We all love tasty food, enticing flavours and relaxing at restaurants with friends and family. We feel good about looking after our health, having compassion for animals and caring for the planet. What about doing all these things at the same time? Or is that combination virtually impossible?
Vegetarian restaurants are an excellent option and many of us regularly refer to the www.happycow.net ‘app’ on our cell phone to locate the closest veg-friendly restaurant. We might also visit vegdining.com and www.earthsave.ca/vegdirectory for Earthsave’s helpful listings.
Even so, there are times when we want to go to a mainstream chain, either because of its handy location or because we are heading there with a group of business associates, friends or family members with diverse dietary preferences. At many of these restaurants, however, we are challenged to find a single protein-rich item on the menu. It’s perplexing because we know there are vegan options for many foods; for instance, the BC-based company Gardein offers vegan versions of chicken breasts, barbecued beef, buffalo wings and burgers.
We also know how easy it would be to replace the poultry in a chicken salad with a deliciously seasoned veggie “meat” or to use veggie “meatballs” in a pasta dish. When these dishes are made with real meat, the animal flesh is processed and shaped into convenient forms; plant ingredients can be molded and seasoned in similar ways. Pizzerias could top their vegetable pizzas with tasty and easily melted Daiya cheese and veggie pepperoni. Italian restaurants could simply add white beans to their salads, as they do in Tuscany. Restaurants could make their vegetable soup with chickpeas and vegetable stock instead of with chicken stock.
Instead, most local chains’ menus are completely lacking in protein-rich alternatives for vegans and for vegetarians who are sensitive to eggs or dairy. For those of us on plant-based diets, our choices are limited to lettuce – “I’ll order the Chicken Caesar Salad without the chicken and cheese” – or a fruit salad. Ultimately, we avoid these kinds of restaurants entirely and encourage our groups to head for more veg-friendly venues.
Over half the population in North America occasionally orders a vegetarian meal. And many people order a vegetarian meal even though they do not label themselves as a vegetarian. One in three vegetarians are vegan and, according to the national restaurant association, more than one in four families choose a restaurant based on the availability of a vegetarian option. Many people who wish to reverse a chronic disease or lower their risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes or colon, breast or prostate cancer welcome the opportunity to dine at an attractive location with friends and family, without cholesterol laden, fatty protein options. These people need an entrée with substance, not just a plate of greens or a bowl of fruit. It’s time for a consumer-driven campaign to get mainstream restaurants adding veggie alternatives to their menus.
If you’d like to see more plant-based options at some popular chains in the Vancouver area (British Columbia), contact the corporate customer service representatives below (or email other favourites):
Cactus Club (email@example.com 604-714-2025 )
Earls (www.earls.ca/comments/feedbackform 604-984-4606 )
ABC (firstname.lastname@example.org 604-583-2919 )
White Spot (email@example.com 604-321-6631 ).
Sample delicious, protein-rich and cholesterol-free foods at Earthsave’s Taste of Health event. Presenters include Vesanto Melina (“Putting Together a Nutritious Plant-based Diet”) RoundHouse Community Centre, 181 Roundhouse Mews, Yaletown, Vancouver.www.earthsave.ca
Visit Vesanto Melina’s website at www.nutrispeak.com or call 604-882-6782 . See the very new Cooking Vegetarian by Joseph Forest and Vesanto Melina, Wiley Canada, 2011, coming out in the US as Cooking Vegan, 2012.