Ordering at a Vegetarian Restaurant

main vegetarian restaurant dishOne of the challenges of being a vegetarian or vegan is when you have to eat out in a restaurant. When you prepare your meals at home, you know exactly what goes into your body. You can choose food products by checking the labels to make sure that they are vegetarian or vegan-friendly. When you eat out, you can often be unsure that what you are eating fits in with your vegetarian way of life. And it undoubtedly happens that at some point you will have to eat out in a restaurant.
Here are some tips on how to eat out in a restaurant while still staying true to your vegetarian or vegan principles.
If you know in advance that you will have to eat out at a restaurant, you should try to choose one that offers food that you can eat. Many restaurants nowadays have websites where they list their menus. Check out which restaurants offer more of the foods that you can eat. You can even try calling the restaurant to find out first-hand what goes into some of the dishes offered. You may even be able to call the restaurant and pre-order a special vegetarian or vegan meal just for you. This takes a lot of the guesswork out of what may be in the food that you will be required to eat.
If you don’t know in advance where you will be eating, or if you have no choice of the location, then you have to examine the menu carefully before ordering. Some restaurants will offer a section for vegetarian dishes. Be on guard though, because many of the sauces on, say a pasta dish, may not be vegan friendly; it may include milk, butter, eggs or other animal products.
Don’t be embarrassed to order from only the appetizer menu for your main course. The appetizer menu may offer more vegetable or salad dishes suitable to your way of eating.
Beware of dishes that may look vegetarian, but aren’t necessarily so. An example of this may be vegetable soup. It sounds vegetarian, but it is still probably made with chicken stock instead of vegetable stock. Another example could be pasta with fettuccini sauce, which is made from cream and butter—definitely not vegan friendly.
Also don’t be embarrassed to ask your server what exactly goes into the dish you are ordering. Have them ask the chef if they don’t know. You can even ask the chef to come to the table to talk to you about his recipes.
In some cases, you may have to make up your own plate of food from different sections of the menu. For example, you can choose to order a side-dish baked potato (made without oil or butter), a salad entrée and bread. You could also order pasta or rice with sautéed vegetables on top instead of the restaurant’s special sauce.
Another suggestion for ordering salads is to simply have an oil and vinegar dressing on the side. Be sure the oil is a vegetable oil or olive oil. Some house salad dressings may contain milk or other dairy ingredients which may not conform to your vegetarian or vegan diet restrictions.
Another place to be careful when ordering in a restaurant (especially if you are vegan) would be in the dessert section. Remember that most cakes are made with eggs and milk, and even pies could be made with lard instead of vegetable shortening. Stick to fruit cups or possibly even fruit ices (like sherbets) if you are unsure. Then again, you can also ask you server to confirm with the chef if the pie crust has any animal fats in it.
Do not be afraid to state to your server or in your company that you adhere to a strict vegetarian or vegan lifestyle. After all, it is a choice that you have made and you should not be embarrassed to voice your views. Restaurants are there to serve their customers, whatever or whoever they are. You have the right to eat the way you want and to be able to put into your body only the things you choose to eat.

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