My husband and I love to eat out. Becoming vegan has made it just a bit more challenging, however, it can be done and you can still have a lovely time out on the town. We have discovered that certain types of restaurants cater to vegans better than others. I don't mention Italian restaurants here even though sometimes you can find vegan food. Trouble is the pizza and parmesan cheese are just tooooo tempting. Here are some of our favorites....
Mexican restaurants: They always seem eager to be helpful and to leave off ingredients when you ask. We love fajitas w/o meat or cheese, of course, and ask for more vegetables and beans. For burritos, tostadas, and salads, get a side of guacamole to make it more satiating. Southwest salads are becoming a big hit, even at McDonald's. Just be wary of the creamy dressings, and choose the cilantro lime vinaigrette instead. "Chipotle" is a wonderful organic restaurant and they have created an ingredient out of tofu, called sofritas, which is really wonderful on your salad or burrito. I went home and made sofritas by freezing a block of tofu, thawing it out and crumbling it before frying it in coconut oil and mexican spices. Everyone loves it who tries it. It is kind of like hamburger but way, way tastier. Also, we should be eating about a cup of beans every day. They are a prebiotic for our digestive tract. That means beans (as well as all legumes) feed the healthy microorganisms in our gut. These biota act like our second immune system and keep us healthy and vibrant. Gas is often involved, I know. But what a little price to pay for a healthy digestive system. Gas is also great for after dinner humor. No one is really listening until someone farts anyway.
Asian restaurants: We love Thai, Nepalese, Indian, and Sushi places because you can always find vegetarian and vegan dishes on the menus. You can often change vegetarian dishes into vegan if you ask them to use coconut milk instead of cream. Mongolian BBQ grills are also a big favorite for us. Here you just grab your bowl, put in twelve noodles (as my husband says) and go crazy on your favorite vegetables. I always like to try new vegetables as well, so I can become acquainted with new flavors. Bok choy, tofu, and cilantro are surprisingly scrumptious in stir fries. Of course don't forget the onions, garlic and ginger to give it a great flavor. They are always my go-to flavors in vegan cooking. My main concern with Asian restaurants is the high salt and monosodium glutamate content of their foods. Try asking for no MSG and very little salt. Most places will do their best to address your desires.
Salad bars: Mmmmm, love those salads. "Sweet Tomatoes" is one heck of a salad bar, well worth the cost. They have 20 different salad dressings and use lots of superfoods in their dishes like spinach, kale, chia seeds, quinoa, and other seeds. They also serve minestrone soup (which is vegan) and gluten-free breads/muffins. Other salad places that are great are: Cafe Rio (they have a vegetarian salad now that doubles the rice and beans w/o the chicken or pork. Many buffet restaurants offer salad bars that are well stocked with delightful veggies. "Chuck-a-Rama" has a fantastic salad bar ($13 for dinner). It can get crowded there so try to get their early (before 4:00, they say).
Smoothie and juice places are creeping up all over. Smoothies are a great breakfast or even lunch idea. They are packed with healthful fruits that contain fiber and natural sweetness (make sure they don't add extra sugar to your order) and you can add spinach and kale to make them extra nutritious. Get the smoothies over the juices because you don't want to throw out all that fiber. Over 95% of Americans (and yes that includes all of us vegans) are low in fiber in our diets. Smoothies are just the thing to get everything moving along in our digestive tracts. If you like your smoothie sweet try adding a banana or some dates. I love to add berries as well because they have such high antioxidant levels (which get rid of those grisly free radicals in our bodies that come from toxins in our environment). Chia seeds are also a nice addition, full of fiber, antioxidants, protein and very few calories. They tend to expand and create a sense of fullness so they're great for losing weight.
Every city has it's own vegan fare. It is always worth trying to do a search for Vegan food to get more ideas. Many cities have health food restaurants which offer new and tasty delights. We have a place here in Springville called "Ginger's Garden Cafe" that serves portabello mushroom burgers, falafel and berry salads, wraps, homeade vegan salad dressings and smoothies. I love the sprouts that they put on their salads and wraps. They are so fresh. Remember that sprouts are a superfood. Just by sprouting a seed or legume you increase the quality of the protein, the fiber content and many other enzymes and nutrients by a tremendous amount.
So here's the deal. It's not really so hard to be a Vegan out there in that concrete jungle. Just do a little homework, and stick with Asian foods and Mexican foods. Becoming vegan is never a mistake....just a "missed steak. "