egg)

– Papaya or Green Mango Salad (ask for no fish sauce or shrimp)

– Stir-Fried Vegetable Dishes (ask for no oil)

– Tofu and Vegetable Dishes

– Vegetarian Noodle Soups

– Steamed Rice

Middle Eastern (Turkish, Lebanese, etc.)

I’ve met plenty of omnivorous folk that are happy to go plant-based when eating Middle-Eastern fare! There are lots of great dips, breads, salads and main dishes to choose from, including:

– ​Hummus or Baba Ghanoush with Pita Bread

– Dolmades (Vine Leaves stuffed with Rice)

– Tabbouleh (Tomato and Herb Salad)

– Pita or Flatbread with Salad Fillings

– Vegetable or Legume Based Soups

– Vegetarian Couscous or Rice Dishes (make sure they do not contain cheese)


Most Indian restaurants cater extensively to vegetarians, but it’s best to call ahead and make sure that the vegetarian dishes are not made with ghee (clarified butter.) Some Indian food can be very heavy and oily, which is why it’s best to order tomato-based curries and skip the fried entrees. We recommend:

– ​Tomato-based chickpea, lentil and vegetable curries

– Dhal, a lentil soup

– Roti, a wholewheat flatbread (check that it is made without butter)

– Pickles and chutneys

– Steamed Rice


Pizzas, pastas and salads in Italian restaurants will generally contain some sort of cheese. Request no cheese in any dish you order, even if it is not listed as an ingredient on the menu. Your best choices at an Italian restaurant include:

– Pasta with Basic Tomato or Arrabiata Sauce

– Tomato and Basil Bruschetta

– House Salad dressed with balsamic vinegar or lemon juice (ask for no oil)

– ​Vegetarian Pizza without Cheese


This is a cuisine that normally offers plenty of low-fat vegan options, but you should double check about the use of fish stocks and flakes in dishes that aren’t denoted as vegetarian. Some common options include:

– Cucumber, Avocado, or Mixed Vegetable Sushi- check there is no egg or mayonnaise

– Miso Soup- check that it is made without benito flakes or other fish products

– Seaweed Salad

– Grilled Tofu Dishes

– Vegetarian Soba Noodle Dishes

– Pickled Vegetables

– Vegetarian Rice Dishes

How to deal with dining out on a plant based diet


Ethiopian restaurants are also great for vegetarians. You should always check, however, that the dishes are or can be made without butter. Most restaurants will have the following options:

– Fresh Salad Starters

– Vegetable and Legume Dishes

– Injera (an Ethiopian flatbread)

– Steamed Rice

Mexican (or Tex Mex)

Most vegetarian Mexican dishes can be made completely plant-based simply by removing the cheese or sour cream. However, you should make sure that any beans you order are made without bacon or other animal ingredients. Our Mexican favourites include:

– ​Bean and Rice Burritos with fresh salad fixings- ask for no cheese or sour cream

– Vegetarian Chilli with Rice and/or salad

– Bean and Vegetable-Based Soups

Grill or Steakhouse

You may not think that there would be anything available to you at a steakhouse, but that’s not necessarily true. While we hope you don’t have to eat at meat-centred establishments frequently, you can normally piece together a healthy and filling meal from the salad bar or “sides” menu. This can include:

– ​Plain Baked Potato with beans, corn or fresh salsa

– Fresh Salads or Salad Bar Selections

– Sides of Rice, Beans or Steamed Vegetables- ask for no butter or oil

Cafe / Sandwich Bar

You may be catching up with someone for lunch in a casual place with a small lunch menu. Your best option in these circumstances is to put together a sandwich or salad using the healthiest vegetable fillings available, such as:

– ​Whole wheat bread with tomato, lettuce, cucumber, beets, carrots, avocado, etc. plus mustard, pickles or balsamic vinegar

– Veggie Burger (ask for no cheese or mayonnaise, and ask for extra salad)

– House salad with avocado or olives, dressed in balsamic vinegar or lemon juice (ask for no oil)