There’s only been one roadblock in my own vegan journey: eating out. Although I know where to go, what places to avoid, and what to order from most local places (thanks Google and the iOS app store for giving me helpful apps), it’s difficult to not feel bad when I’m on a date with my boyfriend, Dane.
Or, you know, going out to eat with people who aren’t vegan in general, really.
The reason why is because I know what I can and can’t eat, and I know where I can eat a reasonably hardy meal without being reduced to a green side salad and a plain baked potato with nothing on it (looking at you Wendy’s). But explaining this to people gives them glazed over looks. And it reduces where they can go out to eat with me.
Which makes it understandable that when they want to go somewhere particularly carnivore friendly, they shouldn’t invite me, right? Yeah! Because why would you invite the vegan who literally can’t order anything on the menu?
This situation was brought up recently.
Dane’s Work Event
So Dane has an upcoming dinner party at a restaurant with his higher ups and coworkers. It’s coming up next week, and of course, Dane asked if I wanted to tag along. Upon being told it was OK for me to go, I checked out the menu of the place.
Well, without mentioning the place, it’s an Italian mess of cream pasta, all pasta is made using eggs, and there’s plenty of fish and chicken and veal, etc. There is literally one thing I can order on the entire menu: the bruschetta, which is three small pieces of toasted bread with tomatoes, onions and parsley on top, all for $10. Oh, and I still have to ask them to hold the cheese! Great.
So instead of attending and watching everyone else eat, I’m staying home with the cat and a healthy vegan dinner, all made by yours truly. But who knows, I might order takeout that night just so I don’t feel deprived!
So, What Is A Vegan to Do?
This got me thinking of Dane and I’s dynamic. He’s not vegan, and he never will be, a reality which I have no problem accepting. I care about his happiness and respect him as a person enough to know that he’s his own man and can make his own choices. If he wants to ever become a vegan, by some miracle, I’ll help anyway I can, but I won’t love him any less if it never happens.
No, what I care about is that he make enough healthy choices to outweigh the bad. For instance, Dane has a few weaknesses:
- Candy (more of sweet tooth than me)
- Junk food/fast food
- Big portions
- Leading a pretty sedentary lifestyle (office job and gaming every night means a lot of sitting down)
- He doesn’t like the idea of doing anything that feels restricting, like setting a daily step goal, or blatantly removing specific things out of his diet
These are all things that he needs to solve for himself, I can’t help someone who doesn’t want to necessarily be helped battle these issues. What I can do is try to meet in the middle, a place where he gets to be himself, I get to be myself, and we each meet a happy point.
A good way to illustrate this is the time when he found out that Panda Express is 100% NOT VEGAN FRIENDLY. Nope, not even the rice. Everything is cooked in chicken broth.
Shame, because it was kind of our go-to spot every week on our way home from grocery shopping. We’d quickly stop in, order, take the food home and eat after we put groceries away. This helped, since the days we go grocery shopping tend to be busier and we don’t get home until after 7pm. It sucks having to cook dinner that late, when all I want to do is relax for a few hours before going to sleep.
Our compromise was to say no to Panda Express. He gets to go there whenever he’s on lunch break at work, so I’m not there. Instead, on grocery shopping nights, we go to places where there’s more vegan options, like Panera or this one local Chinese food spot that surprisingly has vegan options, like imitation orange chicken.
My way of making dating a non-vegan easy for me is to just not feel bad when saying “I can’t eat there.” It also helps to plan my meal ahead of time, so I know where we could ideally go, and provide options.
Here’s a list of helpful stuff:
- Ask them what they’re in the mood for. Agree on this mood, something that works for both of you. Maybe both of you could go for Chinese food, or Mediterranean. Maybe just classic American.
- Research your favorite places that are local and meet this criteria. Google is a well of information, PETA has tons of articles on dining as a vegan, and there’s plenty of helpful apps that can determine what you can order.
- Once you have an idea of where you’d like to eat, ask the person. If they’re not up for that restaurant, look at another one. You’d be surprised how many restaurants are accommodating.
- Keep doing this until you both agree on a place!
And don’t feel bad about any of this. At first, I felt bad telling Dane I couldn’t go to certain restaurants. But over time, I learned that he’s not upset about it at all. He respects my choice, even if he doesn’t completely understand it. He respects me as a person enough to know that I’ve made a firm choice that I am sticking to. As such, when I say I can’t eat somewhere specific, he gets it and moves on. So, all you vegans that feel bad, stop it! You’re not depriving your partner or your friend of anything. They can get all the food they want to get whenever you’re not hanging out.
Is There Anything Non-Vegans Can Do?
If you happen to not be a vegan, but are planning on going out to dinner with someone who is, and you’re reading this as a helpful guide, you’re in luck. First, you’re clearly a nice person, and every vegan in the world is probably applauding you right now for being considerate enough to read something to make the process simple.
Second of all, don’t sweat it. It’s not like we vegans can’t eat anything. Chances are there’s something tasty you’d both be able to eat. To get a better sense, the following list is a collection of places that are either fully vegan, or that have vegan options:
- BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse
- Dairy Queen (oh, the irony)
- Hard Times Cafe (THIS WAS A SURPRISE FOR ME)
- Jack in the Box
- Johnny Rockets
- Moe’s Southwest Grill
- P.F. Chang’s (probably the best place for vegans to eat other than actual 100% vegan restaurants)
And that’s just ten examples.
The point is, it’s not that difficult, it just requires a simple Google search. If you’re considering a specific place, Google it to see if it’s vegan. If you’re unsure of what they’d be interested in, just ask them point blank “like hey, what would you like to eat? I think I need a little guidance.” We don’t mind helping you pick a place, honestly. And you might learn a thing or two in the process!
Finally, don’t be a dick. It’s easy to just… write someone off as crazy or extremist, or to tempt them with stuff that they have decided they never want to eat again. But don’t do it because it’s a dick move. Don’t be that person. Be the nice person who is accommodating and you’ll get to hang with someone who is probably pretty awesome.
Now, if you really want to eat terrible food, like bacon loaded fries and the most appalling mess of a burger known to mankind, go right ahead! Do it, but don’t call this person to join you. Go alone, or call up friends that are into that sort of thing. Just like you probably wouldn’t call up your art gallery running friend to a party where all you do is light paintings on fire, you shouldn’t call the vegan to attend a meat-eating party where they can’t order any of the food. Practice some sensibility.
Oh, and when they say “sorry, I can’t eat there,” don’t bully them into eating there! Just accept it and make a mental note to go eat there whenever you’re not hanging out with your vegan friend 🙂
Do you know a vegan? Are you a vegan? Have you ever been in a situation where you have to balance two different lifestyles/eating habits? How did it go for you? Let me know in the comments below! Oh, and ask questions!
Writer. Marketer. Vegan.