Healthy Dining-Out Tips

The Physicians Committee

Healthy Dining-Out Tips

Vegan meals are everywhere. From cultural restaurants to your parents’ favorite American chain restaurant, a few simple tips will help you find tasty vegan vittles.

Expand your Horizons: Cultural Dining

Cultural restaurants are chock-full of vegan options, and chances are, there are restaurants down the street from you that you have never noticed before. So the next time you’re meeting friends for dinner, suggest a cultural restaurant. Check out just a few of the typical meals you’ll find.

Restaurant Staples Sample Dishes

Pasta (wheat)

  • Tomatoes
  • Eggplant
  • Mushrooms
  • Onion


Pasta primavera
Grilled eggplant with marinara sauce
Minestrone (with white beans and pasta)
Mexican Beans
Rice and beans burrito
Soft tacos with beans and vegetables
Taco salad with beans and rice and all the vegetables
Vegetarian fajita
Fresh vegetables
Mixed vegetables in garlic sauce over brown rice.
Tofu and broccoli in black bean sauce
Sweet and sour soup with tofu
(ask for low oil)
Middle Eastern  Whole grains
  • Couscous
  • Bulgur
  • Pita bread
  • Rice


  • Eggplant
  • Zucchini
  • Peppers
  • Tomatoes


Hummus with whole wheat pita bread
Filfil Rumi Mahshi (stuffed green peppers)
Mujadarra (lentils and rice)
Dolmas (grape leaves stuffed with bulgur)

 Fresh vegetables
Rice noodles
Spring rolls

Vegetarian pad thai
Fresh spring rolls
Lemongrass soup
(ask for low oil)

Japanese Vegetable sushi
Udon and soba noodles
Tofu and miso
Cucumber, asparagus or gourd rolls
Miso soup
Seaweed salad
Edamame (whole soy beans)
Sesame soba noodles


  • Potatoes
  • Cabbage
  • Collards
  • Tomatoes

Injera (flatbread)

Yemiser W'et (spicy lentil stew)
Yatkilt Alitcha (cabbage, potatoes, carrots and onions)
Timatim Fitfit (fresh salad of chopped tomatoes and onion)
Yeabesha Gommen (yummy collard greens)


Dining Vegan: American Style

While cultural options are likely the easiest, a few simple tips can help you to enjoy vegan food in your favorite American-style restaurants.

1. Look for vegan options.

  • Salads
  • Vegetable soups
  • Pasta with marinara sauce
  • Steamed vegetable side dishes

2. “Veganize” menu items. Many items on the menu are already vegetarian and can be made vegan by simply leaving off eggs, cheese, or other dairy products.

  • Bean burrito: Hold the cheese and sour cream, and add extra rice, beans, or salsa.
  • Bean chili: Hold the cheese.
  • Pizza or calzone: Hold the cheese and pile on extra veggies.
  • Salads: Ask for without cheese and substitute Italian dressing or balsamic vinegar for creamy dressings.

3. Help, I’m stuck at a steakhouse! If you find yourself at a restaurant where no vegan options already exist, simply talk to your server and ask the chef to create something for you. Most restaurants will have the basic staples on hand to make you a tasty, healthful meal. You can also call ahead of time if you know where you’ll be heading. Items that can easily be created include:

  • Green salad with beans and vegetables
  • Beans and rice
  • “Potato scramble” with cubes of potato and vegetables instead of a scrambled egg or omelets
  • Steamed vegetable platter
  • Veggie fajitas
  • Cucumber, lettuce, tomato, and sprout sandwich
  • Mushroom “burger” with a Portobello mushroom (or regular mushrooms), lettuce, tomato and onions

4. Order ahead for special occasions. At some point we all face the work-function buffet or catered conference event. In most instances, simply calling ahead will provide the caterers ample time to prepare something to your liking. If ALL else fails and they cannot take special requests, eat a little ahead of time, or smuggle a few portable items into the event. You will likely still find fresh veggies, bread or salad to much on and remain social.

The All-American Chain Restaurant

The tips above should help you order at any chain restaurant, however, here are a few we’ve already checked out.

  • The Wrap: Teriyaki tofu wrap/bowl, beans and rice burrito (hold the cheese)
  • Chili’s: Ask them to make you fajitas with grilled vegetables and rice with a side of beans. Other options include a dinner salad and the Guiltless Tomato Basil Pasta.
  • Papa John’s: Veggie pizza (hold the cheese)
  • California Pizza Kitchen: Veggie calzone (hold the cheese)
  • Houston Steak House: Amazing veggie burger (hold the cheese)
  • Ruby Tuesdays: Huge salad bar loaded with fruits and vegetables. They also have a veggie burger (hold the cheese).
  • Fuddruckers: Veggie burger (hold the cheese)
  • Johnny Rockets: Steamliner Veggie Burger (hold the cheese)
  • Don Pablo’s: Portabella Mushroom and Vegetable Fajitas
  • Baja Fresh: Vegetarian Bare Burrito or Grilled Veggie Tacos (hold cheese on both)

Fast Food

While fast food is not the healthiest option, sometimes it’s just inevitable. If you’re stuck on a long road trip or caught with only five minutes to spare before your meeting, there are vegan options available at many of the fast food joints.

  • Burger King: Veggie burger (hold the cheese, hold the mayo)
  • Taco Bell: Bean burrito (hold the cheese and sour cream)
  • Chipotle: Beans and rice burrito (hold the guacamole, hold the cheese and sour cream)
  • Subway: Veggie Delite sub (hold the cheese, hold the mayo, light on the oil). OR Veggie Delite salad.
  • Blimpie: VegiMax, (hold the cheese and mayo, hold the oil)

Find a Vegetarian Restaurant Anywhere!

Traveling? Check out these websites to help locate vegetarian restaurants near you, or worldwide!