Everything you need to know about eating out when you don't eat meat - Wholesome Culture - Blog
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Whether you’re celebrating a special occasion or you’re just too tired to cook, going out to eat should be nothing but a great experience – but if you’re maintaining a plant-based lifestyle, navigating restaurants and menus isn’t always that simple.

Luckily, we’ve come up with a few tried-and-true tips for eating out. If you’d like to skip the stress and simply enjoy your meal, check out our plant-based dining guide below.

Find veggie-friendly restaurants

Getting everyone to agree on a restaurant is challenging enough, but it feels even more impossible when you’re vegetarian or vegan – especially when travelling. Luckily, sites like Happy Cow and Yelp make hunting down plant-based restaurants easy. Remember this next time you’re getting a little hangry and need food now.

plant based dining out

Know what to avoid

Animal products can hide in some pretty surprising places. Do yourself (and the planet) a favor – double-check these foods and beverages before indulging:

  • Salad dressing. If it’s described as “creamy” or “cheesy”, there’s a good chance it contains dairy products. Worcestershire sauce and Caesar dressing both contain anchovies as well.
  • Bagels. These breakfast staples are often made with eggs and dairy – just like many other baked goods.
  • Breaded items. Breaded and fried foods are usually dipped in egg before hitting the hot oil.
  • Wine. Not all wine is created equal. Some are made with gelatin, egg whites and even isinglass, which is derived from fish bladders!
  • Beer. Like wine, some beers also contain isinglass and gelatin. But with craft breweries on the rise, plant-based beer drinkers also have to keep an eye out for ingredients like honey and lactose.

Double check before you drink using apps like Vegaholic and Barnivore.

dining out avoid

Plant-based swaps and substitutions

If you find yourself at a restaurant that really doesn’t have many plant-based options, you don’t have to go hungry. There are lots of simple, veggie-friendly swaps you can make.

  • Instead of dairy-based salad dressings like ranch, ask for a yummy olive oil and vinegar combo.
  • Skip the mayo; have hummus or avocado as a substitute.
  • Get your potatoes baked instead of mashed – that way, you can control exactly what goes in them.
  • To add some plant-based flavor to your food, acidic ingredients like lemon juice really brighten up a dish!

dining out swaps

Common plant-based protein sources

Protein is an essential macronutrient – it helps build muscle, supports metabolic reactions and keeps you feeling full. Sometimes it’s hard to spot plant-based protein sources on restaurant menus, but that doesn’t mean they’re not there. Look for dishes that include these protein-packed items or order them on the side:

  • Quinoa
  • Nuts
  • Beans
  • Tofu
  • Lentils
  • Seeds
  • Spirulina
  • Nutritional yeast

dining out protein

Enjoy the plant-based revolution

Every day, more restaurants are joining the plant-based movement. Chipotle added tofu-based sofritas to their protein options; Shake Shack created vegan burgers (they already had a vegetarian one); and Taco Bell has vegan burritos, Crunchwraps and tacos (if you skip the cheese and sour cream).

If you’re in Canada, you’ve got a ton of options too. Last year, A&W introduced the Beyond Meat Burger (just hold the cheese and mayo); Earls now has an entire plant-based section on their menu; even Pizza Pizza offers up a dairy-free cheese option.

Before you automatically write off a restaurant, call ahead or check their menu online – you might be surprised at how veggie-friendly they’ve become!

plant based menu

While plant-based dining takes a little extra effort, the incredible rewards for both your health and the planet are totally worth it. Follow this guide, and you’ll spend way less time worrying and more time indulging. Bon appétit!


Looking for plant-based takeout and make-at-home options? We’ve got pizza and burgers covered below!


For more tips that make plant-based living simple, check out:

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