How To Eat Vegetarian While Out And On-the-Go

How To Eat Vegetarian While Out And On-the-Go

One way to ensure that you'll enjoy a variety of delicious vegetarian meals is by eating out, but many new vegetarians feel unsure about what to order.

With my busy workshop schedule, I travel nearly every weekend. I've learned how to maintain my vegetarian lifestyle, no matter what type of restaurant I'm in. Here are some tips that I've learned while on the road:

* Always inform your waiter or waitress that you are a vegetarian or vegan, and ask for their help in making food selections.

* Also, be on the lookout for hidden sources of animal products on the menu, such as pastas or soups that are made with a chicken broth stock. Don't be afraid to ask your food server to check with the chef to see: (1) if animal products are used in the food preparation; and (2) if substitute ingredients can be used. I've never had a waiter or waitress refuse this request, and they always warmly answer my questions and give me help.

For example, if you're at an Italian restaurant, watch for egg-based pasta; sauce made with cream, cheese, and/or butter; and cheese or meat-filled ravioli. Ask that your pasta be made with marinara sauce, which is a vegetarian red sauce; or with olive oil, garlic, and basil. Some fast-food pizza restaurants use beef stock in their marinara sauce, so ask your waiter for an ingredients list for the red sauce. If you're a vegan, clearly specify that you don't want cheese in, or on top of, your meal. I've grown to love vegan pizza, which is made with red sauce, vegetables, and no cheese. Another favorite of mine is bruschetta, which consists of sourdough bread, basil, and chopped roma tomatoes.

Asian restaurants offer the largest variety of vegetarian meals. Chinese, Thai, and Vietnamese establishments serve many delicious vegetable dishes. I love bean-curd (or tofu) dishes, mixed with freshly sautTed or steamed vegetables. Be sure to specify that you want a vegetarian sauce on the vegetables. Some Asian restaurants cover their vegetables with sauce made from oyster, beef, or chicken stock. Also, check that the soup is vegetable-based. Unfortunately, most Asian restaurants serve soup that has fish stock, freeze-dried fish powder, or chicken stock as a base of their miso, hot-and-sour, and egg drop soups. Other delicious choices include vegetarian spring rolls, vegetable chow mein, and pad thai noodle dishes.

How To Eat Vegetarian While Out And On-the-GoAt Japanese restaurants, you can also enjoy a variety of vegetarian dishes. Try a cucumber or seaweed salad topped with ginger or miso dressing. One of my favorites is "Avocado Sushi." This is just like a California roll, with nori-maki (the flat, green seaweed used to wrap sushi rolls), rice, and avocado inside. Most sushi bars don't have this on the menu but are happy to make it if you order it. Vegetarian sushi rolls, made with cucumber, radish, and carrot slices, are available at most Japanese restaurants these days. You can also make a meal of a rice bowl (ask for brown rice, if available) with teriyaki-cooked vegetables on top. Tempura vegetables are delicious but can be high in fat.

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At Mexican restaurants, you'll need to inquire whether their beans are made with lard. Many Mexican restaurants offer vegetarian beans, and this can be the basis for a variety of healthful and low-fat meals. For instance, you can enjoy a vegetarian bean burrito, tostada salad, taco, or enchilada. If the beans are made with lard, use the restaurant's Spanish rice as a basis for your meal. Just be sure to check that the rice isn't cooked in chicken stock and that the tortillas aren't made with lard. For vegans, you don't want cheese and sour cream as part of your meals. Ask for guacamole as a substitute for cheese and sour cream so that the meal isn't too dry -- and it will also "cool off" the hot salsa-based flavor. Gazpacho soup and meat-free nachos are other delicious vegetarian choices to enjoy at Mexican restaurants.

At American or steak-and-seafood restaurants, you'll need to be a little more creative. Most of the "garden salads" offered at these places consist of little more than a sad chunk of iceberg lettuce. Again, rely on the food server's knowledge of the menu to help you order. Remember, too, that you can make very satisfying meals from side dishes -- for example, a baked potato with vegetarian Italian dressing; steamed or grilled vegetables (hold the butter and cheese); baked beans; rice with vegetables (inquire whether their rice pilaf has a chicken stock base); or a vegetarian noodle dish.

Fast-food eateries now cater to health-conscious consumers; and offer salads, baked potatoes, and vegi-burgers. Check the ingredients labels on fast-food salad dressings, however, as many of them have "gelatin," made from cow's bones and muscles. Better to squeeze some lemon juice and sprinkle salt and pepper on your salad, rather than eat gelatin-based dressing.

Since fast-food restaurants are usually located in clusters, you can leave one restaurant for another if they don't offer a vegetarian meal. In a pinch for fast food, opt for a whole wheat bagel and a piece of fruit (sold at many coffee shops) instead. Grocery stores are another avenue for eating on-the-run. You can grab a bag of baby carrots and dip them into hummus bean dip, or snack on a banana and some nuts. Most delis, including fast-food chains, can make you a vegetarian sandwich consisting of bread and vegetables.

If you're traveling by plane, call the airline at least 24 hours prior to your flight to request a vegetarian meal. Most airlines cater to the different types of vegetarians, so you can specifically request a meal with, for instance, "no dairy," "no beef," or "no fish." I've learned the hard way that when you depend upon a travel agent to request special meals, you often don't receive them. It's better to call the airline yourself. And just in case your special meal doesn't end up making it to the plane, be sure to pack some vegetarian snacks such as rice cakes, fruit, or trail mix. Most flight attendants are creative when it comes to making an impromptu vegetarian meal out of side dishes and a combination of first-class and coach-class meal items -- if you explain your situation to them.

Reprinted with permission of the publisher,
Hay House Inc. ©2001.

This article is excerpted from the book:

Eating in the Light
by Doreen Virtue, Ph.D., and Becky Prelitz, M.F.T., R.D.

It isn't just the fat or carbohydrate content that counts when making dietary choices - it's the 'spiritual vibrational' quality of our foods and beverages that truly makes a difference in how we look and feel. In this fascinating book, learn the spiritual properties of different food and beverage groups so that you can make informed decisions about what to eat and drink.

Info/Order this book.

About the Author

Doreen Virtue, Ph.D., a former director of inpatient and outpatient eating disorder units, has written a number of books and articles on the topic of food cravings, eating disorders, and exercise. She is the author of the best-selling books, The Yo-Yo Diet Syndrome, Constant Craving, and Losing Your Pounds of Pain. Dr. Virtue blends her spiritual background with her psychotherapy training in her workshops and books. Her website is

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