How to Dine Out on a Whole Food Plant-Based Diet

October 18, 2017 3 Comments

How to Dine Out on a Whole Food Plant-Based Diet

Eating at restaurants can be a bit of a headache when you first transition to a whole food plant-based diet. But it can be done! When possible, choose vegetarian/vegan or at least veggie-friendly spots. 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:

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

Japanese Restaurant

Brown rice vegetarian sushi; udon or soba noodles; seaweed salad 

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)

Final Tips for Whole Food Plant-Based Dining Out

1. 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! 


Want more Whole Food Plant-Based Tips?

Join our private Plant-Based Challenge Support Group to get daily tips, recipes, menus, shipping lists, and all you need to live a healthier, happier whole food plant-based lifestyle. 


By Ali Brown

Ali is a nutrition and lifestyle writer and editor, with a Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies.


3 Responses


June 13, 2018

Great article. My biggest frustrations are with chain restaurants. There are only cooks and are limited in what they can do. Also too many veggies are processed with chemical washes and I can taste that. Rare to find chefs that can meet this whole foods plant based challenge. But super yum opportunities when you do. I have been pleasantly surprised in some places where I thought there was no hope. When someone on staff is vegan or has a strong vegan connection good things happen.

Marilyn Chiarello
Marilyn Chiarello

May 15, 2018

I would add that if you are not sure if a restaurant has anything suitable, call in advance. Most chefs are more than willing to accommodate specific needs. I am not only whole food plant based, but I am also gluten-free, so I typically check in with the chef, especially if I am going to a catered event with a fixed menu. Just came back from a 4-day seminar at Lake Morey Resort, and the special lunches they prepared for me were outstanding!

Karen Morris
Karen Morris

May 15, 2018

Great in a nutshell article! Thank you for posting.

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