For the most part leading a vegan lifestyle isn’t difficult. It takes planning and commitment but I look at it as a lifelong investment and an insurance policy on my body. So how do you take this lifestyle out on the town Friday night? Well, there’s the catch. Being openly vegan in a social setting can leave you looking like an attention whore and a more than a little crazy. Being quite slim to begin with, I often get the typical “just eat a burger” or “we’d all look like you of we ate like that”. So the question is how do you look as normal as possible without giving away your eating identity. I’ve concocted a few suggestions to help you fit right in with your omnivore bffs.
Host Dinner at Your Place
Hey, they can’t judge you if you’re providing the food. There are a ton of standard meatless meals that don’t scream “I’m Vegan”. Not only can you control the food but you can show them just how easy and flavorful vegan dishes can be. I’ll often do a black bean soup or chili and have guests bring toppings they enjoy. Another default meal is Mexican. Make a big crockpot of slow cooked pintos, colorful fajita veggies, guac and fresh salsa..how could anyone miss meat with that much flavor. If someone absolutely has to have meat, have them prepare and bring it themselves. Everyone can make their own plates mixing and matching to their preferences and we’re all happy.
If Attending a Dinner Party Offer to Bring A Dish
This is where you’ll run into sticky situations. Fortunately, I have wonderfully accommodating friends and a really good excuses for my vegan lifestyle (which you owe no one) but still I feel bad when they graciously extend an invite and I slam them with a list of no-no ingredients. I often ask what they are planning on making and offer to bring a complimenting semi-main dish or meal salad that takes the stress off them and allows us to still have a relaxing social time together. Another way to do it is offer to social cook with them in their kitchen. Bring your ingredients over, pour glasses of wine for everyone and make the cooking part the main event.
Game Day House Party
This one’s easy. Everyone is asked to bring a finger food – pick up a veggie and hummus tray, mixed nuts, or a fruit platter. You’ll seem healthful but 100% normal. If anyone suspects anything begin to double fist potato chips.
Going Out To Eat
Think tactically here. You don’t want to blow your cover and suggest the 1 vegan restaurants in town when your friends ask about going out. Although, it might be a treat to you, your friends don’t look at veggies the same and your feast is their rabbit food. You usually can’t go wrong finding a happy solution for all by suggesting sushi or Thai cuisine. If you’re working with an adventurous crew, Middle eastern or Ethiopian fair is fantastic and the cool cultural thing to eat these days. If none of those options are available, look for farm-to-market or modern gastropub establishments. I’ve noticed a lot of them feature some sort of vegan veggie burger or plant based entree. If you’re dealing with a vegan AND gluten free person like my husband, just quietly request the gf bun and if anyone hears you, laugh it off and do your best Bon Qui Qui impersonation.
These can go both ways depending on the type of place you work. I work with a pretty young, physically fit and accepting crowd and we all mutually respect and support each others dietary decisions. I realize this is not the norm and packing your lunches can result in a loss of major social interaction at work. This is another situation where you’re better off strategically picking friends and enacting a zero tolerance zone for skinny shaming and healthy food snobbing. If Brenda in finance wants to live vicariously through your young fit physique while talking smack on how you never eat the break room cookies, good for her. You don’t engage. If absolutely necessary, you lay out the science and research driven reasons for your choices and and ask them to provide the same on their choices. As I said before you owe no one an explanation. Personally, if my colleagues were putting so much thought and energy into food choices at work, I’d seriously consider not staying employed there.
Going Out For Drinks
Thank goodness (most) alcohol is vegan. If you’re planning on drinking domestic brews, however, give them a google as some are not as vegan friendly as you’d think. Opt for a glass of wine instead. If the happy hour your hitting doesn’t have vegan friendly snack food, stash some nuts or crackers in your purse for when the munchies hit. If you are being asked for suggestions, sushi places are great for drinks and often have killer happy hour veggie rolls and edamame.
There you have it, your vegan guide to having a social life just in time for the weekend. The more you practice the more savvy you’ll become and the less you’ll feel like you’re missing out. Cheers! -L