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A Vegetarian's Survival Guide to Eating in the South


A Vegetarian's Survival Guide to Eating in the South

Guest Contributor


This piece was originally published in the April-July 2018 issue of our journalVol. 4, Issue 1: Green.

By most standards, I’m a baby vegetarian, as I’ve only been a vegetarian for three-and-a-half years. But in those years, I’ve seen my body do incredible things.

Let me back up a little bit.

After having my first child, I struggled with losing the sixty pounds (yikes) I’d gained during pregnancy. I talked to a friend of mine who I’d always considered “the healthy one,” and she gave me some of her favorite recipes. I noticed all of them were meatless. So I decided to cut out meat, but just for a little while because, hello, bacon! But then I noticed some perks. I started losing weight, my skin cleared up, my cholesterol (which has always been high) dropped 100 points, and I started actually feeling healthy, so I decided to keep going.

I then began questioning the ethical side of eating meat and even how it affects the environment. Additionally, I’m a practitioner of yoga, and one of the yoga yamas (ahimsa) is “do no harm.” Not harming animals is one way I’ve tried to live in that mindset.

Now please hear me say that I am not a nutritionist or doctor. Nor am I saying cutting out meat is the best option for every individual on the planet. I am saying that I’ve felt better since I started this plant-based journey. If you don’t feel particularly healthy or just want a reset, vegetarianism is a great option—just talk to your medical professional first.

Now with the liability statement out of the way, let’s get back to it.

A couple concerns I have heard over the years when asked about vegetarianism are nutrition and cost. To address the first concern, I’d say that if you eat a well-rounded diet of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes you will, more than likely, get all of the nutrients you need, including plenty of protein.

Secondly, meat is expensive, y’all!  Vegetarianism does not have to equal elitism, and it can be accessible to all. Sure, you can find a fifteen-dollar salad someplace, but produce, grains, and beans are very cost efficient.

Let’s be honest, though. It can be tricky to be a vegetarian in the South, and Jackson has some of the same challenges. Most menus include tons of meat with very few vegetarian-friendly options. However, when you start to really look, our city has plenty of options to help you sustain a vegetarian lifestyle.

Without further ado, here is my guide to Jackson eating, vegetarian edition.

Eating Out

Local to Jackson

Rock'n Dough Pizza & Brew Co.: Torched Earth sandwich or any of their meatless pizzas
ComeUnity Café: Their menu changes from day-to-day, but they always have at least one vegetarian or vegan option
Thai Café: Vegetable Pad Thai
Old Town Spaghetti Store: Eggplant parmesan with marinara
Asia Garden / Sakura: Both have delicious vegetable sushi rolls
Tulum Fresh Mexican Grill: Las Frescas tacos

Favorite Chains

Panera Bread: Southwest salad (just ask for no chicken) and a meatless soup or Mediterranean veggie sandwich
Jason’s Deli: Salad bar and vegetable soup
Red Robin: Veggie or Vegan burger (you can also request a gluten-free bun and fries)
Burger King / Back Yard Burgers: Both have veggie burgers

Cooking at Home

Frozen Foods

Frozen meals: Amy’s (They are all meatless, and you can find vegan and gluten-free options as well.)
Frozen breakfast sandwiches: Sweet Earth Benevolent Bacon
Veggie burgers: Hilary’s Veggie Burgers
Meatless chicken tenders: Gardein Seven Grain Crispy Tenders

Meat Substitutes

Bacon: Roasted shiitake mushrooms
Ground beef: Soaked and seasoned walnuts
Hot wings: Cauliflower hot wings (Buy a bottle of your favorite hot sauce to use in a cauliflower recipe.)
Tacos: Sweet potatoes, rice, and black beans

Pro Tips

  • When going to restaurants, you can generally mix and match vegetable sides (sweet potatoes, green beans, rice, etc.) to make a substantial, filling, and healthy meal.
  • Some restaurants’ best dishes are their dinner salads, but don’t let some grilled chicken scare you away from trying! Just ask for no meat.
  • A lot of vegetables are cooked in meat or meat broth, so even if it’s not mentioned on the menu or clear on the packaging, it’s best to just ask.
  • When in doubt, Grubb’s, Kroger, and, of course, our incredible West Tennessee Farmers’ Market have a ton of meat-free options and great produce.

So, whether you are vegetarian, flexitarian, or just want to add a Meatless Monday to your weekly menu, Jackson has some great options, and this list is just a sampling of those options. What’s your favorite meatless meal in town? Tag #OurJacksonHome in your posts!

Karen Hester lives in the LANA area with her husband Andrew, daughter Evelyn, son Sloan, and dog Malcolm. Her favorite things are coffee, conversation, and people randomly stopping by her house—but she gets crabby when someone interrupts her reading a good book. Make sure to check out her company, Visionary Media.