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Special Diets: Eating Out

raw foods

Lunch Date!

Yesterday, I had lunch with my friend Sarah.

I’m often asked by people on special diets (vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, etc.) for advice on going out to eat with others who don’t follow any specific diet. As far as being a vegetarian or vegan, it’s actually pretty east once you get the hang of it! Below are a few ideas that work for me as a vegan; hopefully some of the tips will be useful for those of you who follow any sort of special diet:

Eating out on a Special Diet

  • If you get to choose the restaurant, ethnic places are usually a safe bet. Ethiopian, Indian, Chinese, Italian, Mexican, Thai… these establishments tend to be more vegetarian-friendly than your average burger joint, so you don’t even have to do a special order.
  • If it’s not up to you to pick the place… In my eight years as a vegan, I’ve learned that the best way to ensure you’ll get some vegan food, hassle-free, is to call ahead. This is a good strategy for three reasons: One, you don’t have to call attention to yourself or seem “high maintenance” when the waiter is taking orders. Two, if they can’t accommodate your diet, you have time to make different arrangements. Three, it’s courteous to give the chef a heads-up so he/she can be better prepared. Plus, you’ll probably end up with something yummier if the chef knows in advance about your diet and is therefore able to brainstorm a meal for you. Often, my meal turns out to be the best thing at the table, since it’s prepared by the head chef, him/herself.
  • Get creative: combine side dishes, breakfast items, or even parts of different dishes to make a meal. For instance, if a restaurant offers broccoli pizza, you know they have broccoli.
  • If you end up at a fast-food place, or any laid-back establishment, you can always pack something from home and eat it when everyone else’s meal arrives so you’re not left out.
  • And on the rare occasion that you do end up at a place where there is absolutely nothing you can eat, sit back and enjoy the company of your dining companions. There is more to life than food, and you can always eat later.

Thankfully, restaurants are becoming increasingly more aware of dietary restrictions as more and more people adopt special diets. I’ve gotten some great meals by eating out.

If interested, you can see more here: My Restaurant Reviews

Of course, sometimes you’re lucky enough to have an adventurous friend who wishes to tag along with you to a place that only serves your “special” food. In my case, that special food would be vegan food. And the adventurous eater is my friend Sarah, who’s been a vegetarian for almost a year now (“All your fault,” she tells me). I took her to Bliss Café for the first time, and she loved it! Below, her coconut curry soup before she licked the bowl clean:

raw coconut soup

Sarah’s photo, too. She was very proud of it Smile.

raw lasagna

I went with a tried-and-true favorite: Raw Lasagna

Question of the Day:

Do you eat out often?

Or do you prefer to cook your own meals? I don’t really eat out very often, simply because the restaurants around me offer things I can easily (and more cheaply) make at home.

But I might eat out every day if they open a Dallas branch of this place.

Tomorrow: How about a chocolate recipe?

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Published on March 28, 2012

Meet Katie

Chocolate Covered Katie is one of the top 25 food websites in America, and Katie has been 
featured on The 
Today Show, CNN, 
Fox, The 
Huffington Post, and 
ABC's 5 O’Clock News. Her favorite food is chocolate, and she believes in eating dessert every single day.

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95 Comments

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  1. vogelstar says

    If you ever happen to find yourself around the Toronto area, try to visit a rawfood restaurant called Nzyme. Their flax crackers and fake egg salad are unreal, and you have to finish with the apple pie.
    PS This may be a strange request but have you ever created a Japanese themed dessert? Sakura cupcakes? Matcha muffins 🙂 I’d love to test it out if so.

  2. Amber says

    Hi there! I first must say that I really love your site. The recipes are wonderful and even those who don’t eat veg or vegan like them.

    Perhaps this is obvious or even a different situation for others, but when you order ethnic food…particularly Thai (and Vietnamese) food, you need to be very careful about the sauces. The Thai people (and Vietnamese) love their fish sauce and it is usually in that sweet/tart/salty sauce that is most notably on Som Tum (green papaya salad). I would ask before you order and possibly ask for soy sauce as a sub. There is a mock version of fish sauce (the one I’ve seen actually says “vegetarian”) that you can get, but I rarely see it.

    Take care!

    • Chocolate-Covered Katie says

      Oh thanks for mentioning that! Yes, that’s definitely true! I always ask them to omit the fish sauce when I go to my favorite Thai place. And for Chinese (or pseudo Chinese), I like PF Changs or Pei Wei and they’re pretty knowledgeable about vegetarianism and what is/isn’t. But you DO have to be careful!

  3. Amanda @ Diary of a Semi-Health Nut says

    This is very interesting to me. I’m not vegetarian or vegan, however I do usually request to alter food items so they are healthier or have less dairy (to ensure no tummy issues). I would have never thought of calling the restaurant beforehand…good thinking!

  4. Allie says

    Hi Katie! I discovered your blog recently, and I love it! I too am a chocolate lover and a vegan. For me, I like eating out but often can’t find good vegan things on menus. So I prefer to cook at home, which is healthier and cheaper. But I absolutely love going to vegan restaurants because I can get anything on the menu!! 🙂

  5. Sarah @ The Smart Kitchen says

    I do find it very interesting that “American” restaurants are not nearly as accomodating of special diets as ‘ethnic’ restaurants. You’d think as the ‘melting pot’ of the world we could work in some dairy-free or vegan diets. 🙂

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