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Food is acentral part of our social existence. Throughout the ages and still today,food has represented more than just fuel for our bodies, it also allows us tospend time with those we love, enjoy ourselves and bond with the people aroundus.

 Nowadays, these kinds of gatherings usually take place atrestaurants which can pose a challenge for veg*ans. I’m sure we’ve all had theunpleasant experience of perusing a menu only to realize that there are no veg*an,let alone vegetarian options available. The good news is that this is notentirely true.

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By being prepared, doing some investigation and showingcreativity, you’ll find veg*an meals are actually quite accessible in manyrestaurants. Learn about differentcuisines and their staplesThere are many different typesof cuisines that can adapt very well to veg*an diets and thanks toglobalization, they have become quite accessible no matter what city you livein. While you’ll want to stay away from the obvious steakhouse and seafoodrestaurants, many ethnic restaurants will have vegetarian options that can beconverted to veg*an. The trick is to know what to look for and what tosubstitute, so do your research.  Here’s a quick overview of international cuisines and howveg*an-friendly they are based on staple dishes that you’re most likely to findat a restaurant and commonly used ingredients (JJJ = very friendly,LLL= very unfriendly):  ·        Italian J·        Middle Eastern JJJ·        Greek JJ·        Indian LL·        French LLL·        BBQ (Australian/American) LL·        Thai JJ·        Chinese JJ·        Japanese JJJ·        Ethiopian JJJ·        Jamaican J·        Mexican JJ Know your restaurantsIf you’ve been to a restaurant in the past where theyadapted menu items to your liking, keep note of it and go back. Likewise, ifyou went to a place that looked at you sideways when you asked whether therewere eggs in the pad thai, perhaps this is not the place for you. By askingquestions and getting to know the staff, you’ll get a good idea of whether ornot the establishment is willing to work with your preferences. When in comes to casual dining restaurant chains, it couldbe hit or miss.

Many of these restaurants simply prepare pre-frozen food, so thewaiters (and even the “chefs”) may not know exactly what is in what you’reeating. Luckily, many of these publish lists of ingredients online, so researchbefore you go. Some fast food restaurants have begun introducing veg*an orvegetarian dishes in their menus as well. As casual dining chains, theserestaurants are usually required to publish a list of ingredients online. Whileburger joints may have introduced veggie burgers to their menus, you may stillwant to research the ingredients as some containegg whites. Your best bet for fast food is Mexican, as many of thevegetarian options can become vegan if one removes the cheese and sour cream. Ask questions and beniceThere’s a common misconception that waiters and chefs don’tlike being asked for substitutions and that is simply wrong. Restaurants wantto provide an enjoyable dining experience for all their guests and are equippedwith several different ingredients in order to adapt to these kinds ofsituations.

By politely explaining your restrictions and asking questions,restaurant staff will gladly make substitutions.You could also callbefore you go to let them know ahead of time and give them time to prepare.They may even give you tips on which dishes on the menu can be most easilyadapted to your needs. Get in controlIf you’re going out with a group of friends, ask to choosethe restaurant yourself. This will give you ample time to research, call andchoose a place where you know you’ll feel comfortable and have something toeat. Perhaps your group of friends may even be open to trying out a veganrestaurant, so check out the HappyCowapp for suggestions in your area.

If someone else is choosing, let them know(or remind them) of your restrictions and don’t be afraid to oppose if thechosen restaurant is very difficult for you to work with, like a steakhouse. Ifall else fails, have a light meal before you go and get creative with sidedishes. Have fun!It’s too easy to let this kind of event become a source ofstress or anxiety and ruin your evening. Do some research, be prepared and keepyour expectations low in case you’re afraid you’ll be disappointed.

Don’tforget that your objective should be to spend quality time with friends orloved ones and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to enjoy it!

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