This week’s obstacle: Eating Out
So here’s a scene you might be very familiar with: your friends call and tell to to get dressed – you’re going out for a group dinner!  Super fun, until you realize, “What will I eat?  I don’t want to seem fussy or picky, but I don’t want to be hungry all night either.”  You sit down at the restaurant and open the menu.  Scouring the appetizers, salads and entrees you realize you’ll be eating a side of fries – again.  This repetitive letdown overtime begins to affect your willingness to participate in group activities.
As a vegan, I want to avoid animal food products, but I don’t want to be a hermit.  Integrating a vegan code into everyday life might seem overwhelming if not impossible.  Many of the glaring vegan options are fried foods or plain salads, but the trick is to look past what menus say.  Often times all you have to do is ask for all meats and cheeses to be withheld and voila!  I found myself refusing invites to friends’ BBQs because I thought I would have to satisfy my hunger with chips.  Just the other day I was at Bokampers, a sports bar, for the first time with a group.  They all were ordering burgers and they looked good!  I optimistically checked for a veggie burger option, only to remember not all patties are created equal – some contain non-vegan ingredients such as eggs or whey.  At least they had some great sides I could mix-and-match for a complete meal…and it was tasty, fulfilling and 100% cruelty free.
Lucky us!  This day in age vegan options are better than ever, we just have to know a few tips and tricks:
Check menu online before heading out
If you know the restaurant you’ll be eating at, look to see if they have an online menu, so you can scrutinize in great detail at home and have time to chat with company at the table.  Knowing the top 3 choices before even heading out will give you the advantage to come prepared with questions or alternate requests.
Be upfront with your server
Make sure you let your server know you’re a vegan.  There’s a joke that goes: “An athiest, a vegan and a crossfitter walk into a bar….. I only know because they told everyone within two minutes.”  Funny at first, but this is another example of how people will undermine your cause and enforce the stigma on what they do not understand.  Telling your server or your friends about your dietary restrictions wouldn’t be frowned upon if it were an allergy or a religion-based.  Speak up and make sure what’s placed in front of you doesn’t infringe upon your own moral code.  Bringing us to the next tip.
Know about the hidden non-vegan items
Some seemingly vegan-friendly foods have secret ingredients such as milk, eggs and even fish.  Did you know that many breads contain milk or whey products?  Also, some noodles and “veggie” patties are made with eggs.  This might seem obvious, but make sure that favorite vegetable soup of yours doesn’t have any chicken or beef broth added to the base.  Want a Bloody Mary? Sure!  Well, hold the Worcestershire sauce as it contains anchovies.  Many asian sauces contain undetectable fish sauce too, so keep this in mind when the next time you’re ordering Pad Thai.
Don’t be afraid to ask for a custom meal
Many times the head chef in the kitchen would be happy to make something vegan just for you.  If the “vegetarian” section is riddled with cheese items, but they would seem otherwise blah without said cheese, ask if the chef would be willing to create something.  What’s the worst that could happen, they say no and you order a salad instead?
The important thing to remember is no one is keeping track of your flubs, we’re all in this together.  Veganism is a journey, go at your own pace and try to not be discouraged.  Remember the bigger picture 🙂
Add your eating-out-vegan hacks in the comments!