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How to Dine Out on a Whole Food Plant-Based Diet (at Any Restaurant)

Written by Ali Donahue
How to Dine Out on a Whole Food Plant-Based Diet (at Any Restaurant)

Quick Take

Eating at restaurants can be a bit overwhelming when you first transition to a whole food plant-based diet. But it can be done! And now that folks are venturing more outside of their home after a year staying put, dining out may be top of mind again. Follow our tips for ordering plant-based meals at nearly any type of restaurant.

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Worried you'll never go out to eat again now that you eat WFPB?

How to dine out on a WFPB diet at any restaurant

Key takeaways

Worried you'll never go out to eat again?

vegan menu online

This is a common fear for plant-based beginners. And while this last year it may not have been a problem, as restrictions easy and outdoor dining becomes an option again in warmer areas, you may soon find yourself staring down a menu. The good news is, there are plenty of ways to navigate dining out on a whole food plant-based diet.

To make things easy on yourself, choose vegetarian/vegan or at least veggie-friendly spots when possible. While whole food plant-based restaurant may be harder to come by, you can search vegetarian and vegan restaurants in your area using HappyCow. You'll be more comfortable ordering from servers who understand your dietary preferences. 

That said, you won't be choosing the restaurant in every social dining situation and sometimes you may be stuck in an area with not a whole heck of a lot of options. Don't panic! It's all going to be OK.

So what do you order if you want to eat whole food plant-based meals when you go out to eat? Check out our suggestions below:

How to Dine Out on a WFPB Diet: By Restaurant Type

vegan burger

American Bar and Grill

  • Veggie burger (no egg)
  • Baked potato (no butter) with corn, beans, or salsa
  • Fresh salads, sides of brown rice, beans, or fresh vegetables.

Chinese Restaurant 

  • Stir-fried vegetable dish (ask for no oil, no oyster sauce)
  • Vegetarian noodles soups
  • Garlic eggplant
  • Sautéed green beans

Indian Restaurant 

  • Bombay potato
  • Chana masala (savory chickpea)
  • Chana saag (spinach and chickpeas)
  • Dal (savory dried lentils)
  • Saag aloo (spinach and potato curry)
  • Tarka dal (lentil stew)
  • Veggie curry
  • veggie samosa

Italian Restaurant 

  • Grilled eggplant with marinara
  • Grilled or steamed veggies
  • Minestrone soup
  • Whole grain pasta, if possible
  • Vegan pizza (no cheese or oil – ask if you can get your favorite veggies, whole wheat crust, sans cheese!)

Japanese Restaurant

  • Brown rice vegetarian sushi
  • Udon or soba noodles
  • Seaweed salad 
  • Miso soup 

Mexican Restaurant

  • Beans, rice, and veggie burritos (no cheese, no sour cream)
  • Vegetarian chili
  • Bean and vegetable–based soups

Middle Eastern Restaurant

  • Hummus and Baba Ghanoush with fresh veggies
  • Dolmades (grape leaves stuffed with rice)
  • Tabbouleh (tomato and herb salad) 

Thai Restaurant

  • Fresh veggie spring rolls
  • Veggie Pad Thai (no egg, no fish sauce, no oil)
  • Steamed vegetable dishes
  • Vegetable curries (no fish sauce)

Key Takeaways and Final Tips for Whole Food Plant-Based Dining Out

1. You don't have to go to a "whole food restaurant" to eat whole foods when you go out to eat. Look at the menu online ahead of time if you can so you can get a good idea of what they offer. This will make you more comfortable and make the ordering process go smoother if it's not a super veggie-friendly place.

2. Look for "steamed" "baked" and "grilled" veggie dishes — and ask about oil and any hidden animal products.

3. Be super nice to your server. Sometimes it can be awkward to explain our dietary preferences but a good attitude goes a long way!  

Updated 4/15/21

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By Ali Brown

Ali is a mom, wife, and nutrition and lifestyle writer and editor. She has her Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies.

 

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