How to survive your first meal out as a vegan









When you first turn vegan, the thought of eating at a restaurant amongst friends can be daunting. Although most restaurants these days can be accommodating, it's hard to deny that there is still a slight stigma surrounding a plant-based diet and it's something that those transitioning to a vegan diet can find difficult. However, eating out as a vegan is far less harder than it used to be. Gone are the days where you would be served a bowl of lettuce and nothing else, vegan food is now exciting and expanding amongst the culinary scene. For what feels like the first time, restauranteurs are becoming educated on the nutritional benefits of eating plant-based and are now adapting to an ever-growing clientele. In fact, according to a recent article by The Guardian, there are now over half a million vegans in the UK. Although veganism is pretty new to me, I have been vegetarian for over thirteen years and have had my fair share of snide comments when bringing up the 'v' word in restaurants and I cannot count on my hands how many times I've had to put up with a cheese-based meal when I'm lactose-intolerant due to the fact that it was the only vegetarian option on the entire menu, only to feel poorly later on. Since going vegan,  I've actually found eating out even easier. More restaurants are taking veganism seriously a) because it is now such a growing trend, possibly even overtaking vegetarianism, b) vegans are known for being stereotypically feisty and if you serve them the wrong products, you will know about it.

Drawing on my experience over the last few months of being vegan, I've put together a guide on how to survive your first meal out as a vegan, to show you it is achievable and not as much as an inconvenience as you may have thought it would be.

Research

The key to having a successful vegan meal out is to research your area, read reviews and hunt out all the venues that may be vegan-friendly. Apps like Happy Cow are a great starting point for any new vegan as they list vegan venues, however with additional research, I've been able to
discover some local restaurants that are not listed, so don't feel that you have to rely heavily on these.

Ring ahead

If you're looking to book a meal at a restaurant and you're unsure if they will cater for your dietary requests, pick up the telephone. Most restaurants are accommodating, especially if they are a higher end eaterie who makes all their meals from scratch.

If in doubt, stick to the high street

The high street these days has a lot to offer vegans from Turtle Bay for Caribbean food to Wagamama for Asian, Pizza Express if you're craving vegan pizza to Wetherspoons if you're on a budget and looking for traditional English grub. Many of these places are great if you're in a hurry or if you are feeling spontaneous and don't want to commit to a booking.

Always double check

To some restaurants and restaurant staff, veganism is rather new so you may have to double check that they understand the term 'vegan' and what it entails. Double checking before you place your order will give you piece of mind for when it does arrive and give clarity to the ones serving you - especially with items such as honey which a lot of people presume are vegan, but they're not.

Don't be afraid to give recommendations

If you see an item on the menu that could potentially be turned vegan, don't be afraid to ask the restaurant if they can improvise. Sometimes they are grateful for the advice.

Improvise with sides

Although side dishes are usually an afterthought, many of these can really easily be turned vegan and can be a saviour if there isn't any vegan options on the menu.  Get creative with your sides by jazzing up a side salad and asking what fresh produce they have available.

Relax

Eating out as a vegan isn't as bad as it used to be, so relax and try to enjoy yourself. The more anxious you become, the less willing you will be to eat out in future and discover all the hidden gems that are available to you.

Have you ever had a vegan meal at a restaurant?
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