Avoiding animal products when you’re cooking at home is relatively straightforward, once you’ve got the hang of reading ingredients while shopping, and you’ve got your vegan shopping list favourites.
Eating out (or ordering in) is a different ball-game though. If there’s a 100% plant-based eatery you can order from, that’s definitely the easiest! Apps like HappyCow or abillionveg make finding these places a breeze. Alternatively, here are some tips:
- Check out the menus online
If they have options that are marked as vegan, you’re good to go. If not, call them up and see if they’re able to adjust an existing item by making one or two ingredient swaps (for example, beans instead of meat, avocado instead of cheese, hummus instead of mayo). In my experience, almost all places are happy to accommodate.
- Don’t be shy about using the word “vegan”
I know that a lot of people don’t like to use the dreaded v-word because of its sometime-negative connotations(friendly reminder that not all vegans are placard-wielding activists!). Despite the aversion that some of us have to being labelled, labels are often very useful. It’s so much easier to say to a waiter “Is this vegan?” than “Does this contain any ingredients derived from meat, fish, dairy, eggs or honey?”. What a mouthful. Trying it once won’t turn you into that person, promise 🙂 Plus, the more people use the word, the more it’ll be normalised, and the easier it’ll be for everyone.
- Try food from other cultures than your own
If your own food-culture is heavily meat- or dairy-based, try ordering from a restaurant that features other cuisines. Traditional Indian cuisine has lots of vegan curries; Italian cuisine features delicious tomato-based pastas and vegetable pizzas (hold the cheese); Middle Eastern cuisine boasts the glorious falafel and hummus; and Ethiopian cuisine has beautiful culturally-vegan dishes (deriving from their annual fasting tradition).
- Watch out for “hidden” animal-based ingredients
Sometimes, especially in more upmarket restaurants, they might use butter to cook the mushrooms, cream in the base of a tomato soup, or fish sauce in a vegetable pad thai. If you’re not sure, it’s best to specifically ask whether the dish has any ingredients made from meat, fish, dairy, eggs, or honey—especially since restaurant staff sometimes don’t understand what “vegan” means.
- Make a meal out of a few sides
If all else fails and you can’t find a main dish that’s plant-based, try ordering a few vegan-friendly sides to make up a meal. Think roast veg, sweet potato fries, beans, olives…
The food industry is shifting rapidly in many parts of the world, thanks in large part to changing consumer demand. I know it can feel a bit uncomfortable to be “the fussy one” when you’re with friends, but really, it’s people like you who are changing the world, one meal at a time 🙂 Plus, with the restaurant industry having suffered a massive blow due to Covid, it’s great to be able to take a break from the kitchen and support local eateries.
I’d love to know what your favourite vegan-friendly spots are!