Sunday, January 22, 2012

Plant Based Diets Demystified Part 3 - Eating Out

Plant Based Diet Myth 3 ~ You can't eat out anywhere, or go out with friends.

Eating out is a social behavior. We love to go out for drinks and apps with family and friends, we love to see people, dinner and a movie is our favorite date. After working for years in restaurants, I believe it goes to our core feelings to be cared for. And not doing dishes is great! Besides that, we're busy people. There are kids to pick up, lessons, errands, and so on that need to be done. Sometimes they're during our mealtimes. We can either starve, or we can eat out.

Contrary to popular belief, there is generally SOMETHING you can eat at a restaurant. There are a few places where the pickings are slim, though generally those are places we shouldn't be eating at those anyway.

The first thing to remember is to choose restaurants that prepare most of the foods in house, as opposed to from frozen. One of the worst ones for preparing from frozen is Applebees. There are still options there (I normally get either a baked potato, or an Asian salad, no dressing no chicken). If the food is frozen and premixed in a restaurant there are very few ways to change what they have. It doesn't mean the restaurant is out, it just means you need to be more creative in what you order there!

Restaurants that prepare from fresh are a whole different story. My favorite for this is California Pizza Kitchen. I can change almost any item to fit my diet. They have a ton of foods that don't have meat, and then it's simply removing cheese. By the way, cheeseless pizza is AWESOME!

My other favorite hint for eating out is go ethnic. I have no problems with Chinese restaurants subbing tofu for meat in anything I want, or just doing a bunch of veggies. Mexican restaurants are great for veggie fajitas. Indian and Thai food also lends itself well to Plant Based eating. The fact that these typically aren't chain restaurants and help the local economy is also an added plus. It's a sad fact that 'American' food is the hardest to Plant base, since we generally rely on steak, cheese, and fat to make everything taste good instead of letting the veggies shine through.

There are also Vegan and Veggie based restaurants around. Trying a new restaurant for a change can be a lot of fun, and may make some new favorites, even among your non-plant based friends. It's a great opportunity to introduce people to different foods.

And remember, no matter what, you can always ask for a salad with every veggie they have and a balsamic dressing on the side. If the server has issues with what you can have, ask to speak to a manager. Restaurants want to make you happy, and most people who work there really want to feed you. That's why they're in the industry. They'll do whatever they can to make sure you leave full, and happy. Even bars will generally have celery and carrot sticks. If they don't, keep a snack in your pocket. I like Clif bars, or Larabars for emergency situations.

My biggest caution to eating out is that we typically have tastes associated with specific restaurants that at least first will bring out cravings. And the fact that the food is inevitably HIGH in fat, and sodium. You're better off to limit it to a special treat whenever possible. There is a great app for Iphones, and Androids called Using that app, you can instantly see the calorie, sodium, and fat for a lot of foods at restaurants. You will be shocked when you realize how many calories are in some foods at restaurants.

By preparing yourself with knowledge of menus and nutrition, you'll be able to make healthier choices that keep you on track with a plant based diet and still allow you the fun of eating out with friends.

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