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Vegetarian Dining Out

posted Oct 30, 2017, 12:04 PM by Tracy Ducker, MS, RDN   [ updated Oct 30, 2017, 12:15 PM ]

Finding meatless meals when eating away from home can be challenging. But, more and more restaurants are offering vegetarian and vegan options or will alter a menu item so it is vegetarian or vegan. However, there are still things you need to look out for. For example, is the food cooked with butter or chicken or beef stock.

With a few tips you can eat away from home without much worry.

Restaurants: Many restaurants now label their vegetarian and vegan items with a leaf or a ‘v’ or have a separate section on their menu. You can always ask, if you aren’t sure. Most restaurant staff are well versed in meeting customers’ various dietary needs. If something looks good but isn’t vegetarian ask the kitchen to make the necessary substitution or deletions. One thing to be aware of is the deep fryer frying oil, this oil is typically used for all deep fried foods. If you don’t mind that chicken nuggets are fried in the same oil as your fried zucchini sticks then you’re fine, but if you do, you may want to stay away from deep fried foods.

Dinner Parties: It can be challenging when eating at someone else’s house if they aren’t vegetarians or vegans. Call the host ahead of time and inform him/her of the foods you don’t eat, or offer to bring a dish to share.

Fast Food: There are less options here, but most fast food joints have salads and some even have vegetable based sandwiches. Be aware of the frying oil as mentioned above.

Ethnic Restaurants: Ethnic cuisines tend to be vegetarian and vegan friendly. Italian, Greek and Middle Eastern cuisines offer an abundance of choices. For example, falafel, pasta marinara, minestrone soup, lentil soup, hummus, Greek spanakopita to name a few. There are also many choices at Asian restaurants, be sure to check if they use oyster or fish sauce (which is common). India and other South Asian countries like Sri Lanka and Nepal use an abundance of vegetables, beans and rice as main entree dishes. If you do not consume dairy, request that your food be prepared with vegetable oil instead of cream or ghee. Let’s not forget our neighbor, Mexico. Many Mexican dishes are vegetarian or can be made vegetarian, you can’t go wrong with rice and beans. Just check that the rice isn’t made with chicken stock and if you don’t eat dairy foods order dishes without cheese and sour cream.

Our cafeterias always offer a variety of vegetarian and/or vegan dishes. We also have some great recipes on our website.

There are also restaurant apps that can identify vegetarian/vegan friendly restaurants near you. Try Happy Cow at Bon Appetite!