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Here's How To Eat Out As A Vegan

With a little research and patience, you can have an awesome vegan dining experience.

Food & Drink

There are some people in my life who struggle with committing to the vegan lifestyle. It's not so much because they hated giving up meat; it's more about the fact that they found veganism to be a little bland and inconvenient. A great example they would give me is the thought of eating out became so frustrating that, more times than not, they'd just stay at home.

If you're someone who is nodding your head in agreement, then this article is personally dedicated to you. Choose to see it like a cheat sheet for vegans who want to dine out. My hope is that it will provide you with enough tips that will motivate you to check out some new places, make specific requests and embrace the fact that, just because you don't eat meat, that doesn't mean that you still can't have a ball while eating out.

If You’re a New Vegan, Know What You Shouldn’t Be Eating

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I'd venture to say that one of the best things about becoming a vegan is, since you're probably more sensitive about your diet, you're more comfortable cooking at home; that way, you can know exactly what is—and what isn't—going into your meals. But if you've recently decided to give veganism a shot, you like going out to eat but you're nervous about what to order, let's start with the things that are a no-no. Meat (including anything seafood-related) is a given, but remember that vegans avoid all animal products, including dairy. This means no milk, butter, cream or cheese. This also means no eggs. Or gelatin (it comes from collagen that is produced by animals) or even bee products; this means no honey.

What's up with the whole bee thing? Well, passionate vegans feel that to consume anything that bees make is a form of exploitation because bees actually make honey for themselves, not us. Yeah, that might sound a little over the top, but don't shoot the messenger. If you want to read more about this, check out this article, this article and this article.

Then Focus on What You Can Eat

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I know, right? That sure is a lot of stuff that you have to overlook on a restaurant menu.

The silver lining is, think about all of the other things that are left—fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds, mushrooms, pulses (like chickpeas and lentils), herbs, spices, oils, vinegars, condiments and plants (like seaweed).

If you really let this list sink in, that still leaves literally hundreds of possibilities.

Check Out a Restaurant’s Online Menu

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I don't know about you, but nothing irks me more than making plans to meet a friend at a restaurant, hopping online to Google the eatery's website and either it doesn't have one or their site is down. First impressions are important so, more times than not, that will automatically make me want to take a pass. An online menu is not only good marketing for the restaurant and convenient for their customers, it can take a lot of guesswork out for vegetarians and vegans. These days, many restaurant owners are well aware that their business can't truly thrive without some great vegetarian and vegan options. So, definitely look online before heading out to see if the restaurant you're considering has dishes that you're actually interested in.

Or, Feel Free to Call Ahead

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Unfortunately, a lot of us update our personal websites more often than businesses update theirs. That's why, if you can't seem to find what you are looking for on a particular restaurant's site, you should call ahead. Another benefit that comes with taking this extra step is you can ask if there are any new or specialty vegan items that might not currently be on the menu, along with if the chefs are willing to customize certain dishes. That way, you can know exactly what you are getting yourself into before you arrive.

Consider More Ethnic Cuisine

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A lot of Americans continue to be big time meat consumers; that's a part of the reason why so many restaurants have a ton of meat options but oftentimes limited vegan and vegetarian ones. That's the bad news. The good news is many Indian, Mexican, Thai and West African (which is a big 2020 food trend) restaurants have some really delicious dishes that contain absolutely no meat. When you think about it, that can be another benefit of going vegan—you can try different foods from other cultures. Why not give it a shot?

Confirm That Non-Meat Meals Are Prepared Separately

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With articles floating around in cyberspace like "Plant-based 'meat' isn't always vegan or even vegetarian, and that's a common misconception that needs to be clarified", don't you feel the least bit self-conscious or uncomfortable about asking your server if the vegan meals are prepared on a different grill or in different pans than meat-based dishes are. You'd be amazed how many aren't (especially in fast food restaurants) and a lot of places aren't going to volunteer that information. If they say "no" or "I don't know", ask to speak with a manager. Remember, you're not at your grandma's house for Sunday dinner. You are paying for your meal. You should get what you want, just how you want it.

Request That Dairy Be Substituted

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A lot of sauces have some form of dairy in them whether it's milk, cream or even yogurt. If you do see a dish that you want, you like the sauce, but you don't want any dairy to be in it, ask for a substitution. Perhaps a milk substitute like hemp, oat or almond milk. When it comes to cheese, see if they've got any cashew cheese (a wonderful Brie substitute), hemp seed crumble cheese (a great Parmesan substitute) or Daiya cheese (which is a good mozzarella substitute). As far as the actual cooking goes, an oil or mashed avocados can replace butter.

As far as desserts are concerned, there are all kinds of dairy-free ice cream brands now. Or you can order a sorbet. If you want something with whipped cream on top, whipped coconut milk can scratch that itch. If something has condensed milk in it, see if the chef has any maple syrup; a blend of it and coconut milk is an awesome substitute. (This dairy point is another good reason to call ahead.)

Ask to Speak with the Manager (They Can Handle It)

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If, for some reason, your server wants to give you a hard time about your requests or you've got a recommendation that you think will make it easier on other vegan eaters, please don't hesitate to ask for the manager. They are there to handle things that servers may not be able to. Also remember, if they are not able to suit your needs, go by my customer service motto—every manager has a manager.

Oh, and if the service does prove to be outstanding, make a point to tell the manager and to post an online review. This can make it so much easier for other potential customers who are looking to have a delicious vegan-friendly dining experience.

Try Something New

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If y'all ever make your way to Nashville, if there's one thing we don't lack, it's places to eat. Although I've been living here since I was about four, I must admit that it wasn't until last year that I set out to try as many new restaurants as possible. Boy, am I glad that I did! It's expanded my palate and altered my perspective a bit on the place where I live. If you're new to veganism and all you do is go to the places where you once had your favorite ribs, steak or hamburger, you could easily get frustrated by the limited options that are at your disposal. But if you decide to try some new spots, you could end up being very pleasantly surprised. Start your cuisine quest by checking out articles like "50 Best Vegan-Friendly Restaurants In The USA", "The Best Vegan (and Vegan-friendly) Restaurants in All 50 States" and "Veg Out: 20 Top Vegan Restaurants from Coast to Coast" to see if your city made the lists. Then go to your favorite search engine and put "best vegan restaurants" along with your city and state in the field to narrow down your search.

Treat Yourself

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Just because you're vegan, that doesn't mean you can't turn up a little bit. If you want to have a cocktail with your meal, do so.

If you're hesitant because you'd prefer for even your alcohol to be vegan, Barnivore is a website that offers a pretty comprehensive list of beers, wines and liquors that are exactly that.

Being vegan doesn't have to be synonymous with boring. It also doesn't have to keep you in your own kitchen all of the time. With a little research and interacting with the restaurant staff, you can have a wonderful dining experience. You might even teach them a thing or two too. Enjoy!

Want more stories like this? Sign up for our newsletter here and check out the related reads below:

You Need To Visit These Black-Owned Vegan Restaurants In Your City

Meet The SHEeo: Chef Adyre Mason Of The Veggie - A Vegan Comfort Food Delivery Service

How This Shamelessly Slutty Vegan Started A Culinary Revolution

How I Transitioned My Meat-Loving Family to a Plant-Based Vegan Lifestyle

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ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

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Sometimes, when things are a little "off" when it comes to our health, there are simple steps that we can take to get ourselves back on track. For instance, did you know that around 92 percent of Americans are considered to be vitamin or mineral deficient in some way? And since there are core nutrients that all of us need in order to function properly, it's important that we're aware of what certain deficiencies are directly linked to.

Today, that is the focus. Here are eight health-related issues that, oftentimes, if we'd just add more of a vitamin or mineral into our system, we will start to feel better in no time (technically a couple of weeks but you get my drift).

1. Muscle Cramping

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Something that happens randomly to me sometimes is I'll have a muscle that cramps up, seemingly out of nowhere. Then I'll snack on a banana and start to feel better. You know why? It's because bananas are high in potassium and potassium is a nutrient that our system needs in order for our muscles to easily contract. If you sweat a lot or don't have enough fluids in your system, you can become a high candidate for being potassium deficient. As far as how much your body requires on a daily basis, it's somewhere between 3,000-4,000 mg a day. Foods that are a good source of this mineral (that is also an electrolyte) include mushrooms, zucchini, cucumbers, sweet potatoes and lentils.

2. Lip Cracking

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If your PMS is off the chain or you've been catching a lot of colds lately, it could be because you need some more Vitamin B6 in your life. However, a telling sign that this is almost definitely the case is if the corners of your lips are cracking or even if your tongue feels a bit swollen.

The main thing to keep in mind with this point is if you're noticing indications that you could stand to have more Vitamin B6, there's a pretty good chance that your system has gotten close to totally running out. And just how much does your body need of this vitamin on the daily? About 1.3 mg. Up it up to 1.5 mg if you're over the age of 50.

Foods that are loaded with Vitamin B6 are peanuts, poultry, oats, avocados and pistachios.

3. Brittle Nails

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If it seems like no matter how much pampering you do to your nails, they are brittle and breaking, that could be an indication that you are low in iron and/or Vitamin C. The reality is that just our periods alone can make us vulnerable to having lower iron levels. And just how much should you be getting into your system? A lot of healthcare professionals recommend somewhere around 14.8 mg each day. As far as the Vitamin C goes, not only can you have brittle nails when you're not getting enough of it, this is a nutrient that makes it easier for your body to absorb iron too. 75 mg per day of it is recommended (120 mg each day if you're pregnant or are breastfeeding). Foods that are high in iron include beef, dark leafy greens, quinoa, pumpkin seeds and broccoli. Foods that are a good source of Vitamin C include citrus fruits, peppers, potatoes, berries and Brussel sprouts.

4. Allergy Symptoms

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If you've got allergy symptoms that are driving you totally up the wall or you're someone who deals with asthma or eczema, these things can be so much worse for you if you are low in omega-3. Long story short, they're fatty acids that pretty much every part of our body needs from our skin and hair to our reproductive system and our heart. Matter of fact, I actually read once that if you tend to have an excessive amount of earwax, that can also be a heads up that omega-3 is lacking. As far as how much is good for you, 1.1 grams daily is enough. And as far as foods that have omega-3 in them, those would be walnuts, spinach, salmon, chia seeds and eggs.

5. Weakness

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Magnesium is both a mineral as well as an electrolyte that helps to regulate muscle and nerve functions and keep your blood sugar in balance. Well, when you don't have enough magnesium in you, it can cause you to experience extreme amounts of fatigue and weakness. A part of the reason why is because magnesium is what helps to keep your potassium levels where they should be. So, when your potassium levels are low, your muscles will not perform with as much strength as they should. Somewhere around 315 mg each day is what your system requires. Foods that are loaded with magnesium include whole grains, pumpkin seeds, halibut, bananas and dark chocolate.

6. Hair Loss

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One of the main things that all of us need in order for our hair to flourish is zinc. It's a mineral that assists with hair tissue growth and repair, fights dandruff and, it also helps your scalp to produce the sebum that it needs for your hair follicles to remain healthy. That's why it makes a lot of sense that if you're low in zinc, you could possibly suffer from some hair loss or, the very least, hair breakage. What can keep your tresses in good condition is if you consume around 8 mg of zinc daily. Foods that are high in it include Greek yogurt, cashews, black beans, sesame seeds and kale.

7. Sleepiness

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OK, if you're out here getting less than six hours a night on a consistent basis, that's probably not an indication that you are lacking a nutrient; what that probably means is you are sleep deprived.

However, if it seems like no matter how much sleep you get at night and/or naps you take during the day, you are still sleepy as all get out, what that could be telling you is that you are low in Vitamin B12. I can personally attest to this because I was sleepy a lot (and I get no less than six hours a night and sometimes a nap) until I started taking a B12 supplement. When you're low in this vitamin, it can trigger sleepiness or even sleeplessness because it plays a significant role in maintaining your energy levels.

It's kinda crazy that a lot of us are Vitamin B12 deficient when most of us only need .002 mg a day of it. Anyway, foods that are a good source of this nutrient include liver, fortified cereals, shellfish, nutritional yeast and milk alternatives (like almond or oat milk).

8. Food Cravings

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Last fall, I wrote an article about signs that you've got a sugar addiction going on (you can check it out here). One indication is if you're constantly wanting to eat sweets all of the time. Well, along these same lines, if you're experiencing food cravings, that too could mean that you've not some nutrient deficiencies happening. Sweets typically mean that you can stand to have more magnesium or tryptophan. Fatty foods mean you need more calcium. Red meat, caffeine or the desire to chew ice means you're low in iron. Salt is oftentimes connected to dehydration or an electrolyte imbalance.

Wanting to eat bread all of the time could also mean that you could use a tryptophan boost (because you are looking for something to make you feel better and bread is a comfort food. Tryptophan helps to produce the feel-good hormone serotonin so that you don't want bread as much). Foods that are high in tryptophan include tuna, cheese, turkey, milk and apples.

While I certainly wasn't able to tackle all of the nutrient deficient-related issues that exist, take this as a bit of an intro cheat sheet. Again, if you are currently experiencing any of these issues, try getting more vitamins and minerals into your system. You might be surprised just how big of an impact...a little bit of tweaking can make.

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