Eating Out on a Plant-Based Diet

As a Los Angeles resident, dining out invites the chance to try the bounty of veg-friendly restaurants around town. Exclusively plant-based restaurants are plentiful in LA and seem to be growing in number every day. Regardless of your area code, sticking to your plant-centered diet when eating out is possible just about anywhere.

It seems to be a growing (and much welcome) trend for restaurants to either offer separate vegan menus or to at least label which dishes are vegan/vegetarian. Ethnic food is your friend when it comes to finding plant-based dishes on the menu. Below is a quick guide to veg-friendly options you can find among several ethnic cuisines:

  • Thai: tofu, vegetable, noodle, rice focused dishes, coconut curries (just ask to hold the fish sauce)

  • Japanese: cucumber/avocado rolls, vegetable tempura (sometimes has egg in the batter, sometimes not), tofu teriyaki, udon noodles

  • Chinese: vegetable/noodle/tofu (bean curd) focused dishes; tip: order any meat dish with tofu instead

  • Indian: dishes featuring a range of legumes, beans, vegetables and rice (some dishes contain cream or butter, but can typically be omitted upon request)

  • Ethiopian: a range of vegetable and legume centered dishes, served with the traditional bread "Injera" (sourdough bread made of teff flour, typically vegan)

  • Mediterranean: falafel, hummus, tahini, stuffed grape leaves (often vegan, sometimes have meat), rice dishes, grilled vegetables, pita

  • Brazilian: rice, bean, and vegetable focused dishes, plantains and yucca

  • Italian: pasta dishes (like pasta primavera), salads, minestrone soup (often is made with vegetable broth and is vegan); note that freshly made pasta often contains egg, whereas dried pastas are typically vegan.

  • Mexican: burritos (think beans, rice, veggies, guacamole, salsa), tostadas, and spinach enchiladas; tip: just inquire whether the restaurant makes their rice with chicken stock

Sometimes we find ourselves at a meal out with family or friends at a not so veg-friendly location. At a steakhouse, you can throw together a few items to make a somewhat balanced meal: look for a garden salad (oil and vinegar for dressing is a good back up), baked beans (sans pork), grilled mushrooms, and baked potatoes (can request olive instead of butter to top your potato). When there aren’t any obvious veg-friendly items on the menu, you can request to add/omit ingredients from available dishes to meet your needs, or request whatever combination you would like (for example, a build-your-own pasta or salad), just ask! Sticking to a plant-based diet when eating out is admittedly easier in some cities than others, but when embracing a little culinary adventure, new flavors, and sometimes some ingenuity, it can be done just about anywhere!

Happy Cow is a great resource for finding veg-friendly restaurants wherever you are on the map!

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