Vegan Tips: Eating Out and Dining at Friend’s or Relative’s

by in Vegan 25/03/2014

There are many challenges to adapting a vegan lifestyle. Some of them will be easier to overcome than others. For example, you may have an easy time dealing with the opinions of meat eaters but a tricky time finding foods that are vegan friendly. Let’s take a look at some of the more common challenges and tips to help you maneuver through them.
toy army men garding a salad

Social Expectations

We live in a meat eating society. When you tell people you’re vegan you’re saying that you put animal welfare before taste. Upon hearing that you’re vegan some meat eaters may feel insecure or defensive because their desire to eat meat might be viewed as an act of selfishness. They may look for ways to justify themselves by criticizing you. There are a couple basic ways to approach this.

First, don’t argue or judge others. You probably don’t like being judged so it’s self-righteous to do it to others. And arguing rarely helps people understand your choice, if anything it puts people off and is the biggest reason meat eaters automatically reject vegans. Realize that you too once ate meat without giving it much thought, but now have reached a higher level of consciousness when it comes to animals. You are enjoying vitality, wellness and inner peace that others are missing out on.

Second, simply explain why you made the choice to live a vegan lifestyle. Now here’s the key that I have found to end any argument: make sure you mention that you feel better and are much happier now. Who can argue with anything that makes you happy? The pursuit of happiness was written into the U.S. Declaration of Independence, it’s as American as apple pie!

No Vegan Friendly Substitutes

There are some areas where you’ll be challenged to find a true vegan option. This happens often at restaurants where meat is the only thing on the menu. The good news is that as vegan awareness increases, more and more restaurants are offering vegan menu items. Consider making a list of restaurants that do offer vegan menu items and steering friends and family toward those establishments.

Use a mobile like Foursquare which has crowd-sourced information on restaurants in your areas or any place you visit. This is my main method of discovering new places to eat.

When at the supermarket, the key to finding vegan friendly substitutes is to learn to read labels. For example, many soy based foods like yogurt and cheese can still contain dairy. Some condiments and sauces have casein in them as well, which is a protein from cow’s milk.

When invited for dinner to a friend’s house let them know right away about your vegan lifestyle Most will make some effort to accommodate your diet. Thank them for their consideration and make it easier on them by offering to bring something.

Family can be much more challenging, especially around the holidays. I’ve had family members upset with me because I wouldn’t eat what they prepared. Even though I told everyone ahead of time I wasn’t going to eat anything with meat in it, it was still a problem when we sat down to eat. Sometimes there is no easy way to deal with a relative that doesn’t understand your convictions.

Don’t get angry if this happens to you. Be grateful that you can be together with your relatives and cherish your time together. Remind yourself that as the years go one, everyone gets older, and someday not everyone sitting around the table will be there. Tell your family that you mean no disrespect and value the time spend together and seeing everyone happy much more than the food.

Taste Expectations

While vegan foods are delicious, there are not going to be equivalent vegan options for some foods you may have enjoyed in the past. For example, expecting a bean burger to taste like a beef hamburger is unrealistic. You’ll be better able to adapt if you are able to let go of preconceptions about what something is supposed to taste like. A grilled portobello burger may not taste like a hamburger, but it can much more delicious!

The good news is that dishes that derive flavor from sauces and gravies, such as Italian spaghetti or Indian curries, taste just the same if you use meat or a meat substitute. There is no shortage of recipes that work very well with meat substitutes.

Meal Planning and Whole Nutrition

This tip is easy to forget. To be healthy it’s important to meal plan and to make sure you’re getting enough vegetables and fiber. Many vegans inadvertently fall into a starchy carbohydrate habit because bread and muffins are convenient and sometimes the only option available. Plan ahead when you think you might be in a situation where it may be difficult to find healthy choices. For example, if you’re going on a road trip driving though places you’re unfamiliar with, pack some healthy snacks, such as fruit, nuts and vegetable sticks, in case you get hungry and cannot find anything healthy to eat.


Cravings can happen when you first transition to a vegan lifestyle. Many people who consume a lot of dairy find that they really miss the taste and the creaminess of dairy. Try non-dairy desserts in your supermarket’s freezer. Coconut milk based products are quite creamy and have a similar texture. Avocados are also a lovely treat because they’re high in fat like dairy and they have a creamy texture when they’re mashed. If you’re craving a hamburger, try a portobello mushroom burger with the works, lettuce, tomato, onion and more.

Specific food cravings often have to do with hunger in general and will go away once you eat. If you find a particular meat craving overwhelming, have a quick snack then plan your next meal. With your hunger at bay for the moment, think about one of your favorite vegan dishes and plan to have that for your next meal. I’ve found that this usually eliminates my craving.


Living a vegan lifestyle is rewarding and a life change that you’ll be happy you made. Remember your reasons for changing the way you eat: you’re living a much healthier lifestyle; you’re improving the environment and you’re saving millions of animals from cruelty.
Chicken wearing vegan sign.
You’re also far from being alone in these challenges. You are part of a large and vibrant community of vegans around the world. Join a vegan club in your areas and reach out to other vegan online. You’ll find a wealth of tips, recipes, fun and encouragement.


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