Essential Tips for Plant-Eaters in a Meat-Loving World

Eating differently from the rest of the world can feel like a challenge, but with a little strategy, it can be easy to keep up a plant-based lifestyle:

1. Know where to find your food.

Not every grocery store supplies whole plant-based foods in the variety you want at the right price. Take the time to check out options near you, including food co-ops, community supported agriculture (CSA) shares, which give you a season’s share of a local farmer’s harvest (often organic and a great value), and bulk sections of grocery stores. Even dollar stores and Walmart are worth checking out, especially if you’re on a tight budget (read about a great example HERE).

2. Treat others the way you want to be treated.

Not everyone wants the same thing, and this is true when it comes to our diets. Some people may be excited to try eating the way you eat, some may just be happy for you, and some may not be interested all. A real friend will respect your choices, and you can return the favor by respecting theirs, whatever they are. Check in with yourself when you’re about to share about how you eat—did the person ask you with open interest, or are they not really looking for an exchange of ideas and a real discussion?

3. Call ahead and speak up in restaurants.

Eating out is getting easier, as more and more plant-based options are cropping up on restaurant menus. However, these dishes are still prepared with oil and/or sugar more commonly than not, so never hesitate to call ahead when planning an evening out. You can also ask your server for suggestions given your dietary preferences. Replacing salad dressing with avocado and vinegar or lemon juice is one tried-and-true method for cleaning up almost any salad. You can also try ordering a variety of sides as your main course, asking that your veggies be steamed instead of fried or sautéed, or requesting the sauce on the side.

4. Rely on planning, not willpower, to stay plant-based.

Willpower most likely developed to help humans navigate social tensions, not so we could prevent ourselves from eating. We are designed to keep eating until we’re full! If you know you’ll be away from home for a while, be sure to plan ahead and bring enough food for snacks and meals, or make a plan of where you’ll stop to grab something healthy.2

5. Stick to the healthy basics when traveling.

If you didn’t have a chance to pack your meals and snacks, don’t worry. You might not normally eat mostly raw fruits and vegetables or make whole meals of fruit alone, but there’s no reason why you can’t throw one in there from time to time! The biggest challenges in traveling are stopping at highway rest areas, gas stations, and waiting in airports, because of their lack of healthy meals. Fortunately, almost every gas station and airport convenience store sells fruit. Need to load up on a quick meal? Just buy 5 or 6 bananas and/or apples—each one runs about 100kcal.3

1. Baumeister RF, Bratslavsky E, Muraven M, Tice DM. Ego depletion: is the active self a limited resource? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 1998;74(5):1252-1265.
2. Gailliot MT, Baumeister RF, DeWall CN, et al. Self-control relies on glucose as a limited energy source: willpower is more than a metaphor. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 2007;92(2):325-336.
3. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 27. 2014.

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About the Author

Headshot of Micaela Karlsen, MSPH, PHD

About the Author

Micaela Karlsen, PhD, MSPH

Micaela Karlsen is the author of A Plant-Based Life and a contributor to the New York Times bestseller Forks Over Knives: The Plant-Based Way to Health. She currently serves as senior director of research for the American College of Lifestyle Medicine. Karlsen holds a PhD in nutritional epidemiology from the Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy and an MSPH in human nutrition and public health from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Find her on LinkedIn.
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