Doctor’s Tip: You’re a plant-based eater — here’s how to dine out
Last week’s column was about support for those who decide to go plant-based. Today let’s talk about what to do when eating out at a local restaurant or when traveling, and about what to do if you’re invited to someone’s house for a meal.
Here are some tips that might be helpful if you’re invited to someone’s house:
• Don’t feel embarrassed about telling your host that for health reasons you’re leading a plant-based lifestyle (this is a better term than vegan, which has negative connotations for some folks). People are used to special dietary requests these days, such as gluten-free or nut-free.
• Suggest to your host that you bring one of the dishes, and often your host will ask you to bring the salad (you can bring dressing and/or cheese on the side for the non-plant-based people).
• If you’re going to an event that is catered and you have no idea what’s going to be served, or you know it’s going to be unhealthy, eat a healthy meal at home before you go.
How about traveling?
Restaurants in general tend to take advantage of peoples’ addiction to salt, sugar and fat, so it’s difficult to find healthy food at many restaurants. When traveling in the U.S. or other parts of the world, consider ethnic restaurants.
• Look on the Internet to find vegan restaurants in the vicinity. You can find healthy options at Whole Foods, if there is one nearby.
• Restaurants are used to special dietary requests such as gluten-free, so don’t be shy about requesting plant-based, whole food, no-added oil options with little to no salt or sugar.
• Indian food can be healthy as long as it doesn’t contain dairy or ghee (processed butter).
• Japanese restaurants usually have some healthy, plant-based options including vegan sushi. If you order noodles, request vegan broth and soba (buckwheat) noodles with lots of vegetables. Low sodium soy sauce is usually available.
• Chinese restaurants often use a lot of oil in their cooking, which is soaked up by eggplant and tofu. Steamed vegetables are healthy however, as are many other plant-based dishes if you request minimal to no oil. Always order brown rather than white rice (black or red is even better if available).
• Vietnamese and some Thai dishes are flavored with fish sauce, but this is a case of “don’t let perfect be the enemy of good enough.”
• Some Mexican restaurants have vegan tacos or burritos on the menu. If nothing else, you can order a bean burrito with salsa and green or red sauce. Black beans are healthy, but if only refried beans are available be sure they don’t contain lard. Corn tortillas are healthier than those made with white (refined) flour.
• Middle Eastern restaurants often have vegan options.
• Italian restaurants often have healthy options but be sure there are no eggs in the bread, pasta or pizza crust (vegan pizza with pizza sauce and lots of veggies tastes surprisingly good).
• Veggie burgers can be a healthy option if cheese isn’t used as a binder.
• Most restaurants will at least have a salad and baked potato (sweet potato better than white) and often vegan soup. Ask for balsamic vinegar on the side for your salad, or if you really want a vinaigrette ask for it on side and use just a small amount.
• Consider Subway for a healthy lunch (order a toasted multi-grain bun, mustard without mayonnaise, and lots of veggies).
• Take the makings for your own breakfast in a cooler (make overnight oatmeal by putting some unsweetened almond milk on some rolled oats).
I have not been to or contacted all the restaurants in the valley so this is not meant to be inclusive:
• In Aspen, Martin Oswald’s Pyramid Bistro above the Explorer Bookstore on Main Street is a wonderful restaurant, with many tasty vegan dishes and a few non-vegan items for non-vegans. The menu is very clear about what dishes are vegan, gluten-free, etc. Pyramid is open for lunch and dinner, and closes during the off seasons.
• In Woody Creek, the Woody Creek Tavern has a couple of vegan options.
• In Basalt, the Riverside Grill has one vegan option, a kale quinoa Asian salad (the veggie burger has cheese as a binder).
• In Carbondale, Konnyaku is one of the two restaurants I’m aware of in the lower valley that has a vegan menu. Town, Phat Thai, The Beat, Silo, Ming’s and Dos Gringos all have vegan options.
• Nepal Restaurant at the CMC turnoff has vegan options if you ask your server and specify no dairy or ghee (Masala in Glenwood tells me that they have ghee in their pre-made sauce and so they can’t do vegan). Naan contains dairy, but Roti does not and is made from whole wheat.
• In Glenwood, Zheng in the Meadows Mall is the other restaurant in the valley with a vegan menu. The Glenwood Canyon Brewing Co. (“Brew Pub”) has a couple of vegan options for lunch and dinner. (Who would have thought? And remember: Beer is plant-based). The Pullman, Colorado Ranch House and Rivers have vegan options.
Dr. Feinsinger, who retired from Glenwood Medical Associates after 42 years as a family physician, now has a nonprofit Center For Prevention and Treatment of Disease Through Nutrition. He is available for free consultations about heart attack prevention and any other medical concerns. Call 970-379-5718 for an appointment. For questions about his columns, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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