Many plant-based beginners worry their new lifestyle will make their social life awkward. They are concerned they'll be an inconvenience to the host, or that they will scare away their own dinner guests by offering vegan foods. Even worse, there's a lingering fear that if they do brave the social scene, they'll end up with nothing to eat!
Going out to eat can be equally as daunting for a plant-based beginner. But don’t worry! You don’t have to sacrifice your social life for your health…party on with these plant-based party tips.
You don't have to become a recluse now that you follow a plant-based lifestyle. You can have your plant-based cake, and serve it to your non-vegan guests, too by following these helpful tips.
Casual Dinner Parties, the Plant-Based Way
For the casual plant-based party host:
Is it even a party if there isn't food? But now that you're plant-based you may be wondering just what the heck can you serve up that both fits your lifestyle and will please your guests.
Good news: we've got 4 super simple plant-based party recipes that will please even the pickiest of eaters at your gathering.
4 Simple Plant-Based Party Recipes
Hosting a plant-based cookout?
Don't sleep on these oil-free grilling tips. Or heck, let MamaSezz do the work and you focus on decor when you order the MamaSezz Classic Summer Bundle! Delicious, savory, and hearty ready-made familiar summer classics, including our juicy 100% plant-based High Protein Burger. All of your favorites, without the hassle.
For the casual plant-based party guest:
Just because you’re eating plant-based doesn’t mean that you should have to starve yourself at a party.
Follow these tips to make party-going, well, fun...like it should be!
1. Bring an appetizer
An easy option is chopped veggies with salsa or hummus. If you’re a little more ambitious, bring one of the appetizers suggested above. This way, if none of the available options are plant-based, at least you will have something to munch on.
2. Eat before you go to the party
Usually, hosts will provide one “healthy option,” like a veggie platter or a fruit salad, but if you suspect this won't be the case, eat a little something before you leave the house so you don't go hungry! I also always keep a snack bag of MamaSezz granola in the car. It's a great idea to have as a back up when your vegan options are slim to none.
Dinner Parties, the Plant-Based Way
For the plant-based dinner party host:
Despite the urge to do so, there is no need to “warn” guests that you won’t be serving meat or dairy at your dinner party. Good food is good food. For diner parties, you can forgo processed fake meats and instead focus more on whole foods and tasty sauces to blow your guests away. Try classic party recipes that feature grains and veggies so your guests are already used to the flavor profile of the dish.
3 Plant-Based Hors d’oeuvres
3 Plant-Based Entrees for your Dinner Party
5 Decadent Plant-Based Desserts
Trust me - when you serve up one of these delicious options, nobody will miss meat or dairy...they’ll be too busy licking their plate clean.
For the plant-based dinner party guest:
If you know the host isn't on the plant-based train, it's best to let them know your dietary preferences well in advance so they can be accommodating without getting stressed out.
In my experience, side dishes are generally plant-based, so tell your host you don’t mind filling up on appetizers and side dishes if they are planning on serving meat as an entrée. This takes the pressure off your host to learn a whole new way of cooking and it doesn’t change the menu for everyone else in attendance.
In the rare case that your host refuses to provide you with any plant-based options, offer to contribute a side dish (that you can eat), pick around the animal products on your plate, and make sure to snack before you leave the house.
Feeling nervous? Repeat this to yourself: You are not an inconvenience; you are taking care of your body, your mind, your health!
If you’re a little more flexible about your plant-based diet, don’t beat yourself up about "cheating" now and then. The term “vegetarian” can be less daunting than “vegan” or “plant-based” and it gives the host a little more wiggle room.
Going out to eat on a plant-based diet
Something as simple as picking a restaurant can suddenly feel daunting when you're new to plant-based, especially if you're going out to eat with non-vegan friends.
1. Picking the restaurant
If you’re dining with a flexible crew, target restaurants that serve Central and South American, Asian, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and African cuisine. Many of these restaurants offer an entire vegetarian section right on the menu. Avoid American (especially southern), French, American Italian (especially if you’re GF), and German restaurants unless you have seen a menu or you might end up eating salad for dinner.
2. Do your research
If your crew is not so flexible, check out the menu online first. Don’t forget to skim the side dishes. I have created many meals by stitching together appetizers and side dishes.
If the restaurant does not have a menu online, call ahead and ask if they have any vegetarian or vegan options (I find that not everyone understands the term “plant-based"). If they do not, ask if their kitchen can accommodate your dietary needs.
3. Know your subs
Substitutions are your new best friend when it comes to dining out with a plant-based diet. Swap out cheese for avocado on a sandwich or salad. Ask for a portobello mushroom instead of a beef patty on your burger. Substitute a baked potato for a chicken breast on a chicken platter. Try for mushrooms instead of meatballs on a pasta dish. Request tofu instead of eggs in a breakfast hash or scramble. These 11 plant-based swaps will come in handy when out and about.
4. Just ask!
If all else fails, ask the chef to throw together a veggie dish of their choosing. Specify your dietary restrictions and tell them to use creative liberty. If they’re not too busy, chefs may even enjoy creating a meal from scratch. Just remember to say please and thank you -- and be nice to your server :)
Navigating Dinner Conversation
As you're probably finding out since making the plant-based switch, food is a touchy subject for a lot of folks. And navigating conversation around the dinner table can be tricky when you're dining with folks who don't follow the same lifestyle as you. Luckily, we've got some pro tips to help you keep things pleasant so you can enjoy the party.
1. Be respectful of where others are at
Do not meat shame your friends at the dinner table. Just like you have chosen to not eat animal products, they have chosen to do so. If they ask you questions about your dietary choices, avoid topics like animal welfare, factory farming, minimum e-coli quantities in meat, slaughterhouses….you get the gist. There is a time and a place for those discussions, but it is not while your friend or family member is chewing on a pork chop.
2. Share your positive experience
That being said, don’t feel the need to shelter your lifestyle from others. Have discussions, feel empowered, and keep an open mind. When in doubt, talk about how a plant-based diet has changed your life.
3. Try not to let unsupportive folks get you down
Again, food is a hot topic for many. What and how we eat (or don't eat) can feel deeply personal for some folks. And if no one in your circle of friends and family is eating a plant-based diet, you may receive a certain amount of resistance, but keep on doing you. Unsupportive family members and friends can be a drag but just remember: your body, your wallet, and the planet will be thankful for the choice you have made.
- Don't invite shame to the dinner table! Your choice matters.
- If you're attending a party, lend your host a helping hand.
- If you're the host, remember that there are plenty of delicious plant-based foods out there, so share your favorite recipe with friends and family!
- Eating out can be difficult, but it's very doable. Stick to side dishes, and don't be hesitant to tell your waiter about your dietary preferences.
- Most of all, keep doing you!
Time to throw your first plant-based party!
Don't have time to make a crowd-pleasing vegan dish? We've got you! Order MamaSezz Millie's Chili today and serve it in a bowl, over chips, or stuffed in individual baked potatoes topped guac and scallions! For more suggestions check out our 7 favorite ways to use Millie's Chili.
Caroline is a plant-based chef, recipe designer, and whole food plant-based nutrition educator, with a Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies.