Best Cities for Vegans & Vegetarians
People choose to adopt plant-based diets for various reasons, some ethical, others health-related. According to a 2016 Harris Poll commissioned by the Vegetarian Resource Group, about eight million U.S. adults are vegan or vegetarian.
But finding meatless options at restaurants and supermarkets can be a challenge, depending on where you find yourself hungry in America. And though some experts contend that forgoing animal products could save the average person at least $750 per year, certain specialty foods can be expensive.
Fortunately, many U.S. cities offer plentiful and inexpensive options for budget-conscious herbivores. To determine the best and cheapest places for a plant-based diet, WalletHub compared the 100 largest U.S. cities across 16 key indicators of vegan- and vegetarian-friendliness. We examined each city based on such metrics as the cost of groceries for vegetarians, the share of restaurants serving meatless options and salad shops per capita.
Read on for our findings and a full description of our methodology. If you’re considering a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle, make sure to check out the Q&A with our panel of experts for transitioning advice and money-saving tips.
Most Vegetarian- & Vegan-Friendly Cities
(1 = Best)
|City||Total Score||‘Affordability’ Rank||‘Diversity, Accessibility & Quality’ Rank||‘Vegetarian Lifestyle’ Rank|
|1||New York, NY||68.82||48||1||7|
|5||San Francisco, CA||62.82||99||2||2|
|6||Los Angeles, CA||62.31||19||10||16|
|9||San Diego, CA||60.71||21||7||42|
|10||Las Vegas, NV||60.00||27||12||22|
|21||San Jose, CA||49.84||96||18||4|
|30||New Orleans, LA||46.10||57||27||44|
|34||Kansas City, MO||45.48||33||66||33|
|41||Long Beach, CA||43.62||85||36||29|
|45||Fort Wayne, IN||42.97||5||71||98|
|53||San Antonio, TX||40.49||16||65||74|
|56||St. Paul, MN||39.93||37||44||60|
|62||Oklahoma City, OK||38.67||56||83||46|
|63||St. Petersburg, FL||38.65||82||22||67|
|66||St. Louis, MO||38.04||47||39||76|
|68||Jersey City, NJ||37.95||64||94||43|
|74||Corpus Christi, TX||35.82||2||91||82|
|76||Colorado Springs, CO||35.36||80||54||66|
|78||Santa Ana, CA||34.77||88||74||47|
|83||Virginia Beach, VA||33.07||78||60||75|
|85||Fort Worth, TX||32.18||77||89||65|
|86||Chula Vista, CA||31.49||68||80||71|
|90||El Paso, TX||30.96||59||82||77|
|91||San Bernardino, CA||30.28||92||81||62|
|97||North Las Vegas, NV||28.04||24||98||85|
|100||Baton Rouge, LA||25.32||87||63||97|
Ask the Experts
Cutting meat from your diet requires commitment and, in some cases, extra cash. To help you switch successfully to a vegan or vegetarian diet while sticking to your budget, we asked a panel of experts to share their thoughts on the following key questions:
- What tips do you have for someone who wishes to adopt a vegetarian/vegan lifestyle while on a budget?
- Should government subsidize the purchase of fruits and vegetables by discounting the price for people using food stamps?
- What can parents do to encourage children to consume more veggies?
- What tips do you have for someone who wishes to become a vegetarian? How can the transition be made smoother?
In order to determine the best cities for vegans and vegetarians in the U.S., WalletHub compared the 100 most populated cities across three key dimensions: 1) Affordability, 2) Diversity, Accessibility & Quality and 3) Vegetarian Lifestyle.
We evaluated those dimensions using 16 relevant metrics, which are listed below with their corresponding weights. Each metric was graded on a 100-point scale, with a score of 100 representing the most favorable conditions for vegans and vegetarians. For metrics marked with an asterisk (*), we calculated the population size using the square root of the population in order to avoid overcompensating for minor differences across cities.
Finally, we determined each city’s weighted average across all metrics to calculate its total score and used the resulting scores to rank-order our sample. In constructing our sample, we considered only the “city proper” in each case and excluded surrounding cities in the metro area.
Affordability – Total Points: 33.33
- Cost of Groceries for Vegetarians: Full Weight (~11.11 Points)
Note: “Groceries” excludes all animal products, except dairy and eggs.
- Availability of Affordable, Highly Rated Restaurants Serving Vegan & Vegetarian Options: Full Weight (~11.11 Points)
Note: “Highly Rated” refers to a rating of at least 4.5 stars.
- Average Meal Cost: Full Weight (~11.11 Points)
Note: This metric was calculated using the following formula: Average Dollar Amount Spent on Food per Week by Food-Secure Individuals / 21 Meals (three meals per day X seven days per week).
Diversity, Accessibility & Quality – Total Points: 33.33
- Share of Restaurants Serving Vegetarian Options: Full Weight (~3.70 Points)
- Share of Restaurants Serving Vegan Options: Full Weight (~3.70 Points)
- Farmers Markets & CSA Programs per Capita*: Full Weight (~3.70 Points)
Note: “CSA” refers to community-supported agriculture.
- Juice & Smoothie Bars per Capita*: Full Weight (~3.70 Points)
- Salad Shops per Capita*: Full Weight (~3.70 Points)
- Vegetable Nurseries per Capita*: Full Weight (~3.70 Points)
- Community Gardens per Capita*: Full Weight (~3.70 Points)
- Access to Fresh Vegetarian Food*: Full Weight (~3.70 Points)
Note: “Fresh Vegetarian Food” refers to vegetable, melon, potato, sweet potato, fruit, tree-nut, berry and cow-milk production per capita.
- Vegetarian Cooking Classes per Capita*: Full Weight (~3.70 Points)
Vegetarian Lifestyle – Total Points: 33.33
- Ranking on GrubHub’s List of Cities Most Likely to Order Vegetarian or Vegan: Full Weight (~8.33 Points)
Note: This metric was used as a proxy for the vegetarian population and is based on GrubHub’s data analysis of “more than 30,000 restaurants’ pickup and delivery orders” to determine where customers are most likely to order vegetarian or vegan options.
- Vegetable & Fruit Consumption: Full Weight (~8.33 Points)
Note: This metric measures the percentage of adults who consumed vegetables and fruits one or more times per day and was used as a proxy for the vegetarian population. A lower share of adults who consume fruits and vegetables daily indicates a lower probability of vegetarian prevalence.
- Vegan & Vegetarian Meetups per Capita*: Full Weight (~8.33 Points)
- Availability of Vegan & Vegetarian Festivals: Full Weight (~8.33 Points)
Note: This binary metric considers the presence or absence of vegan and vegetarian festivals, as follows:
- 1 – The city hosts a vegan and vegetarian festival.
- 0 – The city does not host a vegan and vegetarian festival.
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Sources: Data used to create this ranking were collected from U.S. Census Bureau, Council for Community and Economic Research, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Feeding America, Yelp, TripAdvisor, The Trust for Public Land, United States Department of Agriculture, Grubhub, Meetup and Vegan.com.
Image: Syda Productions / Shutterstock.com
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