How did Beyoncé manage to slay and eat around the world when she went vegan? Of course she’s Queen B, but anyone under special dietary restrictions (vegan, dairy-free, gluten free…) knows the real struggle of eating out.
You may know how to make accommodations at home, but what if you partake in culinary travel? Here I’ve laid out some helpful hints for enjoying ethnic foods while avoiding any digestive Resentment.
1. Check On It
Do your research. America isn’t the only country that is becoming more accommodating for those with strict diets. Resources like Yelp, Happycow, and diet-specific blogs can help you find restaurants in the area that offer allergen-free or vegan options. You may also be able to preview the menu.
2. Don’t be Speechless
Inform your waiter. Carry a language dictionary if you need help translating. Even if you think you’ve selected a safe item off the menu, it’s important to ask about ingredients.
For example, I can’t digest red meat or dairy well, so if I order fish, I ask if they cook it in butter or use a dairy-based sauce. For salads, I politely ask that they don’t top it with any cheese or bacon-bits and check the dressing it comes with.
3. Italian Food May be the Best Thing I Never Had
Italians love their butter, cheese, milk, and sausage. It is also common for chefs to cook in animal fat for flavor. That being said, my fellow dairy-free people, vegans, and vegetarians should be extra careful with this cuisine and do extensive research.
4. Run the World With a Map
Don’t let my last tip stop you from eating Italian. Just do a little more exploring.
Famous gluten-free blogger (and Spoon-worthy Instagram user @JackieAA) Jackie Aanonsen made sure she wouldn’t be desperately searching for a place to eat during her trip to Italy, so she found some certified gluten free restaurants and mapped them out along with her list of must-sees.
In a land of bread and pasta, she was still able to try some bomb, authentic Italian food (without missing a tourist site) and even found gluten-free Italian gelato. Buon appetito!
5. Eastern Cuisine is Great for a Dairy-free Diva
Eating out with friends, I almost always recommend Eastern food as my saving grace. Authentic Asian dishes are traditionally cooked in oil as opposed to butter, and you’re usually given a choice of protein (or veggies or tofu). Eastern food also offers a variety of noodle options including those made with egg, rice, vermicelli and buckwheat as a substitute for noodles made with dairy or flour.
#Spoontip: A word of caution for nut-free diners: Some Eastern cultures use coconut products, peanuts or cashews in their dishes and sauces, so be sure to check the ingredients.
7. 1+1 Regional Differences in Indian Fare
Indian food can be ideal or disastrous for specific dieters depending on which region it comes from. Vegetarians will be happy to know that Southern India is mostly Hindu, which doesn’t consume meat. On the other hand, Northern India uses a lot of dairy (yogurt, ghee, paneer and naan) and is famous for tandoori-cooked meats.
Traditionally, almost every entree is served with long-grain rice, roti, and bread. Different types of curry are made using a variety of ingredients, which may include animal products. My vegan go-to: chana masala (chickpeas in a dairy-free, spicy sauce).
7. Keep Hot Sauce in Your Bag
In case of emergency, be prepared, and bring back-up snacks in your travel bag. By doing so, you can still enjoy a night out with the crew — and not sit at the table awkwardly watching everyone else eat. If a menu item becomes bland after making substitutions, don’t be ashamed to bring some of your favorite sauces in your bag. If Beyoncé does it with pride, why can’t you?
8. Get Drunk in Love and Not in Pain
If you’re trying your palate with the native beer, wine, or other alcoholic beverage, proof is not your only concern. Gluten-free people and diabetics should especially be aware of the type of carbohydrates used in your drink.
Not every menu item is Irreplaceable so be sure to do your research, be prepared, and become the international queen (or king) of diet-friendly travel.