Monday, July 20, 2015

Finding Healthy Vegan Options at Chain Restaurants

If you work an office job like I do, you may find yourself out with a group of people minus your well prepared vegan lunch.  Fear not, if you are easy going and open minded, it's pretty easy to find healthy, vegan options at most restaurants.  Now, if you're going to a limited BBQ menu and everything is cooked in bacon grease, then yes, you will probably have a hard time.  Chain restaurants, while not always known for their innovative cuisine and quality, usually have a few "healthy" dishes that can be easily modified.

I was pleasantly surprised recently during a trip to P.F. Chang's.  I hadn't eaten here in years, but I found myself out with my office, and I saw lots of things on the menu that could be great.  I ordered the Buddha's Feast, steamed, with quinoa instead of rice.  It was a huge amount of veggies, and I was happy to have the quinoa option.

This wrap was from Bar Louie, stuffed with veggies, with a side of broccoli.  It's one of my favorite office lunches, and I know I've mentioned it to you all before.  Whether at this restaurant or another, look for veggie wraps and easy ways to modify them to make vegan.

If sushi is an option being thrown around, I always jump at it!  I know I can easily get a delicious lunch.  My go-to order at any sushi restaurant is a seaweed salad and an avocado roll.

If you have Tropical Smoothie in your area, don't forget that you can get anything made with Beyond Meat chicken strips.  They recently tweaked the recipe for their Thai Chicken Salad and wrap, and they're even better than before.  They have tons of vegan smoothie options, too.  I always ask for no sugar, because who needs added sugar in a smoothie??

Mexican restaurants are easy, too, and if you don't eat the entire basket of chips, it can be quite healthy.  Look for black beans that are cooked vegetarian and add them to a simple salad.  I usually go for a fresh made guacamole, too.

I know some vegans balk at ordering a salad that they could make at home at a non-vegan restaurant, but look through the menu and identify things you can throw on to make your lunch hearty.  I always try to throw on black beans and avocado.  It will complete most salads.

Indian restaurants can be a good option, but sometimes it's hit or miss.  Recently, Josh and I drove down to Bryant on a Sunday morning to try out their lunch buffet, only to realize it was really small and all the veggie dishes were made with dairy.  If you go to a large enough one, they'll usually have a few non-dairy vegetarian dishes.  You can always call ahead to ask.

I think the key, especially when dining with coworkers or colleagues, is to be flexible and easy going.  Veganism is still a weird way of eating for most people, so if your non-vegan dining partners see you can order at almost any place, maybe they'll be more likely to give it a try themselves.  This seems to be quite a debate in our community lately, but that's the way I look at it.  I recently caught some flack for posting this video on my facebook feed, but I'm posting it at the end of this because it's truly the way I feel about restaurant dining.  I would love to know your thoughts.

Do you only eat at vegan restaurants?  What are your thoughts on being flexible vs rigid when dining in large groups?  Leave me a comment!


  1. I try to avoid eating out for the most part. But I feel being flexible is the best bet. I recently traveled from PA. to Seattle by car, making lots of stops for food at chain places along the way. I look for the vegetarian option, and ask for no cheese, sour cream etc. I feel like being too frigid feeds some of the negative vegan stereotypes.

    1. I completely agree! That's my strategy as well. Hawaii was so great, because you could sub tofu for eggs or chicken at a lot of places. I can't wait to post about all those meals!


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