When traveling or socializing, eating out is often mandatory. Here’s a helpful guide to navigating menus and dining rooms with confidence.
As a vegan or vegetarian, you must exist in a world that’s not designed to accommodate your dietary needs. Luckily, there is almost always a way to enjoy eating out in a stress-free manner and still leave the restaurant feeling satisfied.
Do Your Homework
Before deciding where you’ll be eating out, do some research. One of the greatest resources for finding vegan or vegetarian restaurants in any city is Happy Cow. This web directory has thousands of listings for vegan, vegetarian and generally healthy restaurants all over the world, so it’s especially useful when traveling.
If nothing else, always take a peek at the restaurant menu online. This way, you can look through the options to see what is already vegan or vegetarian or dishes that are easy to alter – perhaps replacing meat on a pizza with veggies or nixing the shrimp atop pasta. If options are slim, look at the “sides” section of the menu, which are often vegetables. This way, you can construct a meal of your own out of a few side dishes.
Don’t Be Afraid To Ask
If you are unsure whether the restaurant has anything for you or is flexible enough to accommodate your preferences, call ahead to ask. You might be surprised to learn that many restaurants have a vegetarian menu, but often don’t present it unless asked.
If you’re positive your options will be severely limited, eat a snack before hand so you are not left hungry or inclined to overeat dishes you normally avoid.
If you’re eating out with a group of people, suggest ethnic cuisines like Indian or Thai. A lot of ethnic restaurants tend to have healthier menus, or at least have more veggie-centric dishes than, say, a traditional American restaurant would.
When in doubt…
Then there’s the spontaneous decisions for eating out, when you can’t plan ahead. In these situations, my first instinct is to peruse the salad section – there is almost always a salad that I can order or lightly tweak to my taste. Then, I add a hot vegetable side dish.
Above all else, keep your expectations low and relax. Sometimes there is little to be done and you either have to soldier through a scant meal or compromise. If I’m absolutely sure there is nothing I can do to avoid a junk food feast, I make sure to eat a raw green salad before going out, because then at least I can lend a helping hand to my digestive system.
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