Difficulty going to Restaurants

thisnthat

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As you transitioned into a full on vegetarian diet, did you have difficulty going out to eat? Was it tougher to know what to choose in a standard restaurant?

Some dishes are obvious, but with other items, you can't always be sure how they are prepared. Of course, you could ask, but some people don't want to go down the list asking how every item is prepared.

How did this work for you?
 

Alexia

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Most vegetarians and vegans will ask every single question possible and they are entitled to do so. Many chefs will brief servers on what is in vegetarian dishes for this reason and many will go into the kitchen to ask if they aren't sure.

I used to do mystery visits in restaurants and this is one of the questions we were told to ask and evaluate how the staff responded, so people should not be afraid to ask.

My transition was a long time ago, but these days many restaurants have a vegetarian menu or a section with vegetarian dishes so it's easy to find what is suitable. Many will indicate this as they do with 'contains nuts' or 'gluten free' as they know people need to know this information.
 
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KenBrace

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If you're a hardcore vegan then pretty much you're only restaurant options would be buffets like Golden Coral, Ryans, or a country buffet of some kind. If you go anywhere else then all you're going to run into are animal products. Subway is an exception. You can get all veggie subs there which is really nice

As for myself I don't really see a problem with eating a burger every now and then. My goal is to live a happy life. Staying healthy is a part of that. However, if you get too carried away with being healthy that you end up missing out on life's pleasures, then you've defeated the point. Everything in moderation.
 

galmal

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This is a problem, because there are so many "hidden" ingredients in restaurant foods, and even processed foods. It's a long story, but I was considering taking MAOI (drugs for depression) but they have strict dietary requirements, one of which is no processed or dried meats of any kind. I was looking at the label on a can of Manwich and was quite surprised to find that it contained sardines, of all things. Who would have thought?

It seems now-a-day, most veggies are prepared with either butter or some kind of creamy, cheesy sauce on them. Of course, you can ask for them without sauce, but sometimes they are made up ahead of time and that's just not an option. I remember being at an up-scale restaurant and they had mushrooms as a side dish - I asked for them without butter or sauce, and was told I couldn't get them that way. Quite frustrating, I mean how hard would it be to cook a few mushrooms.
 
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Connie

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Becoming vegetarian made it difficult to eat out 30 years ago, when even until about 5 years ago you would only have 1 item on the menu that you could eat and it was either a jacket potato with cheese and salad or the ubiquitous vegetable lasagne with overcooked veg as an accompaniment. Thankfully most places abandoned the nut roast very quickly. But nowadays in the UK you will find 5 or 6 items on the menu quite easily and most chefs will happily leave something out/off to make it vegetarian if you talk to them (assuming it is not something they buy in and reheat on site).

There are also vegetarian restaurants springing up all over the place nowadays and find any student area and you will find dedicated vegetarian cafes without a problem (just find the university area in any city and you are sorted). Eating out in the evening is harder because the cafes tend to close around 4-5pm and don't do evening meals so you are back to hunting for restaurants again. However, all of the main stream restaurants (Pizza Hut, PizzaExpress, Harvester, Brewers Fayre) all have a section on their menus for vegetarian meals or the (British) vegetarian society green V alongside their meals so eating out for a vegetarian is not a problem.

Eating our for a vegan is another matter entirely, but there are a few that can accommodate you (PizzaExpress and Wagamama's are 2 that spring to mind) and any vegetarian restaurant will have vegan only dishes - but the OP has posted this under vegetarian, not vegan, so I won't elaborate any further on vegan.
 
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Blaine

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I do not want to go through that process anymore to save myself from trouble. Not every person in the restaurant will be able to satisfy my questions anyway so why bother? In that regard, I would rather prepare my own food at home.
 

Connie

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I do not want to go through that process anymore to save myself from trouble. Not every person in the restaurant will be able to satisfy my questions anyway so why bother? In that regard, I would rather prepare my own food at home.
They have a legal obligation in the UK to know exactly what is in every dish because of people being allergic to various products. Every one who works in a restaurant has to know what is in each dish (or be able to look it up), so eating out is easier than it has ever been because they don't want to be sued after (nearly) killing someone they have been informed has an allergy. The result is that know what is vegetarian and what is vegan is stunningly easy.
The same pretty much applies to most 'western' countries.
 
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thisnthat

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They have a legal obligation in the UK to know exactly what is in every dish because of people being allergic to various products. Every one who works in a restaurant has to know what is in each dish (or be able to look it up), so eating out is easier than it has ever been because they don't want to be sued after (nearly) killing someone they have been informed has an allergy. The result is that know what is vegetarian and what is vegan is stunningly easy.
The same pretty much applies to most 'western' countries.

Hmm. I hadn't thought about that. The allergy issue makes it quite important to be aware of what each dish contains and how it is prepared. That does make sense.

I'm not sure if there are laws concerning these issues in the US. I mean, I know there are warning labels on packaged foods, but I don't see many warnings on menus. I think it's a good practice, but then again, it is prudent to ask if you have issues.
 
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I have always had a hard time going out, especially when I go out with my boyfriend and his family. When they go out to eat, they like going to these fancy restaurants that I've never heard of before. I'm from Vermont so it's like a whole other world there especially trying to not eat meat. When I do go out with them, I just try to eat a salad because that's usually the only thing on the menu that I can eat. It's hard because there are times that I just want something more. Like Mac and Cheese and it's not on the menu.
 

Alexia

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Hmm. I hadn't thought about that. The allergy issue makes it quite important to be aware of what each dish contains and how it is prepared. That does make sense.

I'm not sure if there are laws concerning these issues in the US. I mean, I know there are warning labels on packaged foods, but I don't see many warnings on menus. I think it's a good practice, but then again, it is prudent to ask if you have issues.

Most places do state if if items have nuts because of the increase of people with a nut allergy, but it is down to the diner to ask the questions too. There is a difference between being allergic to something that can kill you, or an ingredient that you choose not to eat for ethical reasons. The same goes for gluten, as some sauces have gluten, but most diners know what they can or cannot eat.

There is no legal obligation, but it's called a 'duty of care' where ingredients do need to be stated, however there is often a disclaimer saying that some foods may be prepared in an atmosphere where nuts are handled. That's how they get out of things and if you have a really bad allergy, not just hives but your breathing stops then you know to be careful and avoid certain dishes.
 

LyraLyra

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There's a really good website called HappyCow.com, that has a comprehensive list of all the vegetarian/vegan restaurants in your local area, mind you most restaurants defiantly will cater for vegan/veggie nowadays, I have been in several large chain restaurants that cater for my requirements very well now that I have gone vegan. Pizza Express being one of them. Subway has some vegan options, and everywhere does a jacket potato with beans or something! I find that you get more variety in the bigger city's.
 
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Josie

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I will only be going to restaurants that are vegetarian/vegan.. I can't imagine the list of questions I would have to ask.. very few people that aren't vegetarian/vegan, even know what that means. So no, there is no meat in my dish.. no, no diary, no fish, no butter etc. How about white sugar, it's in almost everything, I would have to ask about that too. My diet is considered restrictive to most typical eaters.. so just thinking about ordering makes me avoid it entirely lol.
 

Mickella18

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Standard restaurants do not really cater to vegetarians. It is indeed difficult to find one nearby that has a variety in vegetarian meals. That's why most times I make my meals myself and I gather my own ingredients. That way I know for a fact exactly what I am putting in my body as a vegetarian.
 

Andy_T

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I try, when possible, to go to vegan (or at least vegetarian) restaurants.

Why? Because it is quite hard to avoid all possible cross-contamination.
I had horrible experiences, asking whether the food was vegetarian, the waiter/owner confirming it, and then finding a chunk of chicken carcass in my curry (to be precise, by biting down on it), because possibly some waiter or other guest had dropped some chicken meat in the curry container, either on purpose or by accident. I simply chose not to go to such restaurants any more, or, if I have to go with friends and family, not eat anything of that kind there.

I also find asking the server which items are vegan is important, as
a) it is well possible that there are some ingredients not mentioned, that the waiter would know about
b) can create an awareness in the kitchen. You don't want some well-meaning person in the kitchen sprinkling your delicious vegan pasta with nasty dairy cheese, simply because they think it would be nice for most guests.
c) it might create an awareness that there are customers out there asking for vegan dishes.

Best regards,
Andy
 
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sharla86

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Always ask. If you are serious about being vegan that you've got to know what you are eating. One essential part of my transitioning has been to ask every restaurant I go to if they do vegan options. If they don't I don't eat there anymore. It's a bit of a hassle but it's totally worth it imho.