Dining Out: Plant Based Edition

Dining outside of Pasquals, Santa Fe New Mexico

September 22, 2023

I’m Amanda.
The AWH Guide to all things health. With two doctorates and a background in healthcare I provide recommendations you can trust. 
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While I love to cook I am also an avid foodie, always excited to try the newest restaurants. I ended up transitioning to a plant-based diet overnight, literally, overnight. The impetus was there from a family health standpoint, I watched a few vegan documentaries on Netflix and the next morning decided I was going “all in.”

My first meal was in a restaurant and honestly, I found it easier to transition to a newer way of eating in a restaurant – where there were plenty of options, that just needed modifications vs. creating a new meal at home from scratch. Since then I have dined in countless restaurants from 5 start to local dives, at home and abroad, and here are my tips for enjoying plant based cuisine while dining out:

Hold the Cheese

Eating a Whole Foods Plant Based Diet is focusing on real, Whole Foods and avoiding meat or dairy products. Personally, I try to completely avoid cow dairy. If goat or sheep’s cheese is an option, I will “consider” it as the milk from these smaller animals is closer in composition to human milk and easier for our bodies to naturally digest. However, usually I just ask to hold the cheese on a dish. When the bread and butter plate comes, I ask for olive oil. See, easier than you thought!

Choose Cultural Cuisine

In my opinion, American restaurants are some of the hardest places to find plant-based options. If I have a choice I always opt for Cultural Cuisine as there are usually a plethora of vegetarian options that can be easily modified.

  • Indian: often coconut milk is used over dairy – yum!
  • Mexican: swap extra guacamole > cheese/sour cream
  • Italian: ask for a pasta cooked in olive oil > cream sauce
  • Ethiopian: hold the meat and everything else on the menu is a go!
  • Chinese: ask if you can swap tofu or extra veggies for any meat entree
  • Japanese: ask for a vegetable based dish, miso soup, so many options!
Enjoy tacos at LaFonda Restaurant, Santa Fe New Mexico

La Fonda, Santa Fe, NM


When I am reviewing a new menu I don’t just look at the vegetarian options, rather I peruse the whole menu to see what sides the restaurant offers. Example – in a steakhouse there may be delicious sides that you would like to try and if it’s on the menu, it can be ordered.

I review what I want to eat and then either create my own meal by asking for various sides, or perhaps an appetizer that I want turned into my entree. The possibilities really are endless, and my best advice is to not limit yourself, or fear the menu, rather enjoy exploring what that restaurant has to offer and then have fun creating a meal you will love.

Also, know the server is there to help – so share any dietary considerations and see what they come up with! Some of my best meals have come after a candid conversation with the server (as I could see what ingredients were at that restaurant based off of the rest of the menu) and then asking them to work with the chef to surprise me!

Pear dessert at the Inn at Little Washington

The Inn at Little Washington


The beauty of plant-based eating is the exploration of vegetables/grain/fruit combinations that you may have never tried before if you naturally gravitated towards meat options. I have seen the culinary delight of friends, and my now husband, who had never explored plant-based meals savoring their last bite of a new dish.

Remember to be kind to yourself. There are no hard fast rules, rather you are working towards making small changes that support your “why” – perhaps it is your own health, cares for the environment, animal rights, sustainability, etc. The important thing is to enjoy exploration and experimentation and perhaps, you might find that you want to replicate this plant-based deliciousness at home someday!

Bon Appetit!

in good health,
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