Eating Out with Others

You’re vegan now, but do you dread eating out with others at restaurants, social pot-lucks or office parties?

Are you scared to tell friends, family or acquaintances about your vegan diet?

I am too, sometimes.

Vegans and folks transitioning to the vegan diet want to know what to do.

Should they accept or decline invitations.

But there is no need to say “no” to social gatherings. You’re not a miscreant or hermit!

You’re just VEGAN!

It’s like saying you have brown hair or blue eyes.

What do you say to non-vegans who ask you to eat out with them? What do you eat???

I know what you’re thinking. The first time you hear the invitation spoken from their lips you begin to wonder . . .

. . . if there will be anything for you to eat?

. . . If not, will people ask you WHY you’re not eating?

If they do ask, then you’ll have to go into long detail about why you’re not eating.

. . . Then they won’t know anything about the vegan diet.

So, the whole evening you’ll be educating your friends about YOUR DIET, when all you really wanted to do was talk to “Rita” about her new job or listen to the incredible details of “Karen’s” recent trip to Hawaii.

You don’t want to talk about your diet!!!!

I understand completely!

So, I tell my vegan friends and those transitioning to the diet not to worry.

All you do is accept the invitation and heed the advice below.

Attending A Social Pot-Luck . . .

We’ve all been invited to pot-lucks of all kinds – at church, the office, a friend’s house – with our running group.

The great thing about them is you can bring your own food to eat.

What?

What do I mean???

Well, since it is a potluck, you can easily bring your own vegan fare – one everyone can enjoy too. A good salad is perfect for such occasions.

All I do is buy organic spring mix, add a few julienne carrots, quartered tomatoes, maybe a few cucumber slices. Then I make my very own light dressing.

(For a LARGE bowl of salad with at least 8 -12 cups of lettuce, I use 1 whole lime or lemon with ¼ cup of olive oil and a pinch of salt for a “light” citrus dressing. It’s refreshing, and people love it.)

Have you thought about this . . .

. . . Eating out at potlucks can conceal your veganism.

WHAT? How is that so???

Most people in line don’t know who brought what – unless it’s a small gathering of really close family or friends.

Guests are too focused on loading up their own plates to busy themselves with looking at yours.

You can scoop vittles from the vegan appearing veggie dishes and help yourself to the salad you brought to eat.

If nothing but the salad you brought is vegan, you can at least eat a plate of something!

A few people like to make comments about their favorite dishes or ask what you made.

No problem.

Be honest and just tell them – not about your vegan life, ABOUT YOUR SALAD.

If they pressure you into eating something that isn’t vegan, you can simply say you’re not in the mood to try (name the food here).

I’m not saying lie, but I’m saying don’t open the door so you feel like the only option is to lie or go into some long drawn out story about your vegan life.

Many times I’ll just say I’m not very hungry, which is true.

I’m NOT hungry for THAT non-vegan food! :-)

Can you still invite non-vegans to eat out at your house?

Sure you can.

People eat at my house all the time – and I refuse to physically make anything with meat.

Most don’t know just how adamant I am about it, unless they notice the “Meat-Free Zone” and “Thank You for Not Eating Me” refrigerator magnets.

When you have non-vegan people over for dinner though, you have to keep in mind what they like to eat.

At the beginning of my vegan journey, none of my family and friends knew what to do with me. I was truly an alien.

They were scared to ask me over to eat with them, because they didn’t know what to fix me for dinner.

But, they were even more uncertain about eating out at my vegan house.

The Smart Vegetarian has some great menu ideas and tips for meals you can serve to non-vegans. Their suggestions will steer you in the right direction for you next formal dinner.

You'll be eating out and having others dine in in no time!

Although I physically don’t make anything with animal products at home, that doesn’t mean my house is entirely free of organic, grass-fed meat.

While my husband is vegan, every once and a while he likes to have some non-vegan food. (Yes, you could say he’s a flexitarian.)

But, I can keep him away from those foods by creating a vegan version of it and/or having enough of my vegan food to share with him.

For example, one Christmas I special ordered an organic feast for my husband and our family guests – which included some foods with cheese. One was a Mexican tamale casserole - vegetarian but certainly not vegan.

However, I also bought a frozen vegan “turkey” loaf covered in an amazing vegan puff pastry for me.

That year I ended up feeling sick on Christmas and my husband warmed all the food, including my vegan delicacies. (Good thing I had the food catered!)

While I lay in bed, the guests ended up eating MORE of my vegan food than the cheesy vegetarian dishes!

I couldn’t believe it.

The point I’m trying to make is vegan food ROCKS!

It is absolutely delicious, and it is so because we use real, organic food and spices full of flavor.

Most SAD (Standard American Diet) food is covered with oily, animal meat or dairy sauces that hide the real essence.

That’s why people love organic, vegan food.

Some folks ask me what I serve most to my guests.

The answer: Spaghetti.

I’m a huge fan of serving vegan spaghetti to my guests.

May be it’s from watching my grandmother make her Italian spaghetti for almost every family gathering. Hers was the best, of course! I loved eating out at her house.

To recreate that memory as an adult, I make vegan spaghetti. It’s easy – whether you put vegan “meat” balls in it or not. My vegan spaghetti has pleased every non-vegan I’ve served.

No one has ever questioned the ingredients. However, if guests discover my meatballs are meatless, they are happily shocked.

When you veganize a non-vegan's favorite food, it shows thoughtfulness.

You created a dish for both of you to consume together.

Think of how it feels when someone close to you remembers what you like.

It makes you feel important, right?

That’s what you want to do for non-vegan people too.

Veganize your guests’ favorite dishes, and you’ll receive nothing but compliments and recipe requests.

They'll be eating out at your house every night!

Eating Out at Others’ Homes

Of course, non-vegan people are just as scared to go to your house to eat as they are about having you over for a meal at their place.

While I try to console and explain they don’t need to do anything special, most of my family and friends want to know specifics about what to serve me.

You see, people want to do things to make others happy. It’s what good, normal people live for.

So when I'm eating out at a friend's place, I tell them to just have a few vegetables, a simple salad or fruit, and I’ll be the happiest camper in the camp ground!

Most people laugh at the simplicity of my answer, but they never fail to impress me with their veggies and fruity cuisine.

In fact, the other guests eat and enjoy it too!

In the end, the host has a successful dinner that makes everyone happy.

He or she also realizes the value of eating those veggies – the healthfulness of it.

Eating out with others can be just as healthful as eating in your own home.

When I worked in an office, we rarely had fruit or veggie trays and dishes at our holiday potluck lunch gatherings.

However, once those around me realized I was vegetarian, my co-workers started bringing more fruit and veggie dishes. It was great.

Of course, meat dishes were still present, but everyone loved the fruit and veggies too. More people brought them to share.

Eating Out at A Restaurant . . . Can I still do so with family and friends?

The answer is yes.

Yes, you most certainly can enjoy eating out where ever and with whomever you choose.

Many people ask me how that is possible. They ask what I do when I’m eating out at a restaurant.

Of course, the most popular question I'm asked is “What on Earth do you eat there?” and "Do you or can you even eat there?"

Again, the answer is yes.

Yes, as a vegan I can eat with them.

I tell the curious inquisitors that I do the same thing anyone else would when they are eating out. . .

I look at the menu (or the table if I’m at a place that is pre-plated or buffet style) and see what “sounds good” to me.

Of course, I won’t think a juicy, fleshy animal on a stick is tasty.

And, that’s okay.

Furthermore, it’s also okay if my host, family and friends do.

The challenging issue some ethical eaters (new or otherwise) experience is eating out with people who don’t know or realize that he or she is a strict vegetarian – vegan, especially if they have a good hunch those people won’t be supportive of their dietary needs and beliefs.

First of all, in those situations it’s hard to even want to go. Dealing with those issues make staying home to clean a bathroom more pleasant and stress-free.

But, avoiding is not always the best way to handle a situation. (Well, may be for some. . .)

It’s better to be honest and ask if it is okay to patronize an establishment that serves salads and other vegetables dishes than to lie.

Eating out at Asian – particularly Thai – restaurants is my favorite.

I can get just about anything they serve vegan.

I’m particularly fond of raw spring rolls with tofu and that awesome peanut/coconut or sweet and sour sauce.

My meat eating friends love Thai places too. They can order items containing their preferred meat.

I’ve found great vegetarian restaurants across the U.S. that serve food everyone – vegans and non-vegans alike – can enjoy.

The next time someone says, “Hey, let’s go to lunch!” . . . Go!.

Enjoy your vegan fair – even if it means eating a salad with a side of broccoli.

Remember it’s not about the food.

It’s about having a life and sharing part of it with others while eating a meal.



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