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Staying On Plan in a Chain Restaurant

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Old 06-23-2008, 08:57 PM   #1
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Default Staying On Plan in a Chain Restaurant

I recently joined a weekly networking group for business owners. We meet at lunch time at Coco's of all places. I have *never* eaten at a Coco's!

So, I just didn't eat for the first several meetings, which was easy to justify when I was doing low carb, whole foods vegan eating. NOTHING was on plan!

Well, I am not doing strictly low carb anymore, and besides, I have been the only one NOT eating and don't want to be viewed as cheap or snobby by the people who I am hoping to get business from.

Well, I did some research and found out from the server that I *could* order from the child's menu (for ages 10 and under) and get ONE thing that is vegan from breakfast and one from lunch (assuming they have breakfast oatmeal left over by that time).

I ordered the kids spaghetti, which I found out could be made vegan. It comes with a side (fresh fruit, sauteed veggies, French fries, salad, cinnamon spiced apples). I chose the veggies and may try the salad next time.

The kids meal comes with a drink too, so I got orange juice (apple is also available). I refused the bread that came with the dish.

So, I had a decent, appropriately sized meal for $5!

Any other suggestions on what may be vegan and calorie controlled from those who eat there?

I don't really like the idea of eating pasta once a week, but it is the best compromise I could come up with that is vegan and not too horribly high in calories.
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Old 06-23-2008, 09:04 PM   #2
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You can order a salad with dressing on the side, that will save a lot of calories.
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Old 06-23-2008, 09:08 PM   #3
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Thanks, Bargoo. I am just not too keen on spending $8 or more for plain lettuce (which ends up happening if I order salad at a "regular" restaurant that won't customize a yummy vegan one).

Also, they have only 1 dressing choice that is low calorie and it's a fat free Italian, full of HFCS I am sure.

Since the side salad comes with the kids plate, I will try it and see what it's like.
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Old 06-23-2008, 09:21 PM   #4
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Hey!

Just thinking about salad dressings--most restaurants have a plain oil and vinegar dressing option. It's not ideal by any means, but it's better than some of the "low cal" options. Usually it's vegetable oil and red wine vinegar (in separate bottles).

It is just the hardest thing to be vegan and looking to eat at a chain, let alone watching calories. I know this not because I'm vegan, but I have friends who are.

Some chains have a few better choices than they used to--such as whole grain rice or pasta, which you can try in limited amounts. Sometimes they will steam vegetables for you and not add the "butter" sauce. Fresh fruit is often an option as well.

Eight bucks for plain lettuce is ridiculous, but that's the culture we live in, sad to say. I guess perhaps the best thing is to eat beforehand and then just have the few things that are available when you go to the meetings.

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Old 06-23-2008, 09:28 PM   #5
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Have you checked out the Vegetarian Chicks Forum ? They have a lot of Vegetarian and Vegan Recipes and hints on menus . etc.
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Old 06-23-2008, 09:28 PM   #6
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I'd also vote that you eat beforehand. Unfortunately, your dietary restrictions mean that menu options for you are really going to be limited at most typical chain restaurants - simply because those restaurants focus on serving things that the majority of American patrons will order, and that list generally has very little overlap with whole foods, vegan eating. Especially in a chain where so little is customizable (because it all tends to come in packets that are then reheated, so adding/removing ingredients is tough), it is just going to be tough to do...at a more local/non-chain place, you could probably assemble something from vegan ingredients and get a decent meal.

Oatmeal is a good option. The spaghetti is good, too. A plate of pasta every week might not be ideal, but since your options ARE limited, it might be the best you can do at that particular chain.
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Old 06-23-2008, 09:32 PM   #7
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Thanks, JayEll. I am going to ask for oil and vinegar tomorrow (or oil and lemon wedges if vinegar is too "exotic" ) and see how the salad goes. I think it may be a better nutritional choice (and flavor) to get the veggies. I can specify that I want them steamed or boiled or however they cook them, just no added oil. Then, next week I will try the fruit!

I love that they are letting me buy from the kids menu. I just told the server that I was on a diet and she was fine with it. It showed up in her tip.

I am crossing my fingers! I don't like to make it more difficult for the server, she's waiting on 20 of us as it is. They have us write down our order though, put it in an envelope with our payment, so it shouldn't be too much bother.
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Old 06-23-2008, 09:36 PM   #8
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Thanks, Bargoo and Mandalinn, you posted while I was typing too.

I really feel like eating with the group is the best thing to do, as I don't want to alienate my potential customers and networking partners.

I'll try the oatmeal at a future meeting. Oatmeal and fruit, small/appropriate serving size and under $4, SOLD! I am trying to avoid bringing in anything to customize it (that would be tacky in this case) but if I just had a little soy or almond milk and ground flax, the oatmeal would be GOOD.

Oh well, it's just one meal a week and a small one at that.
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Old 06-23-2008, 09:38 PM   #9
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I always ask for salsa as my salad dressing. I've never had a restaurant that didn't have salsa.
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Old 06-24-2008, 01:03 AM   #10
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I actually love Coco's. The last time I was there I had a really great spinach and eggwhite omelet, topped with salsa and 2 pieces of dry whole grain toast with jelly.

My other favorite chain restaurant is P.F. Chang's - they post all nutritional info online, so it's easy for me to make a great, healthy choice (sauteed spinach, side of brown rice, Cantonese scallops - plenty of food for 2 great meals, it's the one place I break my "NO RESTAURANT LEFTOVERS" rule for!)
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Old 06-24-2008, 11:19 AM   #11
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I like to support small locally owned businesses and since this is a group of business owners, I wonder if you could suggest an alternative meeting location---like a small locally owned restaurant. Since you all are business owners and all.
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Old 06-24-2008, 07:46 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by midwife View Post
I like to support small locally owned businesses and since this is a group of business owners, I wonder if you could suggest an alternative meeting location---like a small locally owned restaurant. Since you all are business owners and all.
Yep, I feel the same way, but this group has been established for 4 years, I am a newbie, the current restaurant has a room we can use (free of charge) that is separate and quiet and so it meets our needs better than any mom and pop place could.
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Old 06-24-2008, 07:48 PM   #13
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Good call, Nelie. Salsa makes a good dressing!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Glory87 View Post
I actually love Coco's. The last time I was there I had a really great spinach and eggwhite omelet, topped with salsa and 2 pieces of dry whole grain toast with jelly.
I am glad you can get what you like there. If I weren't vegan I'd probably order much as you do.
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Old 06-24-2008, 08:40 PM   #14
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i really like this website.... http://www.healthydiningfinder.com/s...ants/index.php and i check the options i have at the restaurant before i go out!
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Old 06-24-2008, 11:15 PM   #15
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Soul, I don't know if this would be too weird for you, but sometimes when I go to a restaurant and plan on eating salad, I will bring a pre-measured amount of lowfat dressing from home to pour on my salad. I don't think that would be tacky, you aren't changing much, just leaving off their dressing. I think you can be pretty discrete about it, too, just pour it on fast and be done with it. Or what about eating a pretty good amount of food before you go, but so you won't feel like you are snubbing them, you could order a side of fruit or a baked potato or something a la carte like that. That way you would still be eating but still healthy. I like the idea of eating from the kids menu. I've done that at fast food restaurants and it is just enough food. Not stuffing, but enough.
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