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August 14, 2013

Retirement Living: Prepping for Your Vegan Meal Out

Adopting a diet rich in leafy green vegetables, fresh fruit, and high-fiber grains and beans, like the Mediterranean diet, can promote weight loss and heart health. For this reason and others, many older adults at Kendal at Oberlin have opted to go vegan.

Kendal at Oberlin accommodates special dietary needs of its residents by searching the world’'s cuisines for healthy recipes that exclude meat, eggs, dairy, and other animal-derived ingredients. Not all restaurants, however, are as proactive in preparing vegan-friendly meals, which can take much of the enjoyment out of dining out.

Luckily, there are steps you, the restaurant goer, can take before leaving home to ensure your meals out fall within the boundaries of your vegan diet:

Be a Picky Restaurant-Goer

You’'re choosy about which foods you eat— it’s natural to be just as selective with where you go to consume them. “Look for a restaurant whose core mission involves hospitality and catering to all its guests,” says Sloane Miller on CNN.com. Many restaurants now have special menu sections with a variety of vegan choices to accommodate guests.

Look up the restaurant’s menu online before you head out for the evening. Not only will this give you a better idea if it’'ll be a good fit, it’'ll also save you time from perusing the menu after you’'ve been seated!

Call Ahead to Speak with the Chef

No one knows more about the food you’'ll be eating than the chef. Call the restaurant during non-busy morning hours on the day you’'ll be dining out to speak with the chef about all ingredients that go into your dish. You’'d be surprised at how often animal products sneak their way into seemingly vegan foods.

If the chef is not available to speak to you, ask for the restaurant owner, manager or other knowledgeable representative who knows about food preparation and ingredients.

Make an Early Reservation

If the restaurant where you plan to dine accepts reservations, make one for early evening on days that tend to be less busy. “For example, 6 p.m. Tuesday versus 8:30 p.m. Saturday will give the restaurant the best chance of being able to accommodate your needs,” Miller says.

Before making your reservation, be sure to ask if the restaurant has any recurring weekly specials. Local bands or drink specials will attract more restaurant guests, which means your special needs may receive less attention from the staff.

Prepare to Communicate Your Food Needs Clearly

Before attending a business networking event or job interview, professionals are encouraged to prepare an elevator pitch— a 30-second speech that summarizes who they are, what they do, and why the listener should want to get to know them further.

As a vegan diner, you can mimic this best practice by preparing a three-sentence speech that communicates what your food needs are to restaurant staff. “When speaking with others about your needs, be assertive, never aggressive,” Miller advises. “And remember that honey always works better than vinegar.”

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