The desert is serene and all the buildings are extremely calming. A few weeks ago, my fiance and I went to Tucson to visit his family and we were lucky enough to stay with them in their beautiful home. Their house was amazing, welcoming and better than any hotel I’ve ever been to but most importantly his family was extremely hospitable! They have a special place in my heart (and it is not because they took me to Whole Foods on our first day to stock up on snacks!). While visiting, we had the opportunity to eat out quite frequently and I got to hone my vegan ordering skills in a bar, a sushi joint, an Indian restaurant and steak house! Read on to find out my tips for boldly asking for meals not on the menu!
As a side note, I usually find travelling a compromising situation in which I am not getting the amount of veggies and therefore nutrition as I would at home. I have outlined some more travel tips here. I am always surprised by how small the amount of vegetables are in salads and entrees at restaurants. I will say this and repeat until it really sticks in; Vegetables are NUTRIENT dense. No amount of grains, legumes, or meat will give you the same nutritional bang for your buck. Vegetables are full of fibre, phytonutrients, vitamins, minerals, enzymes and water. All these elements are required for a healthy functioning body. So, first and foremost eat your veggies and LOTS of them! Your meal should be 75% veggies if you ask me! Below I outline how to get as many veggies in as possible at restaurants when on the go!
I was a bit hesitant to order a ‘hold-the-rice” sushi roll; in the past when I have tried to do this I was often given a confused, ‘are you serious’ kind of response. And to clear up any confusion, I am always serious about my veggies.
We went to 2 different sushi restaurants on our 3 day stay in Tucson. Initially I ordered a salad and a veggie roll without any rice. The waiter was very kind and asked the chef if such a roll could be done (it can, check it out here). I ended up getting a hand roll with avocado and veggies. Not quite my sushi rolls but a decent shot.
We ended up eating at another sushi restaurant on the trip too. The second restaurant got the rice-less rolls right on the first try. It was nice to have these alternatives and to not have to find a ‘specialty’ restaurant!
- ask for rice less nori rolls
- if that can’t be done ask for a hand roll
- if all else fails ask for a huge plate of veggies with miso soup!
At the Indian restaurant I prepped myself beforehand; I ate a large salad before heading out to so I had my veggie base covered. I loved that! At the Indian restaurant it was hard to avoid tons of oil and cream but I managed to get a mushroom dish that was easy on the oil and cream free. Since I had already had my ‘real’ dinner this was a great dish to finish off my meal. Word to the wise, stick to simple veggie based meals at the restaurant and don’t be afraid to ask what oils they use to sauté the dish.
- eat beforehand and fill up on water-containing veggies
- choose the least oily vegetable based dish
We went to a lounge/bar that did serve salads but none of them was quite what I wanted. Instead asked them to throw every raw veggie in the kitchen into a bowl and add avocado. I used lemon as a dressing and was pleasantly surprised and satisfied with my nutrient dense and clean lunch! I asked for tons and tons of veggies (2 plates worth!). My fiance’s dad would always tell the servers that I needed a large ‘meal’ sized salad and to not be afraid that I was small, that I could really pack it in (which I can). I have a healthy appetite is all I can say 🙂
- request your own salad with simple ingredients
- use lemon and olive oil as a simple dressing which helps you avoid unnecessary ingredients like fructose and processed vegetable oils
- don’t be afraid to describe the amount of vegetables you want (2 plates if necessary, remember you want nutrients and calories)
Ok, I thought this place was going to be difficult to order at but it wasn’t. It helped that my fiancé’s parents were regulars! I ended up sneaking in a handful of walnuts and ordered their largest salad. I added in the walnuts for protein and flavour and to my surprise, had a really filling salad. As a follow up dish I asked for a plate or raw veggies (carrots and broccoli) and another plate of sautéed veggies (mushrooms, green beans and asparagus in olive oil). This gave me lots of veggie friendly options and allowed us all to enjoy our ‘courses’ without deprivation. I love how this turned out to be the most veg filled meal I had on our whole trip!
- ask for a huge salad
- ask for a plate full of raw, lightly steamed or lightly sautéed veggies in olive oil
- bring your own nuts to add density, protein and healthy fats to your salad
Whew! I conquered some restaurant fears and learned that veggie centric meals can be accomplished in a lot of different settings. Mind you, I won’t be frequenting any more steakhouses any time soon but if I do I’m pretty sure I can get my hands on some veggies!