A few of you have asked me about how to eat when you’re going out for vegetarian food, whether that’s at a vegetarian restaurant or you’re going to someone’s (South Asian) event or party that’s only serving vegetarian food. I know how hard it is to eat healthy and vegetarian because I was a vegetarian for eight years. I ended up eating too many carbs to be healthy or to lose weight. However, that was some time ago, and now there are more options.
The Percentage of Carbs to Vegetables
The most important thing is not to let carbs take over your whole meal. It’s easy to get carb overloaded without realizing it. The goal is for only 25% of your meal to be obvious carbs like rice or bread products. But’s it’s really important with vegetarian food because vegetarian protein, like beans, lentils, and quinoa will add even more carbs to your meal.
It’s essential that vegetables make up 50% of your meal. This means eating vegetable appetizers and sides. Any vegetable is fine except for potatoes and corn which are higher in glycemic index than other vegetables and less likely to help you lose weight. If you’re sharing dishes with your vegetarian friends, many restaurants will let you add additional vegetables or add a double order of vegetables to dishes like pasta, even if it’s not on the menu.
Planning in Advance
If you’re going out to eat you can offer to make the reservations so you can make sure there’s a healthy option for you, in addition to a lot of good vegetarian options for your friends. In NYC plant-based restaurants are becoming very popular. This is a good option for healthy food with a lot of vegetarian and vegan options. If that’s not an option where you live, I find the next best option is usually Thai food.
If you’re going to someone vegetarian’s house for an event, you may have to bring the vegetables with you. If you’re like me, you may have some vegetarian friends who serve a lot of carbs without any vegetables. To ensure that you get in enough vegetables, you can pick up a salad or vegetable sides from Whole Foods to bring with you. You could try saying “This is my new favorite salad from Whole Foods, and I thought everyone might like to try it!”
If having to eat vegetarian food doesn’t happen that often to you, you may be best off planning for this to be a cheat meal (again I recommend you aim for around three cheat meals or one cheat day a week).
What if There Really Aren’t Any Good Options?
In general, many restaurants are making more of an effort to add healthy options to their menus. However, if this is happening to you a lot, you’re going to a lot of events where they’re only serving unhealthy food; it may be better for you to eat before you go to the event. Then you can go to the event just to hang out with your friends or meet them for drinks (no sugary drinks this defeats the purpose of eating healthy!).
This is especially important when you’re first getting into the habit of eating healthy to lose weight. Eventually, you’ll have gotten into the habit of eating healthy, and it’ll be easier. But when you’re in the process of making healthy eating habits, it’s important not to get derailed. So you may have to eat before you go to an event to ensure that you stay in the cycle of eating healthy.
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P.S. Here’s my post about my experience with artificial sweetener (Stevia) and losing weight.