9.13.2011

vegan survival guide: eating vegan in any situation

Back during my Earth Balance giveaway, I received a request for a post about how to eat vegan with friends. I mean, you can't take food with you everywhere, right?! (Answer: yes, yes you can!!) Here is what I do for different situations (ten of them!) I've encountered.

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Situation #1: Family Gatherings
This can be hard, especially if your family is largely omnivore with a passion for all things animal products. My dad's side of the family LOVES food loaded with butter, potatoes, and meat. Talk about non-vegan, right? What I do when we go to family events during the holidays is prepare a dish that is vegan friendly and appeals to non-vegans to take with me. For example, at Christmas last year, I took a large bowl of pasta salad and a large bowl of chipotle potato salad. They were both hits! Everyone loves pasta and potatoes, so that can never go wrong. If you don't want to take something with you, talk to your family and request that they serve salad or some steamed vegetables (no butter, please!) with the meal. Your family loves you, so I'm sure they will accommodate your needs. If not, take some wonderful vegan dessert with you and knock their socks off. But take something on the normal side... like caramel apple pie (I totally recommend THIS recipe from Healthy. Happy. Life) or blueberry cobbler. If all else fails, stuff a Larabar in your purse to tide you over until after you're finished socializing.

Situation #2: Dining Out Vegan
This can be another difficult situation. Most restaurants have at least salad on the menu, but who wants to eat a salad whenever you dine out? One way to decided what you can eat is to check out Vegan Eating Out. This website has a load of mainstream restaurant menus, and it tells you what items are vegan friendly. Super easy, and it doesn't even require asking the waitress what's in the food! If the restaurant isn't on the site, go there and see what they have. Most places can omit things from meals or make easy substitutions (oil for butter, for example).

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Situation #3: Your college cafeteria is NOT vegan friendly
Most college campuses probably aren't vegan friendly. Or are they? I'm lucky that Xavier FINALLY became more vegan friendly this year (last year was awful. Hardly any options!), but you may not be so lucky. Look around your cafeteria. Maybe salad is your only option. Most cafeterias will also serve spaghetti with marinara, fries, bagels, fresh fruit and veggies, and hummus. If you don't see anything, contact the head of food services at your college and let them know your situation. They will most likely be more than happy to help you out because they want you to stay at their school so they can profit off of you! I saw a YouTube video once, about a raw vegan college student, who got the school to order her large boxes of fresh fruit each month instead of giving her swipes to get into the school cafeteria. Basically, they used the money for the cafeteria to order her special food. How cool is that?! It's also pretty easy to cook in your dorm room as long as you have a rice steamer (you can make pasta, veggies, soups and stews in that little pot!).

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Situation #4: Your full time job is NOT vegan friendly. And buying lunch every day is expensive!
Most jobs have vending machines. Boring and unhealthy and not vegan! But buying lunch every day can be really expensive too. What to do? Personally, I would pack a lunch every day. It's going to be WAY cheaper in the long run, especially if you pack fresh fruits, vegetables, and hummus. Eat a banana with nut butter or a bowl of granola with almond milk for breakfast, pack a Larabar or some applesauce for a snack, and pack some quinoa salad with a side of carrot sticks and hummus for lunch. Done! You can cook things like quinoa and beans and rice in bulk, and pack them throughout the week. A bag of beans is like, what, $1.50? Not expensive at all and it will last a long time. Other good lunches to pack: salad, pasta salad, stir fry, wraps. If you need something instant, Annie Chung's brand has some great vegan meals you can pack. Dessert? A square of dark chocolate. Yum.

Situation #5: Help! I'm at a steakhouse!
You may be forced to go to a steakhouse with your friends sometimes. It's okay! Order a salad (no cheese - steakhouses loves to put cheese on salads) and a side of steamed veggies without butter! Or a baked potato! Honestly, That's about all I've seen that vegans can eat on the menus of steakhouses so far. Unless you want to go unhealthy, then they have french fries. And onion rings. It's hard to eat vegan here.

Situation #6: Road trips + Avoiding fast food
McDonalds is sickening to even think about eating. And travel can be hard to stay vegan because all the quick places to eat are fast food restaurants. So what do you do? In this case, I say pack a cooler of stuff for the trip. Hummus, carrot and celery sticks, grapes, bananas, trail mix, granola bars, nuts, pre-cooked quinoa, Larabars (I sense a theme in this post... Larabar, anyone?!), and pretzels are all easy to pack and require little to light refrigeration. It's also easy to throw together a few peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. If you need to stop for food, choose the healthiest fast food place you can find. Subway, Qdoba, Currito, Chipotle, and most Indian/Chinese/Thai places are okay. Starbucks even has a new vegan thai noodle bowl thing now. And if you HAVE to eat at McDonalds...it's slim pickings. Apple slices, anyone?
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Situation #7: Airplane food is nasty. And I can't eat peanuts all day, for goodness sake.
Airplane food IS nasty. So I highly recommend eating in the food court before you step on the plane, or sticking some Larabars/granola bars/pretzels in your purse to tide you over until your arrival. Some airports are now offering vegan options in their food courts, so that's awesome. And of course there are vegetarian options for food on the plane itself. But remember... vegetarian doesn't mean vegan!

Situation #8: Amusement parks = expensive food.
And the worst part? A lot of amusement parks don't let you bring food/snacks/water bottles in to the park because they want you to buy their junk food! Sucks, right? Well...I do sneak snacks into the park :) It's easy to hide granola bars in your pocket or wrap a bag or pretzels inside something else to hide it. Want real food? Bring food and have a picnic before entering the amusement park. Drinks are a little bit harder to sneak in. Still do-able if you try wrapping it like the pretzel bag idea, but you may have to buy water inside. But water and finding vegan food are two different things. I'd recommend having a picnic! Bring fresh fruit, nut butter and jelly sandwiches, and lemonade for an easy to prepare and transport picnic!

Situation #9: Campfires
This can actually be really easy. Bring some frozen veggie burgers to grill, pasta salad, grill fresh vegetables (eggplant, portabello mushrooms and corn on the cob are good options), grill pineapple rings brushed with teriyaki sauce or maple syrup for a sweet treat, make vegan smores...vegan camping is really easy! Cut up potatoes and roast them! Delicious. Simple seasoning is all you need - salt and pepper and a touch or olive oil should just about do it. To read my vegan camping 101 post with more tips, CLICK HERE.

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Situation 10: The perfect picnic food.
I kinda touched on this topic when I talked about amusement parks, so scroll on up and read that :) Other good options include brown rice puff treats (like rice krispie treats but better, and made with vegan marshmallows and earth balance), potato salad, mac & cheese, veggie sticks, hummus, chips and salsa/guacamole, cucumber sandwiches, and trail mix. P.S. - doesn't the food in that picture look AMAZING?! I wish my picnic food looked like that. Check out this link to see TONS of great vegan picnic recipes. They all look phenomenal.

Some of the food I took when I went on a vegan picnic with my ex-boyfriend.
 It was delicious. We had veggie sushi too!
I really hope this post has helped some of you with what to do when you encounter these situations. It's not as tough as you may think it is. Try it out for yourself! Most of all, just enjoy your time wherever you are. That's all that matters. :)

Much love,

5 comments:

  1. What an excellent post! You have some great ideas. Another vegan, college student named Rach(a)el? I think we are kindred spirits!

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  2. Thanks! And we must be :)

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  3. Girl, even better - are you from Cincinnati? Because I am too!

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