How to Thrive as a Vegan in a Carnivore’s World

How to Thrive as a Vegan in a Carnivore’s World

Not to be melodramatic, but we vegans find ourselves in crazy situations that make us feel we might starve to death. It’s ironic because we’ve chosen the world’s healthiest diet.

Vegan food shouldn’t be that hard to find, right? Entire civilizations are sustained by beans and rice. But there are times when a single bean is nowhere to be found.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t handle one more meal of lettuce. That’s why I keep a stash of nuts in my pockets like a squirrel.

At home, I’m a vegan Martha Stewart. I’ve got all my grains neatly stored in glass containers. There’s fresh veggies in the fridge, a fruit bowl on the counter, and beans cooking on the stove. Ah, vegan heaven.

But when I step outside into the jungle, all hell can break loose. At these times, you’ll need to discover your primal, food-foraging instincts.

Times are better than they used to be. Vegan restaurants are increasingly popular. Most other restaurants have at least one vegetarian selection on the menu that can be made vegan if you ask. And every grocery store is stocked with things like soy milk and quinoa that never existed when I was a kid.

We vegans are hungry for delicious, healthy food. So fear not. The future is looking bright.

But there are still a few exceptions that make for some, um, interesting experiences.

Dinner Parties

A new friend invited me to her dinner party and I quickly accepted. Then I remembered the host didn’t know that I have a vegan diet.

So here comes the awkward conversation. I hate telling a host what to cook, and I don’t like being a burden. But I had to say something, otherwise it would have seemed awkward to turn down the host’s secret family recipe that has meat in it.

You never know how these conversations will go. Some hosts will proactively ask if you have any dietary restriction. They may know all about veganism and offer to make a wonderful dish.

Or they may be totally clueless, in which case we need to have a biology lesson. No, fish is not a vegetable. And, sorry, cheese is not vegan. At this point, the host asks facetiously if lettuce is acceptable. Now I’m nervous.

Just to be safe, I usually bring a vegan entree to share at the party. I’m happy to be generous and share my fabulous vegan cooking. And this ensures I have something to eat.

Road Trips

There isn’t much vegan fare along the highways of America. If you’re out for a long road trip, you’ll see signs at every exit advertising the most unhealthy fast “food” society has to offer.

How is it that these chains are so special that they get their restaurants listed on signs advertising food at the next exit? Just once, I’d like to see Vegan House of Tofu listed.

This is the only time in my life that I’m excited by a bag of pretzels from a gas station. Now that I look around, I see a granola bar that’s vegan. And I recall someone saying that Oreos are vegan. Excellent, now I’ve got a three-course gourmet meal. From a gas station.

This is ridonculous. I should have prepared for this moment and done my research. We vegans need to research our entire meal plan before leaving the house.

Nowadays, every town has a “House of Tofu.” You just have to venture away from the highway to find it. For researching vegan food options, I rely on HappyCow.net while traveling. It’s smart to do research before hitting the road.

Another solution is to pack a small cooler with your favorite healthy vegan food. Take this with you in the car, and fill it with yummy food and drink. I like to take nuts, fruit, and hummus with carrots for dipping. Get imaginative and fill your cooler with what makes you happy while you’re away from home.

Restaurants

There are two types of restaurants that guarantee trouble for vegans: French and seafood joints. I know to avoid these places, but occasionally I get stuck with a group of friends who think that I’ll do just fine with the house salad.

Scanning the menu, and I find maybe one thing that’s vegetarian: lettuce. My heart starts to pound and I get worried. Will I be able to smile and act like I’m satisfied with lettuce? Or will I just starve to death right here?

Thoughts race through my mind as I’m sitting, wondering, starving. I tell myself to breathe and relax. I know there are people less fortunate than me around the world who don’t have enough to eat either. And I know people go on hunger strikes and live without food for weeks. Maybe I’ll pretend I’m on a hunger strike for world peace.

I find it helpful to view a restaurant’s menu before my visit. If there’s nothing vegan listed, it’s worth a call ahead and asking if a vegan meal can be made. With some advanced notice, I often get a fantastic meal from a chef who goes out of their way to create a special vegan meal.

Vegan-safe restaurant options are assured at Asian, Indian, and Middle Eastern restaurants. There’s always some welcome vegan selections there.

Sometimes I have to ask to make sure a dish is vegan. Hold the cheese, please. Sometimes, I’m outsmarted and the bun for my veggie burger has butter on it. If the vibe is right, just tell the waiter that you’re vegan and let them figure it out.

And don’t we all love restaurants that label the dishes on their menu so we know what’s vegan! I’m increasingly finding restaurants that have a separate vegan menu. They don’t always advertise this fact. I guess you have to be psychic to know it exists and ask for it.

Vegan in Paris
Steven Reichert thriving as a vegan in Paris.

Foreign Travel

A few years back, I visited beautiful Paris. I researched vegetarian spots ahead of my visit, and indeed a few are listed. But of course when I showed up, they were closed for summer vacation. Now what?

As a tourist in a foreign land, I’m tired, starving, and lost. I don’t speak the language. I’m stuck.

After a few days, I ran across a real-live health-food store. Wow, tofu! Soy milk! Peanut butter! That’s surprising; I’ve never seen a peanut in French food.

When the going gets tough, there’s always PB&J. So every day, I made a sandwich and hit the road to see the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower.

In foreign lands, vegans encounter differing reactions when we ask for vegan food. Some cultures think chicken is vegetarian, while others have bountiful offerings of real, plant-based food. Personally, I’m more likely to plan trips to locations that I know have reliable and delicious vegan food.

With a little ingenuity and planning, you CAN survive—and eat more than lettuce.

Resources for Finding Healthy Vegan Food Away From Home

Before you leave on a trip, plan ahead. The Internet is rich with resources for vegan travelers. You’ll find communities of vegans in the most unlikely places with tips on local dining options.

Here are some resources to help you find great food when away from home:

 

© ModernVeganWellness.com

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