(The following is an excerpt from The “Plan A” Diet book)
Eating Out at Restaurants
Finding restaurants that serve whole food, plant-based fare without added oils can be quite tricky. Most restaurant food contains (or is prepared with) hidden animal products and fats. But with a little awareness and pre-planning, it is possible to stay true to your new lifestyle while eating out. Most restaurant owners and chefs are happy to accommodate your requests, especially when you explain that you follow a special diet for health reasons. Here are some general tips:
• If you know in advance which restaurant you’ll patronize, check the menu online before you arrive. Look for any vegetable-based dishes that can be prepared by steaming or baking.
• Call the restaurant ahead of time to ask the chef for a plant-based, no-added-oil meal. Be very specific with your request to forego any sauces with butter or sour cream being inadvertently added. Don’t be shy about this—restaurants often accommodate allergy and other dietary requests. Chefs sometimes appreciate the challenge!
• If you can’t call ahead, check the menu for a rice, potato, or pasta dish and ask for any animal product to be replaced with whole beans or steamed vegetables. Look at their side dishes. Perhaps they have a baked potato, a side of steamed asparagus, and a garden salad (Note: pack your own fat-free dressing in a small container).
• If you’re lucky enough to live near a Sweet Tomatoes restaurant, you can load up on the best all-you-can-eat salad bar (complete with beans, fat-free dressings, baked potatoes, and at least one vegan soup) for about ten bucks.
• For a sub sandwich shop, order a sub on whole grain bread (if possible) piled high with veggies and mustard or vinegar as a dressing. Many shops offer salads as well as sandwiches.
• Panera Bread can make a Mediterranean sandwich on whole grain bread upon request. Omit the cheese and ask for extra veggies or greens. Side salads are also available.
• Italian restaurants sometimes offer whole wheat pasta with a marinara sauce; request a topper of steamed veggies (tomatoes, mushrooms, onion, eggplant).
• Mexican restaurants may offer taco salads or rice and bean burritos without cheese or sour cream. Ask for whole beans (the refried beans may contain lard). Or create a healthy dish with rice, veggies, whole beans, and salsa, perhaps served in corn tortillas. Be aware that some restaurants use sour cream in the guacamole—ask first.
• Chinese restaurants may be willing to create an oil-free stir fry (using water) that includes tofu, rice, noodles, vegetables, and a black bean or other oil-free sauce. Ask about their miso soup as well. The Chinese restaurant in our neighborhood makes a vegan sushi called Futomaki that is compliant with our diet and delicious.
• Pizza can be ordered without cheese and loaded with veggies. Some places do offer a whole grain crust. Ask about the sauce, though, since some pizza sauces contain dairy.
• In general, look for salads, rice and beans, vegetable soups, baked potatoes, portobello mushroom sandwiches, or healthy side dishes.
Eating at a Friend’s House or a Party
• Depending on the closeness of your relationship, your friend(s) may already know that you’re following a whole food, plant-based diet. If they’re preparing something to accommodate you, that’s great—but don’t expect it. If they’re not aware of your eating plan, casually explain to your friend that you’re committed to a new lifestyle and ask if they’d mind if you brought one or two dishes to share (a crockpot of soup, a pasta dish, and/or a healthy dessert).
Yes, it’s less than ideal that you have to cook before going to a friend’s house for dinner, but it’s better than sabotaging your efforts or compromising your health by eating whatever is served. Refrain from talking about your new diet unless you’re asked, and even then, keep the answers short and positive. Offer to email information to anyone truly interested or follow up with them after the gathering. More information on this topic is covered in “The 12 Barriers to Change” chapter.