Eating Out

In Australia, a whole foods plant based way of eating is virtually unknown. Finding a restaurant that will cook delicious WFPB meals is difficult. Asking for a vegan meal will often result in a meal that is unsuitable for someone following a whole foods plant-based lifestyle. Oil is the ubiquitous ingredient along with salt, and when combined with the current low-carb fad (which often means starchy vegetables or whole grains are missing from the menu) there are limited options – even at a vegan/vegetarian restaurant. Asian cuisine is often your best choice, as they can usually provide rice and you can ask for vegetables to be cooked without oil, or at least with minimal oil.

Most of us eat out for social reasons and so wish to avoid making a fuss in front of friends. If possible phone ahead to the restaurant and discuss your needs with the chef or manager. This way you will know in advance how accommodating they are to your dietary needs. We have prepared a Guide for Chefs to help you discuss this with them (you could try referring them to this guide). If there is any doubt about being served a satisfying meal then a useful strategy is to “pre-load” with a healthy serving of starchy and non-starchy vegetables and/or grains before you go out. This way you won’t be too hungry and can make do with a small serving of vegetables if that is all that is available. Another strategy is to take along emergency snacks such as a baked potato or two in a zip-lock bag and if the setting is appropriate then add it to your plate, or if this is seen as inappropriate for the particular restaurant then wait to eat your snacks elsewhere – outside or on the way home.

Discussing your dietary requirements with restaurant staff:

  • Ask which menu items can be prepared with no or minimal oil. Avoid arguing about the health effects of oil as they are unlikely to believe you. Try saying you are ‘intolerant’ to oil (or that it makes you feel ill, which won’t be far from the truth).
  • Request sauces or dressings to come on the side
  • You still need to use the word ‘vegan’ so they understand the meal must be free of animal foods
  • Use the menu as an ingredients list to help you make suggestions to the chef as to what they can cook for you, as suggested by the Engine 2 Diet team:

At a pizza place get a “toppings salad”.  Ask for a list of all of the toppings, and then create a salad with all of the plant-strong ingredients. Ask for a few big handfuls of spinach (or whatever greens they have) and then load up your salad with things like: mushrooms, tomato, onions, peppers, beans, artichokes (if they are not marinated in oil), sprouts, pineapple and more. Most places have a vinegar you can use, or you can always bring your own dressing.

At a place serving omelets? Ask for an omelet with out the egg! Ask the chef to use water to “fry” up all of the vegetables that they have as filling options. Spinach, mushrooms, potatoes, tomato, onion, pepper. Most omelet stations have salsa and hot sauce!

At an ice-cream place? Get a bowl of fruit with a few walnuts sprinkled on top.When you eat out, sometimes it is all about getting creative. Look at the menu as a list of ingredients!

*It is our dream to have enough people asking for ‘whole-foods plant-based no-oil’ meals that it becomes just another dietary option on the menu.

Mary McDougall presents some great tips for dining out when you must:


WFPB Guides to eating out:

Restaurant directories:

  • Eating out guide – provides links to vegan friendly restaurants in all states of Australia. The ‘Top picks in non-vegan restaurants’ is useful advice for WFPB eaters.
  • Happy Cow: The Healthy Eating Guide – You can search by location for restaurants and health food stores. Regions covered include: USA, Canada, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Bangkok, Brazil, Hong Kong, Singapore, Tokyo

Page created 13 June 2014
Page last updated 27 February 2017