Most of my clients enjoy eating out (mostly on patios these days) or getting take out from time to time. And I do as well! There are many wonderful plant-based options to chose from, and we don’t necessarily need to sacrifice on nutrition. Affordable, healthy and scrumptious choices abound. The following are some cuisines and restaurants that really hit the spot.
The traditional Mexican diet is based around grains, legumes and vegetables…perfect for plant-based eaters. Even though it seems modern Mexican restaurants offer many meat-based dishes, I’m finding they also commonly offer vegan options such as tacos stuffed with the more traditional ingredients like rice and beans, but also ingredients with great textures and yummy flavours like spiced jackfruit and vegan chorizo, for example.
In the quick-service realm of Mexican restaurants, I absolutely love the Chipotle chain. It focusses on fresh and affordable dishes that are completely customizable and streamlined for take-out. The serving sizes are also large! Imagine this: a burrito or a bowl brimming with brown rice, pinto and/or black beans, sautéed veggies, corn, salsa, and lettuce, topped with a big dollop of guacamole. To make it even more filling, you can add their vegan sofritas. While Chipotle is my favourite, other chains like Qdoba offer a similar set-up. I’m guessing there’s one of these types of restaurants near you!
East Indian cuisine also has a long history of dishes focussed on grains and legumes. As a bonus, this cuisine often incorporate lots of wonderful, health-promoting spices like cumin, turmeric and cinnamon. In the eight years since starting the transition to eating plant-based, East Indian restaurants have been our go-to when travelling. We usually share a few dishes such as a rich dal made with lentils, aloo gobi (potatoes and cauliflower in a sauce) and a veggie curry. They are so flavourful…just thinking about them is making my mouth water! If dishes aren’t identified as vegan on the menu, just confirm with staff because sometimes they are made with butter (or ghee).
Thai restaurants often offer some super-tasty plant-based dishes! Some dishes identified as vegetarian contain shrimp paste or fish sauce, so unless the menu indicates it’s vegan, it’s always good to inquire. Still, I can usually find at least a few options. A green mango salad and fresh spring rolls are bursting with flavour. There’s veggie pad Thai and a veggie curry (with or without tofu), which is a whole different experience than the typical East Indian curry.
If you didn’t already know that plant-based pizza options exist, I’m here to tell you! We are so fortunate in my city to have zen’Za Pizzeria. One of the owners is vegan and so it offers amazing vegan pizzas (our faves are pictured above). They go one step further though when it comes to making pizza healthier: the thin crusts are mostly whole-wheat. Yay! Here in London, Ontario, Stobies, and Pizza Projekt also offer vegan options.
If there’s no such pizza joint in your town, don’t be discouraged. These Canadian chains offer pizzas made with dairy-free cheese for you to explore, and even offer whole-grain crusts: Pizza Pizza, Pizza Nova , Red Swan Pizza and Panago.
Panago has this dedicated menu for plant-based pizzas that make ordering a snap. There’s the Plant-based Spicy Hawaiian, the Plant-based Mediterranean, and a couple, such as the Plant-based Beyond Spicy Calabrese, that include Beyond Beef’s vegan sausage.
Hello falafels! I choose this option a little less frequently just because falafels served by restaurants are usually deep fried. However, I believe especially when they’re wrapped ideally in a whole-wheat pita and loaded up with a variety of veggies, they make a decently healthy, quick and affordable plant-based meal. Barakat (in London, Ontario) and Paramount are examples. When I lived in Toronto I frequented Ali Baba’s because I could custom order a delicious mixture of stewed tomato and eggplant served over a bed of rice and lentils, then drizzled with tahini and hot sauce…divine!
Other common options at middle eastern restaurants that are usually plant-based: lentil soup, and tabouli and fattoush salads.
Some Other Great Options…
There are definitely other restaurant chains that offer wonderful and healthy plant-based dishes. We have Copper Branch (an exclusively plant-based success story out of Montreal), as well as Freshii and The Chopped Leaf. I’m partial to the General Copper Bowl at Copper Branch, the Pangoa Bowl with fiery BBQ sauce (sub extra avocado for the cheese) at Freshii, and bowl “no.2” at The Chopped Leaf. I practically swoon over their goddess dressing!
Then of course there are all the independent restaurants that I love to support. I find them either by word of mouth, selecting “vegan” on TripAdvisor restaurant listings or by checking out Happy Cow, which is a site that was created 20 years ago to help people find vegan and healthy food options while travelling. Some fully vegan restaurants in London, Ontario that have great vibes and amazing food are Plant Matter Kitchen, Plant Matter Cafe, Soul Kitchen (new!), Globally Local, V Food Spot, and Curley Brewing Company. We also now have a vegan food truck called New Leaf! An hour’s drive from London in Grand Bend you’ll find Completely Rooted, run by an awesome raw vegan chef.
These days I find that many restaurants can accommodate requests for plant-based meals, even if they are not listed on the menu or you think it’s a long shot (a client recently raved about a wonderful plant-based meal she enjoyed at a steak house). If you have the chance, it never hurts to contact the restaurant in advance to ask if they can prepare something for you.
Eating plant-based doesn’t need to equate to garden salads and French fries when eating out. Some great options have always been available, often thanks to international cuisines, but there’s also been much exciting progress and awareness over recent years on the restaurant scene. I hope you’ll enjoy exploring the options as much as I do. Bon appétit!