The student newspaper of Vernon Hills High School

The Scratching Post

The student newspaper of Vernon Hills High School

The Scratching Post

The student newspaper of Vernon Hills High School

The Scratching Post

Substitution leads to Inclusion

Restaurants should have inclusive menu items for all diets
Karwa’s dinner with their family at a restaurant in NYC offered tofu as beef substitution

Take a stroll through any menu, and you’re likely to find the customary vegetarian section offering salads and perhaps a token veggie burger. While these options cater to the basics, they hardly do justice to the complexity and variety inherent in plant-based diets. It’s time for restaurants to genuinely incorporate vegetarian and vegan alternatives. 

Despite growing awareness, many restaurants still offer sparse selections of plant-based dishes, leaving those with different diets with limited choices. This leads to exclusion during social gatherings and occasions of celebration that centered around food. If restaurants had options for substitution in their main entrees, then the menu would make a wider range of selections. Such as beans instead of chicken. 

Muhil Thirunavukkarasu (12) explained the difficulties she has experienced while being a vegetarian for almost fourteen years. 

“Sometimes when there aren’t options without meat, it makes me sad,” she said. “I’ve had to order salads, and I hate salads.” 

The lack of options or substitutions causes people with plant-based diets to order something they aren’t pleased with. Restaurants don’t have to make a new menu to include vegetarian and vegan meals. Instead, they can provide a choice of substitutions that would fit whatever preferences people have.

Furthermore, Thirunavukkarasu explained, “I’ve always had to check the menu before planning the dinner, and sometimes it even frustrates my friends who want to try something new. Our whole dinner plan starts to revolve around the menu and if it suits all the dietary needs of our friends.”

This frustration expressed by Thirunavukkarasu, who must meticulously check restaurant menus before planning dinners shows a common struggle for vegetarians and vegans. 

By expanding the range of substitute ingredients on menus, restaurants have the power to transform this dining dilemma into a liberating experience. Imagine a group of friends going to explore diverse culinary offerings without the constraints of a limited menu.  

Similarly, Akshaya Karadigattu (11), expressed concerns regarding being a vegetarian and lack of options.

Karadigattu talked about her parents’ concern about eating meat and health correlation, along with her religion of Hinduism where she practices being a vegetarian. Her family used to be non-vegetarians, but a few years ago, they changed their diets. 

“Because we are vegetarian, we mainly go to Indian restaurants, and we don’t eat out as much,” she explained. 

The sentiment of primarily choosing Indian restaurants due to being vegetarian speaks volumes about the perceived limitations vegetarians face in mainstream dining establishments. It reflects a common trend where individuals with specific dietary preferences feel compelled to stick to cuisines that inherently offer a wider array of options. This not only narrows the dining choices for vegetarians, but also points to the missed opportunities for other restaurants.

Something that helped me realize the importance of wider selections is my experience of being a vegetarian all my life. When I was in Boston and wanted to try Korean cuisine, the restaurant was able to give substitutes that fit my dietary preferences. 

Just like always, I looked up the menu online, searching for any vegetarian options. Facing a limited selection, I called the restaurant, and an employee explained how they could substitute some ingredients to fit my preferences. Overall, this enhanced the experience, as they were willing to fit my needs. Having lunch with my friend was very enjoyable. I was impressed by the new cuisine I got to explore while having it still fit my dietary preferences. Along with this, the restaurant’s willingness to fit my needs made their hospitality and experience more satisfying.

If other restaurants implemented this similar idea of substitutions, then they wouldn’t have to create a separate menu for vegetarians and vegans, while allowing the customers to feel fulfilled with their dining experience.

Overall, substitutions allow people to explore and experience different dishes. The idea is as simple as replacing the chicken with the beans but it makes all the difference for vegetarians and vegans.