Trying to make heart healthy choices at restaurants after a heart attack

Eating out after a heart attack is challenging. Restaurants pile on sugar, fat, and salt because people expect a decadent experience when they go out to eat. Maybe that was okay when eating in a restaurant was for special occasions, but these days people do it all the time.

But what about vegan restaurants? They have plenty of healthy options, right?

Not necessarily. Many menus are full of deep-fried food, coconut oil, refined flours, refined sugar, etc. – foods I’m trying to avoid. And I don’t want to be that person questioning every single ingredient. So I’d much rather avoid eating out because it causes me a lot of stress.

That said, I still go out to eat occasionally. And here are a few things I ended up eating. With each dish, I have a little commentary about how on or off target the meal was.

Examples of trying to eat heart healthy at restaurants

Whole Foods

This meal was an emergency meal at the Whole Foods bar. I’m only eating about 1200 calories a day and eating way past my mealtime makes me super hangry.

This example was not a great Whole Foods for vegans. The bar had no tofu or any other alternatives on it, no beans, but it did have edamame and seeds which I threw on top of kale with some other veggies and balsamic vinegar. They also had cauliflower and potatoes roasted without oil. Based on the nutritional information for the falafel, it seemed like they were baked not fried, so I took a gamble on them.

salad, falafel and roasted potato from whole foods bar.

Ike’s Place

Ike’s Place is a small chain of sandwich shops that have amazing vegan options. This sandwich is the Vegan Pilgrim on wheat. It has cranberry sauce, sriracha, vegan cheese, and vegan turkey with lettuce, tomato, onions, and pickle. I think the vegan cheese might be house-made. It seemed more sauce like than slices or shreds. The turkey is Tofurky. The cheese might have some oil in it, but otherwise, this wasn’t a super terrible thing for me to eat.

vegan pilgrim sandwich from Ike's Place in Mesa.

Pancho’s Vegan Tacos

I was skeptical of Pancho’s Vegan Tacos but ended up being pleasantly surprised. After looking at the menu online, I decided to try the posole. It usually comes with tostadas, which are fried, so I substituted regular corn tortillas. After asking about how they prepare their vegan meats, I also tried a street taco. Their meats are seasoned TVP and are not oily. I felt really good about this meal. Posole from Pancho's Tacos in Las Vegas.

Veggie House

On the other hand, this Kung Pao Beef from Veggie House was much oilier than I wanted it to be. At least the beef wasn’t deep fried. And the brown and red rice mix was a nice touch.
Kung pao vegan beef at Veggie House in Las Vegas.

Brown rice at veggie house in las vegas.


When I previewed VegeNation’s menu online, I was pleased to see items without oil marked on the menu. Awesome! That’s the first time I’d seen that. I got the Super Green Salad and the Chocolate Thunder smoothie. While there was no oil, it wasn’t a low-fat salad. But at least all the fats were whole foods based. And when you’ve been off refined sugars for a while, a smoothie like this tastes like a milkshake. I totally should have had them leave out the agave though.The super green salad at VegeNation in Las Vegas.

Pancho’s Vegan Tacos

We went back to Pancho’s Vegan Tacos and this time I got the street taco combo plate. The beans are not refried, and you can get a good look at their vegan meats here. They’re not at all oily. There are no oil drippings when you’re eating your tacos. Street tacos rice and beans at Pancho's Vegan Tacos.

VeggiEAT Xpress

This pho at VeggiEAT Xpress was terrific! It had both veggie chicken and beef in it, bok choy, and rice noodles. And that whole plate of toppings when in as well. The meats were probably wheat gluten and soy. Again, it wasn’t a fat-free, salt-free broth, but there also weren’t puddles of oil floating on top. While I keep my sodium intake low at home, it’s not my primary concern.Vegan beef & chicken pho at VeggiEat Xpress in Las Vegas.

Tips for eating heart-healthy meals in restaurants

I’m not very good at this. But there are a few things you can do ahead of time to help you get a meal that meets your needs.

  • Check the menu online for dishes that could be heart-healthy (this is usually the point where I stop my research)
  • Call the restaurant and ask questions, preferably during an off-peak time. You’ll be more likely to get the attention you need around 3 pm rather than during their lunch rush.
  • Order dressings and sauces on the side. Then you can determine at the table if you want it all over your food.
  • If there isn’t a good option, don’t eat there.
  • Try not to show up to a restaurant starving. I know this is hard. It’s why many of us end up at restaurants in the first place. But this is when you end up making bad decisions.

Are you trying to eat a whole food plant based diet in restaurants? How’s that going for you? Any big hits or misses?

Laura Nunemaker

About the Author

Laura Nunemaker

vegan. full-time traveler. rv dweller. food lover. cow petter.

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  • […] decided to cover eating out at restaurants in a separate post. Click through to find some examples of what I’ve been eating in restaurants and how I felt […]

  • Darlene Yost says:

    I have followed the same Plant based Drs info that you have. I was plant based for a while..enjoyed it and I liked alot of Anyas ‘cooking with plants’ ..and follows no oil cooking. Although some of her dishes are alot of ingredients there are some that are easier. I’m not vegan at the moment..but am on the fence about raw. I am a care giver for my mentally challenged older brother and it’s difficult to cook different meals he doesn’t understand why he can’t have a lot of food..or certain type of food. I’m glad that you posted about your heart attack as I was curious..and I knew that you had changed your diet. I was glad to see your very well written post about your heart attack and food. Thank you. We would love to be travelling in a RV but it’s not possible at this time.

    • Hi Darlene,

      Sometimes you just have to do the best you can. Educating yourself about food choices puts you ahead of most people (even doctors!) I’m not sure what kinds of foods your brother likes to eat, but maybe batch cooking can help. Like chili or pasta sauce. That’s one of the downsides to living in an RV – there’s no room to store all that extra food!

  • […] I do eat out at restaurants sometimes, but not nearly as much as we used to and, again, I choose the options that are as close to whole […]

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