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Green challenges

Thinking global and acting local, Julie Grundy takes on any challenge we throw at her.

Eating out when you're a weekday vegetarian

Felafel, tabouli, hummus and salad

Credit: Mr T in DC, via Flickr, under Creative Commons

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A lot of what we’ve looked at so far for our weekday veg challenge has been focused on cooking at home. But what about when you’re too tired to cook, or heading out for dinner with friends?

It can be difficult to know where the meat is coming from when you’re eating out. You can’t tell if it’s from an ethical or environmentally-friendly source. Sometimes I get up the courage to ask the wait-staff, but a lot of the time they don’t know. So I've always found it easier to skip meat when I’m eating somewhere new anyway.

Here’s a few of my favourite options:

  • Indian and south-east Asian food often have excellent vegetarian options you should try. It’s also a great opportunity to try out new dishes and see if you'd like to recreate them at home.
  • Sushi is usually pretty heavy on the fish, pork and chicken, but there are usually vegie rolls, tofu options and noodles too. Add soy and pickled ginger to get the full flavours going.
  • Most pizza places or Italian restaurants offer great vegetarian options. I love potato and rosemary pizzas, and primavera is a classic vegetarian pasta.
  • Burger chains sometimes offer a vegie pattie as a substitute for their regular beef, but I’ve never tasted one I’d willingly eat again. Luckily, independent places and some of the more upmarket chains make some really delicious veggie burgers. My local makes a breaded pumpkin burger with basil pesto that’s really tasty.
  • Kebab shops and middle-eastern restaurants always have felafel (fried chickpea balls), and sometimes other options like fried zucchini patties. Give either a go with tabouli and a creamy dip or hommus.

I’ve had both good and bad luck in fine dining restaurants too. Some chefs have no idea about vegetarian cooking, while others pride themselves on being able to create a delicious dish even when working with restrictions. It’s worth checking out their menus online before you visit so you can see how seriously they take their vegetarian offerings. Plus, if you're looking to eat meat (on the weekend!) an expensive restaurant is much more likely to tell you about the source of their meat, and may have a local free-range option.

What are some other ways to eat vegetarian when you’re out and about? Do you have any favourite meals that you wouldn’t cook at home?