With the rise of vegetarian and vegan lifestyles, it’s becoming increasingly crucial for meetings and events to offer vegan options for food and entertainment. Since 2020, the vegan lifestyle has risen 40% compared to previous years. However, despite this increase, many events only offer a few vegan items.
To make an event more memorable for all guests, it’s important to have these dietary choices available when making catering decisions. This will help in ensuring that all attendees feel seen.
Here’s a compiled list of easy ways to cater to vegan and vegetarian attendees for your next meeting or event. These options are a mix of food, placements, and an overall inclusive tone for the event or meeting.
While many meals contain meat and animal products, a vegan-friendly option is to replace proteins with a plant-based alternative. Plant-based proteins are not only an easy swap with animal products, but many have the ability to replicate meat in both texture and taste.
One great way to ensure that your event is catering to all parties is to find menu items prepared in both vegan and non-vegan ways, such as protein bowls, sandwiches, and pastas.
There is also the option of offering different menus for each party, allowing for more options while still giving dietary choice to guests.
Vegan proteins are also more common than many people think. Below are a few great alternatives that won’t break the bank and are easy to find from any store or catering company.
Add Extra Fruits, Vegetables, and Grains
When portioning servings for events that will cater to vegans as well as non-vegans, make sure to double the fruits, vegetables, and grains. Doubling these options is a quick way to allow for all attendees to have an adequate amount of food.
A bonus of the vegan options, such as fruit and vegetables, is that these same foods can be offered to all parties for relatively cheap and without second-guessing if they’re friendly to certain diets. However, a downside is that certain grain snacks (such as crackers and bread) must be free of dairy, honey, and butter to be vegan-friendly.
One way to incorporate these double servings of vegetables and fruits is by offering a variety of platters. Platters give off the appearance of having more choices while still catering to vegans and vegetarians.
Keep the Meals Balanced
When making a vegan menu, it’s also important to not just focus on what they can eat, but also how balanced the meals will be. No one wants to go to an event and have their only options be a salad and a few random sides.
Most vegan meals are divided into sections dedicated to food groups that vegans need to get their nutrients. These groups help to give vegans a healthy lifestyle, so keeping to this concept will help not only make a balanced meal but keep your guests happy long-term.
Salads, Wraps, and Soups are Your Friends
While salad-only options would irritate any guest, having the option of having that side salad or dinner salad is always a good choice. Not only can salads be easily customized. But for some vegans, this option is a safer pick.
When keeping the salad as a choice, make sure that you include toppings that will provide a balanced plate for vegans. This could mean including choices like avocado, nuts, extra vegetables, quinoa, and vegan dressings as customizations while still having cheese, eggs, bacon, and chicken available for those who are non-vegan.
Along with salads, another quick way to offer multiple options while including non-vegans is by offering wraps or sandwiches (and soups) that can be customized. Similarly to salads, these options allow for guests themselves to make choices on what they eat while still catering to all diets.
For wraps and sandwiches, some examples of vegan protein choices could be:
- Mashed chickpeas with different sauces, such as buffalo, vegan ranch, and vegan mayo
- Veggie or black bean patties
- Sauteed vegetables with onions, peppers, carrots, and mushrooms
- Cauliflower “steak”
- Diced potatoes with mushrooms
Soups are even easier, as many vegan soups are quick to make and can be cooked in large batches.
From The First Mess, here’s come great soup options that are hearty and vegan:
- Mushroom stew with farro and kale
- Red lentil cream soup with spicy carrots
- Squash chili with beans
- Ginger and coconut cream soup
Vegan Dips and Sauces
Another way to incorporate vegan options into any meal is to use vegan dips and sauces for chips and other dip-able snacks. These can come with fruits and vegetables to make for a good dining experience for all attendees.
Some great naturally vegan dips are:
- Garlic dip
- Hummus of all varieties, including red pepper, garlic, and plain
- Salsas, including mango and avocado
For non-vegan dips that are vegan, here are a few options from Karissa’s Vegan Kitchen:
- Nacho cheese and queso with potatoes, cashews, and carrots
- Spinach dip made with vegan cream cheese, vegan mayo, and spinach
- Ranch dip made with vegan mayo, dairy-free milk, and spices
- Buffalo chick’n dip, with vegan cream cheese, vegan chicken alternative or chickpeas, and vegan ranch
Don’t Forget Dessert
With so many vegan desserts out there, one way to cater to vegans and non-vegans alike is to offer delicious vegan desserts.
Vegan-friendly desserts can range from berry sorbet and vegan cakes, sometimes with barely any difference between the original and vegan recipes. Not only does this give the guests a way to relax with a treat at the end of the night, but it also conveys an overall feeling that the meal section of the event is ending.
Here are some popular vegan desserts that would make any guest’s mouth water:
- Vegan raspberry cheesecake
- Tart cherry and mint sherbet
- Vegan lemon bars
- Vegan apple crisps
Vegan-Friendly Drink Options
Many drinks are already vegan-friendly. But it’s still important to consider the requests of vegan guests then thinking of non-vegan options. If you’re unsure if an option is vegan, double-check for any dairy or honey in the ingredients list.
Most drinks offered at events, such as water and wine, are usually vegan by default. But here are some options to consider as well:
- Non-dairy options to add to coffee and tea, such as almond or oat milk
- Alcoholic drinks (if applicable) that don’t incorporate honey or dairy elements
When offering alcoholic drinks, note that many options (such as wine, champagne, and cocktails) are often already vegan from the start. Alcohol may not be at every event and not everyone drinks it, so it’s critical to keep other options in mind while planning out drink menus.
Have a Menu Available and Options Recorded
One of the best tricks for inclusion around food is to offer a menu when the event or meeting is first open for registration. This allows for all guests, not just vegans, to see the options before they register to attend and be able to provide feedback if available.
If you are looking for feedback before the event, propose these to attendees when asking for their opinions:
- Do the options seem fulfilling for the event planned?
- Are any choices that you’d like to see added, removed, or changed?
- Do you have any concerns over the options available?
- What allergies do you have that could affect the food choice you make?
While they are registering to attend, having marked spaces for dietary options (such as vegan) can help ensure that portions of vegan inclusive meals will serve all guests who attend and that vegan snacks will be provided the correct amounts.
Placement of Vegan Options
Another way to cater to vegans is to specifically label food to help them navigate your options. Doing so gives your attendees the ability to see not only vegan and vegetarian options but also other ingredients they may be adverse to. Consider a vegetarian- and vegan-specific food arrangement placed away from animal products.
Placement can also extend to seating. Depending on the number of vegans and vegetarians you have attending your event, and if there is a seating arrangement, having the option for a set area for vegans may be a choice you can offer. This would halt any cross-contamination with meat while also giving guests the ability to talk and meet people of similar lifestyle choices.
Veganism doesn’t just cover food options. Vegans are, by definition, against the exploitation of animals. This may include a belief against aquariums, zoos, circuses, or any form of animal entertainment where there could be cause for concern of the animals’ safety.
While zoo and aquarium trips may not be an option for many events, understanding why this is a problem for vegans can help eliminate potentially offensive ideas before they can form into entire projects.
Decorations, Gifts, and Prizes
While keeping on the theme of vegan events, decorations for events should be taken into consideration. Decorations should exclude animal fur, leather, wool, and silk. If candles are being used, try to buy soy candles instead of traditional beeswax candles. In addition, gifts or prizes for guests shouldn’t include those materials either.
Here are some alternatives to popular materials for gifts, prizes, and decorations:
- Instead of beeswax candles, use soy candles
- Instead of animal fur, use faux animal fur
- Instead of leather, try vegan leather or pleather
- Instead of wool, try cotton or linen
- Instead of silk, try cotton sateen
Make sure all gifts and decorations are cruelty-free. While these usually refer to makeup and skincare, they can also occasionally apply to lotions, soaps, and even hand sanitisers.
In today’s world, being vegan-inclusive is easier than ever before. Whether you’re running a large-scale event, or just having a weekly team meeting, being mindful of vegan preferences and sensitivities goes a long way to make people feel included and seen.