We’re gearing up for the National Engine 2 Challenge! From now through the end of the challenge we will be posting several questions from you about what gets in your way of being plant-strong. Today we answer a question from Bonnie:
Have been plant strong since April 10,2013 – love it and never going back! The biggest issue for me is going out to eat – oil is in EVERYTHING!
Eating out can certainly be stressful, especially when you are first navigating the plant-strong life for the first time. But, fear not! Our entire team are eating out ninjas! We’ve got it down pat, and today, Rip is sharing his fail-proof method for eating out.
Here are some of my tips for staying fabulously plant- strong — no matter where you are. You can remember these with the acronym F.A.B.:
Figure out what you can eat. Use the menu as a list of ingredients. A 100% plant-strong meal might not be available, but maybe the restaurant uses some ingredients in other meals that are completely plant-strong. For instance, you might notice steamed vegetables and potatoes in one dish, and black beans in another. Well, the three together make for a great plant-strong plate! Sometimes it is helpful to call ahead. You’d be surprised how many chefs will rise to the occasion and love making you a plant-strong meal! They may even come out to your table and shake your hand to let you know how much they enjoyed preparing your dish.
Ask for what you want. Ask your waiter or waitress if a dish can be prepared with veggie broth instead of oil. Ask if they have whole grain options. I’ve been told that the chain of restaurants, Pei Wei, is very accommodating with requests for plant-strong meals. You can ask for almost any dish to be made with brown rice and to have steamed vegetables and tofu instead of the meat. And get this: they will cook your meal using vegetable stock instead of oil! They call it “stock-velveted.” Be sure to request vegetable stock or even water. Incidentally, their parent restaurant, PF Chang’s will do the same thing.
Bring your own food. I always pack a solid amount of food to take with me whenever I travel so that I have options on the plane or afterward when renting a car, driving to my next destination, etc. You can pack things like the Rip’s Big Bowl or oatmeal and raisins for a quick breakfast in a hotel room, soups, and there is even vacuumed sealed cooked brown rice available for a quick re-heat. You can make plant-strong burritos or sandwiches for the plane or road trips as well.
More Tips on Eating Out
Check out happycow.net. The site will give you a list of all the vegan or vegetarian friendly restaurants near you.
There are a bunch of great smart phone apps that will help you locate the nearest veg-friendly restaurant near you! Check out: Vegan Steven, iVegetarian, Veg Out, Veggie Passport (which is great if you are traveling to another country!), and Vegan Express that will help you identify veg-friendly menu items in chain restaurants.
Tips for Other Restaurants
Asian restaurants: Ask for brown rice, steamed vegetables, steamed edamame, or tofu, hold the extra sauces, and use low sodium soy sauce sparingly. Another good option is brown rice vegetable sushi.
Italian: Go for whole grain pasta, tomato sauce (with no cheese added), and ask them to throw in as many grilled/steamed vegetables as they can find!
Steak House/American: Believe it or not, you can get a great meal at a steak house. Potatoes, sweet potatoes, and lots of steamed vegetables are options you can almost always find. You can also ask for a huge salad! Ask your waiter for a salad with every fresh vegetable they have on hand (and even fruit), with a side of balsamic vinegar (or sneak in your own plant-strong dressing).
Breakfast spots: Ask for oatmeal made with non-dairy milk or water, fruit, and some nuts. You can also ask if they have whole grain bread, a little nut butter, and fruit.
Coffee shops: Hot herbal tea is always a great option. Most coffee shops carry non-dairy milk now as well instead of using dairy creamer. If you are having a snack, go for something like oatmeal. You can also get a little dried fruit and nuts at many places. I’m a frequent flyer for the Starbuck’s oatmeal in almost all airports.
Gas stations: If you are on the road, you can find fruit at most convenience stores, and sometimes whole grain pretzels or unsalted nuts as well.
Grocery stores: Don’t forget local grocery stores! You can get items like oil-free hummus, whole grain crackers or bread, cut up and washed vegetables/fruit, cans of low sodium beans (just be sure to pick up a cheap can-opener). You can even buy potatoes and frozen vegetables to microwave later in our hotel room. Or, you can make a great trail mix with whole grain cereal, raisins, and a few nuts. Many grocery stores also have salad bars where you can make a great plant-strong meal. Go to wholefoods.com and find the closest Whole Foods Market and look for the Health Starts Here logo in the prepared foods section for oil free, plant-strong options.
The bottom line is that no matter where you are, there are plant-strong options to be found! Plant-Strong Anywhere!