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Restaurants Should Get With the Times and Add Some Good Vegan Food to the Menu

People are eating less meat and dairy and they want more vegetarian and vegan options when they're eating out.

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Check out these stunning statistics on the where the food trend is going:

Number of Vegetarians/Vegans and Trends in Vegetarian/Vegan Eating

- In a 2010 study from marketing firm Context Marketing that included 600 respondents, they found that 21 percent said "vegetarian" is important or very important to them. Fourteen percent said "vegan" is important or very important to them.
- The average American ate 14 pounds less meat (including poultry) per year in 2009 (208 pounds per person) than in 2006 (222 pounds per person).
- In feedback surveys among college students at campuses that Bon Appétit Management Co. (which manages more than 4,000 corporate, college and university accounts) oversees, in 2005-2006 an average of 8 percent said that they were vegetarian. The 2009-2010 survey, however, had very different results: 12 percent identified themselves as vegetarian.

Vegetarian/Vegan Trends in Dining Out

- According to a January 2011 USA Today article on marketing trends for 2011, 47 percent of Americans are trying to reduce their meat consumption.
- A 2009 issue of Nation's Restaurant News suggested adding vegetarian/vegan options to the menu as one of its top strategies for improving business. The publication noted that vegetarian food is generally less expensive for restaurants to procure, and mentioned the "veto vote," the tendency for families with one or more vegetarians to bypass any restaurant that serves no meat-free fare.

Let me just leave you with this: I often dine out in Santa Barbara, and my favorite restaurant is Lucky's Steakhouse. They make a mean martini and have a fantastic wine list, and the ambiance is festive and fun. They now feature a tofu dish, right alongside the steak, chicken and fish on the menu. A few friends and I had requested something other than the dreaded Grilled Vegetable Plate for so long, they finally relented. Not happily, at first, but they did it. They took one of their fish dishes and simply swapped out the fish for tofu, grilled it over braised spinach and a sweet miso sauce.

I usually start with a chopped salad of three kinds of lettuce, chickpeas, onions and avocado. We get a side of sweet potato fries to share. I asked the manager how the dish was doing, and he said, "I'm shocked, but it's flying out the door!" His customers are not vegan. Not even vegetarian or pescetarian. But everyone these days, it seems, wants to lighten up on meat a bit. And so they come to the steakhouse for the ambience and a good drink, and they enjoy a hearty protein-centered, plant-based meal, and everyone wins! The other restaurants, we simply don't consider anymore because we want everyone -- veg or carnivore -- to be happy!

Here's a little starter guide:

- Instead of milk or cream, use almond, soy or cashew cream
- Instead of butter, use Earth Balance (you would not know the difference)
- Instead of chicken broth, use vegetable broth
- Instead of chicken, use Gardein, seitan or tofu
- Instead of ground beef, use Smart Ground meatless crumbles or lentils
- Instead of cheese, use Daiya or Teese non-dairy cheese

Kathy Freston is a health and wellness expert and a New York Times bestselling author. Her latest book is "The Quantum Wellness Cleanse: The 21-Day Essential Guide to Healing Your Body, Mind, and Spirit." She has been featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show, Ellen, The View and Good Morning America. For more information visit

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