Dining Out When You’re a Vegetarian

Dining out for a vegetarian/vegan is easier than it has been in the past, however there are still precautions you can take ahead of time to assure you will not be consuming animal products.

Check the restaurant’s website – Read their menu to see if vegetarian friendly items are marked. If not, see if you can find ones that should appear vegetarian and then call the restaurant to double check. In talking with the restaurant, they will let you know about ‘off menu’ items they can prepare for you.

Expect that the wait staff and chef will not know what type of vegetarian you are – They may state that a dish is vegetarian, but it could contain dairy – which would be okay for Lacto-Ovo vegetarians, but not for vegans. Tell them what you abstain from, so they can make appropriate recommendations.

Ask about cross contamination – Are they cooking their vegetables on the same surface as their meat products? Where is that veggie burger you ordered cooked? Do they have a designated area or is the surface cleaned well enough to avoid having animals in your food?

Be careful with soups! – The vegetable soup can often be made with chicken or beef stock that is not listed. The only way to know for sure is to check with the chef.

Ask about the pasta sauce – Your penne pasta can come covered in a sauce that was prepared with meat and then strained. Always ask for marinara or vegetarian sauce.

Salad dressings – Classic Caesar comes with anchovies as part of the dressing. If you’re a vegan, ask if they have a dressing made without eggs and dairy, otherwise a simple olive oil and vinegar dressing with salt and pepper will do the trick. You can also opt to bring some of your own salad dressing.

Eating at a Mexican restaurant? – Ask if their beans contain lard. Some food items may also be fried in lard or oil that you may not agree with. Be sure to ask if ordering Chile Relleno or another one of your favorites that is fried.

Eating out doesn’t have to be stressful at all. Even if you are being spontaneous and trying a new restaurant while out all day – most restaurants can tell you their vegetarian offerings on the spot and you can decide if it’s a good option for you. Enjoy!