4 restaurant chains you can look for if you are a vegan in Texas

When you’re thinking of restaurants serving delicious vegan food, Texas probably isn’t what comes to mind – more likely than not, you see a BBQ-and-grill establishment as the representative of Texan cuisine. Despite this, many cities in Texas – even some smaller ones – have a lot of great vegan restaurant chains to choose from, if you know where to look.

If you’d like to eat out regularly without compromising your vegan dietary habits, read on for 4 restaurants to look for if you are a Texas vegan.

  1. Avocado Cafe and Juice Bar: These guys serve a lot more than just fruit and juices – each restaurant in the chain features a complete menu of gourmet dishes that would make even the most seasoned meat eater reconsider his dietary beliefs. A San Antonio family-run business, Avocado caters to anyone and everyone: from those looking for a quick veggie burger to those needing to fuel a ceremony or special event with large quantities of quality vegan or gluten-free food. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can also order a surprise dish, carefully picked out by the chef. And if you need even more reasons to feel good about eating here, consider the fact that many of Avocado’s chefs are veterans of the U.S. military.
  2. Loving Hut: This international chain of vegan restaurants advises you to go vegan in order to save the planet. Well, you’re sure to save your stomach while eating something from their tasty and health-conscious menu. Many of the dishes are Asian couisine (Vietnamese in particular), and the menu varies based on the many different restaurant locations, but the general idea stays the same. If you’re looking for some quality take-out or sit-down vegan lunch or dinner in Addison, Arlington or Houston, treat yourself to one of Loving Hut’s complete courses.
  3. Chipotle: You might be surprised that Chipotle made its way onto the list. They’re well-known for their Mexican cuisine (known to be meat-based), so what could they have in store for vegans? While they do focus on dishes with meat, they still make room for the conscious eater. Many of the dishes are available in vegan and vegetarian edition – you can order existing dishes with plant-based meat subsitutes – and there are also specialty vegan items like a soy burrito in some locations. You can also customize your order by eliminating toppings such as cheese. They have over a dozen locations in Texas alone, many of which are found in Fort Worth or Odessa.
  4. Guero’s Taco Bar: A popular Mexican restaurant in South Austin, Guero’s makes vegan Mexican cuisine seem easy. Unlike many similar establishments, Guero’s features a full vegan menu that covers breakfast, lunch and dinner. Customers still retain control over their order and can choose between soy or plant-based fillings depending on their preferences. If you’re a vegan who’s always longed to try out everything that Mexican cuisine has to offer, look no further – Guero’s veg-friendly meals are so well-made that you’ll almost forget Mexican food is meant to be prepared with meat.

3 top challenges of being a vegan in Texas

Veganism is, without a doubt, a challenging practice. Even the strictest vegan would admit that some non-vegan food tastes delicious. Like everything worth doing, maintaining a vegan lifestyle takes work and a lot of discipline.

Texas vegans don’t have it easy, that’s for sure. While larger Texan areas have plenty of vegan restaurants and establishment, you’ll still find yourself tested on a daily basis if you choose to forgo meat completely. The following are 3 top challenges of being a vegan in Texas, in no particular order.

  1. Resisting Mexican food: Mexican cuisine consists of some of the most delicious meals one can taste. The spices alone take the palate on a wild ride, to speak nothing of the actual dishes. The majority of Mexican food is prepared with meat at the center, with chicken being the most popular. Now, being a vegan doesn’t mean you no longer get to enjoy those delicious chimichangas, or that you can no longer order a large serving of tacos when you get a bout of nighttime hunger – most of these foods are available in vegan edition. However, many find that it just doesn’t taste the same when vegetables replace meat, even with the chef’s best efforts. Furthermore, vegan food will often be prepared on the same surfaces and using the same instruments that were used to chop and grill meat. This means that your vegan burrito could be dipped in burger oil – a scary notion for some. If you’re going vegan, you might have to significantly cut back on Mexican food (unless you’re fortunate enough to have a Mexican cook under your roof, that is).
  2. Most food establishments are meat-based: Texans love their meat, probably more than most. Food establishments in Texas, ranging from small fast food joints to large restaurants, will almost always be meat-based. The majority of dishes will involve some type of meat, and you won’t be able to get much variety if you’re used to eating out. What’s worse is that meat is the specialty of most chefs, and their best dishes will tend to involve meat – even good chefs might struggle to make the vegan items on the menu as appealing as their burgers, steaks or ribs.
  3. Texans love a good barbecue: Out of all the ways to prepare meat in Texas, BBQ wins the popularity contest. People in Texas love to eat meat, but they love nothing more than a good barbecue. Barbecuing often becomes a social event or even a competition – Lone Star Carpet Care, a local cleaning company, sponsors a BBQ cook-off every year that lets meat-lovers test their grilling skills and enjoy their favorite food in good company. As a vegan, you won’t have much to do at these types of events, and you might end up feeling as if you’re missing out. Indeed, the social factor is what makes it hardest for many – passing up on that family BBQ and knowing everyone there is having a good time weighs down heavily on a lot of vegans, even those who are dead-set on their beliefs.

The different stages and types of vegans

Vegan (and vegetarian) are words that get thrown around a lot without always meaning the same thing. In the strictest sense, a vegan would be someone who doesn’t consume any animal-related products, whereas a vegetarian only abstains from all forms of meat.

If you’re considering a meat-free diet or are simply curious about the different stages and types of vegans, read on for a comprehensive list ranging from mildest to most die-hard.

Stages of veganism and vegetarianism

  • Pescetarian: This is a type of diet that completely excludes meat, but still includes fish, eggs, dairy and related products. Most ‘true’ vegans will frown when their diet is compared to this one.
  • Lacto-ovo: A step-up, lacto-ovo vegetarians won’t touch meat and fish, but still won’t mind the occasional omelette or glass of milk. Because the majority of processed food contain dairy, eggs or both, many find this the ideal middle ground that doesn’t threaten their lifestyle while also letting them have a conscious diet.
  • Regular vegetarian: The ‘standard’ form of vegetarianism excludes meat, fish and eggs, but still allows for dairy and other animal byproducts such as honey.
  • Vegan: Here is where things start to get hardcore. Strict vegans won’t touch any animal byproduct like meat, fish, eggs, dairy, honey and so forth. They’re also extremely opposed to the idea of fur and similar products.
  • Raw food vegan: If you’re really looking to go all-natural, you might want to consider going raw. Raw food veganism has been gaining more popularity thanks to stores like Whole Foods, as it focuses only on ‘fresh’ food as it comes from nature – nothing cooked or baked. Some find that this diet has difficulty curbing a person’s appetite, while others praise it for its health benefits.
  • Fruitarianism: The most extreme of the bunch, fruitarians don’t even want to consume vegetables as they’re considered to be technically alive. Instead, they base their diet on fruit and certain types of nuts. This is reserved only for those that don’t mind completely turning their dietary habits around and adhering to a very restrictive diet.

Which stage is right for you?

If you’re considering cutting back on animal products, reading the above might confuse you. The best way to go about this is to ask yourself: what can’t I live without?

As an example, some people can’t even give up meat as they consider it the central part of their diet. Others never had a taste for it, and might even enjoy cutting it completely.

If you’re looking for an environmentally-conscious diet while still getting all the nutrients you need, try to land somewhere between lacto-ovo and regular vegan. Lacto-ovo doesn’t include dead flesh, which is the biggest issue for many who get into veganism, but it still offers a well-balanced meal plan that’s easy to maintain. On the other hand, if you see no point in consuming anything from an animal, being a vegan might be right for you – you’ll have to put in a lot more effort into your diet, but the payoff might be worth it, both from an ethical and health-related perspective.

How to get started as a vegan

They say that the beginning of anything is always the most difficult part. There’s no doubt that this is true for would-be vegans – the moment you decide to adopt veganism, you’ll face opposition from multiple sources.

Your friends and family might not approve of your newfound dietary habits, the world around you will seem to promote a meat-based diet, you might have to let go of your favorite processed foods due to traces of eggs and dairy and so forth.

Still, knowing how to get started is what’s important – once you do, things will tend to take care of themselves, and before you know it, being a vegan will seem as natural to you as breathing air or drinking water.

The vegan basics of your transition

Unfortunately, going vegan isn’t as simple as merely consuming anything meat or dairy-free. Omnivores have it easy here – they have to try really hard to lack nutrients in their diet, even if they simply eat whatever they like.

As a vegan, you’ll have to familiarize yourself with the macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates and fats) as well as all the vitamins that your body needs. This is why a vegan diet gets a lot of bad rep – those who don’t understand it believe it to be an incomplete way of eating, which is only partially true.

You can get everything you need from vegan food, but you’ll have to be meticulous about your diet plan. If you thought gorging on ‘vegan’ junk food like soy burgers or dairy-free chocolate was going to cut it, you’re in for a surprise. As a vegan, you’ll have to represent your fellow plant-eaters well – in the eyes of meat-lovers around you, any health issue you’re having will probably be the fault of „you not eating meat like you should“.

Since a vegan diet is notoriously low on protein, you’ll need to make an effort to include it. Many consider protein to be the most important nutrient in one’s diet, and with good reasons. Luckily for vegans, nutty products like walnuts, peanuts and almonds are tasty, abundant and protein-rich, so you’d do well to develop a taste for them during the earliest stages of your veganism.

Vegan supplementation and making sacrifices

Those who oppose this diet also highlight the ‘difficulty’ of getting enough vitamins without meat, imagining vegans as malnutritioned and oftentimes sickly. If you’re serious about your veganism, you’ll have no trouble adding a multivitamin to your diet in order to ensure your body has everything you need.

Vitamin B12 is perhaps the hardest to get while on a vegan diet while also being incredibly important to a person’s health, so you’ll need a bottle of B12 capsules in the kitchen cabinet.

There’s also something to be said about giving up some of your favorite foods because they’re not in line with your beliefs. Your favorite pepperoni pizza and chocolate ice cream will become a thing of the past, and here is where a lot of aspiring vegans choose to revert back to their regular diet – they find life too short to give up on such pleasures. Those who persist, however, enjoy a range of health benefits and rarely end up going back to their old ways.