Updated: Oct 23
Vegan cuisine in Chicago is arguably some of the best in the world. Although, making the choice to become a vegan isn’t always easy. For starters, you have to change your diet completely, get used to new flavors, and find new ways to get enough high protein vegan foods into every meal. There are other difficult factors like eating out as a vegan and ensuring that no dishes are cooked with butter or milk. It isn’t always an easy road, but you have the comfort of knowing the entire community is behind you and we understand the struggles you are facing. Below, we’ve compiled a few vegan tips to make your journey as a vegan even easier.
How can you ensure that you're eating at a truly vegan restaurant?
To ensure that what you're eating at a restaurant is truly vegan, it's important to communicate with the staff and ask about ingredients and preparation methods. You can also review the menu for any vegan options or look for labels or symbols indicating vegan dishes.
Ask your server what they cook your meal with
Butter is a common culprit for vegan diets, always lurking around the corner and ready to strike. While in the comfort and control of your own kitchen, butter isn’t a threat, but while you're out, restaurants will sometimes sneak it into meals. A great way to combat this is to request it be cooked with olive oil.
Add Spice to Vegan Dishes
The flavor that comes with cheeses, butter, and meat is hard to emulate in vegan dishes, but that doesn’t mean you are stuck with a mundane meal. Try to add salty foods like olives that have a lot of flavor or sun-dried tomatoes to spice up some interest. Cayenne pepper and other types of spices can also make any dish more interesting. Try to be creative with seasonings and you’ll most likely stumble upon something delicious!
Milk in coffee shops
This is a common problem most vegans can relate to. Sometimes your order will be distorted in the midst of a busy day and the barista will not use soy in your coffee. To prevent this from happening, try to keep an eye on your order if you can, and don’t be afraid to speak
up if your order is incorrect. If you frequent a particular coffee shop and know the baristas, this shouldn’t be a problem once they know your order. Remember, speaking up is never rude if you do it politely!
Non-vegan fryers and ovens
Not all kitchens are strictly vegan, even if they offer vegan options on the menu. In non-vegan kitchens, you always run the risk of vegan food being prepared in the same fryers and ovens used for non-vegan. Make sure you pay close attention to the menu to determine if they have vegan cooking apparatuses in the kitchen. There should always be a footnote somewhere at the bottom of the menu indicating this.
Imagine the greasy residue that clings to the walls of a fryer after frying food with animal fat. This stubborn layer is hard to clean, and over time, it builds up, reducing the fryer's efficiency. Similarly, when we consume foods rich in cholesterol, particularly from animal sources, they leave behind a residue in our arteries. This substance, known as cholesterol, acts much like the gunk in the fryer. It accumulates and narrows our arteries, reducing blood flow and leading to cardiovascular diseases. Just as a clogged fryer can't function at its best, our hearts struggle to pump blood through narrowed arteries, increasing the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Choosing plant-based alternatives can help reduce this buildup, offering a cleaner, more efficient system for our bodies, much like a well-maintained fryer.
Eating Out as a Vegan
Eating out as a vegan can be an enjoyable experience with a bit of preparation and some knowledge of vegan-friendly options. Here are some tips for dining out as a vegan:
Research in Advance: Look up vegan-friendly restaurants in the area or check if your chosen restaurant has a vegan menu. Many places now have dedicated vegan options or can accommodate dietary restrictions.
Communicate Your Dietary Needs: When you arrive at the restaurant, inform your server that you are vegan and ask if they have a separate vegan menu or if they can guide you to vegan options on the menu.
Modify Dishes: Don't be afraid to ask for modifications. For example, you can request to remove cheese or substitute animal-based ingredients with plant-based alternatives.
Focus on Plant-Based Ingredients: Look for dishes that are centered around plant-based ingredients like vegetables, legumes, grains, tofu, tempeh, or Seitan.
Beware of Hidden Ingredients: Some dishes may contain hidden animal products like butter, honey, or certain sauces made with animal-based broths. Ask your server for clarification if you're unsure.
Ask About Cooking Methods: Inquire about how dishes are prepared. For instance, some restaurants may use shared grills or pans for both meat and plant-based options.
Explore Ethnic Cuisines: Ethnic restaurants often have a wide array of vegan options. Indian, Thai, Middle Eastern, and Mexican restaurants typically have many naturally vegan dishes.
Salads and Sides: Don't overlook salads and side dishes. You can often find delicious and satisfying options like roasted vegetables, grain salads, or bean dishes.
Be Prepared with Snacks: In case there are limited vegan options, having a small snack like a piece of fruit or a handful of nuts with you can be a helpful backup.
Dessert Options: Ask if there are any vegan dessert options available. Some places offer vegan-friendly sweets like sorbet, fruit plates, or dairy-free desserts.
Express Gratitude: If the restaurant goes out of its way to accommodate your dietary needs, be sure to thank them. This encourages them to continue offering vegan options.
Leave Feedback: If you have a particularly positive experience, consider leaving a review online or providing feedback to the restaurant. This can help them understand the demand for vegan options.
Remember that most restaurants are willing to accommodate dietary needs, so don't be afraid to ask questions or make requests. Being polite and clear about your needs will typically result in a more enjoyable dining experience.
Getting High Protein Vegan Foods into Every Meal
Incorporating high protein vegan foods into every meal can be achieved by diversifying your food choices and being mindful of your nutrient intake. Here are some tips and examples for each meal:
Vegan Breakfast Ideas
Use crumbled firm tofu cooked with vegetables like spinach, tomatoes, and bell peppers. Add turmeric and black salt for an eggy flavor.
Mix chia seeds with plant-based milk and let it sit overnight. Top with nuts, seeds, and berries for added protein.
Smoothie with Protein Powder
Blend a combination of fresh fruit, vegetables, plant-based protein powder, and nut butter for a protein-packed morning drink.
Vegan Yogurt Parfait
Layer dairy-free yogurt with granola, nuts, seeds, and dried fruits.
Vegan Lunch Ideas
Combine cooked quinoa with mixed vegetables, chickpeas, and a tahini dressing.
Prepare a hearty soup using lentils, vegetables, and spices. Pair with a side of whole grain bread.
Poblano Pepper Tamales
Tamales made with corn masa are a Mexican staple using ingredients found in most grocery stores. Substitute lard for vegetable oil and when finished taste a delicious, nutritional, light meal.
Hummus and Veggie Wrap
Spread hummus on a whole wheat wrap and add a variety of fresh vegetables for a quick, protein-rich option.
Vegan Snack Ideas
Steamed edamame pods sprinkled with sea salt make a simple, high-protein snack.
Toss canned chickpeas with olive oil and spices, then bake until crispy.
Nut Butter and Fruit
Pair almond or peanut butter with apple slices or banana for a satisfying snack.
Protein Bars or Balls
Make homemade protein bars or energy balls using ingredients like oats, nuts, seeds, and plant-based protein powder.
Vegan Dinner Ideas
Bean and Vegetable Stir Fry
Combine various beans (like black beans, kidney beans, or chickpeas) with stir-fried vegetables and a flavorful sauce.
Swap out ground meat for cooked lentils in your favorite pasta sauce recipe.
Tofu or Tempeh Tacos
Use marinated and cooked tofu or tempeh as a filling for tacos, along with plenty of fresh veggies and salsa.
Prepare a flavorful curry using chickpeas, coconut milk, and a variety of spices. Serve over rice or quinoa.
Remember to balance your meals with a variety of vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats to ensure you're getting a well-rounded and nutritious diet. Additionally, consider consulting with a registered dietitian for personalized advice and meal planning.
Healthy Substance is a family-owned vegan restaurant offering innovative dishes and delicious foods. We proudly serve the vegan community of Garfield Ridge and provide an unparalleled experience that has defined first-class vegan cooking. Our extensive menu features a wide range of different foods and drinks. Please get in contact with us today to make a reservation or learn more about our unique menu. Opening soon in Wicker Park!