In the meantime, there are inevitable challenges to overcome. Dining out as a new vegan or vegetarian can sometimes feel like something of a minefield.
There’s no shortage of Lisbon healthy food joints to try out, but finding those that suit both your tastes and your lifestyle preferences isn’t always easy.
Truth is, far too many restaurant vegan menu selections simply aren’t good enough. This is why you need to have your wits about you, in order to make eating out as a vegan or vegetarian as easy as possible.
Something that becomes second nature with time, but can be made much easier in the interim with the following tips and guidelines:
Watch Out for Hidden Meat
First up, don’t instinctively assume that a menu item that appears to contain only vegetables is meat-free. Unless it is specifically listed as vegan or vegetarian, it could be nothing of the sort.
Restaurants often use meat stocks, gravies, extracts and additives to add flavor to vegetable-based dishes, with no mention of this in the description. Again, unless it says is it meat-free, chances are it isn’t.
Browse Menus in Advance
These days, there’s no reason not to take a good look through a restaurant’s menu ahead of time. This will spare you the time and effort involved in scrutinizing it at the table, helping you narrow down the meat-free options available in advance.
In addition, you will also have the opportunity to contact the restaurant directly, if you have any questions about any of their meal items.
Ask Your Server if Unsure
Your server should be able to provide all the advice and recommendations you need to enjoy a fantastic meal. If not, you should probably take your business to a different restaurant.
In-house managers should also be able to advise you on any special non-menu items the kitchen staff will be happy to cook up to accommodate your requirements.
Where servers short-change vegan or vegetarian diets, you’re looking at an establishment that isn’t worthy of your money.
Don’t Be Afraid to Request Substitutions
Most decent restaurants these days are fairly accommodating where menu item substitutions are concerned.
If there’s a dish that’s comprised mostly of vegetables but features a meat component - like a steak or a chicken breast - you can simply ask to swap it for something else.
Chances are, whatever it is you accept in its place will technically save the restaurant money, so it’s unlikely they will decline your request. Again, if they do, set your sights on a more accommodating restaurant.
Establish Your Boundaries
Some vegans and vegetarians will refuse to eat anything that has even touched a surface that has previously touched a meat or dairy product.
Elsewhere, others will happily eat a dish where meat is the main component, just as long as the meat is removed before the plate is brought to the table.
There’s really no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to live a meat-free lifestyle - your rules, preferences and boundaries are your own. Either way, it’s useful to consider ahead of time what you are and are not willing to accept.
Doing so will spare you the unpleasant task of constantly questioning your decisions, each time you are presented with a semi-meat-free menu option.
Order Appetizers and Sides
Something you’ll learn over the course of time is that when dining out as a vegan or vegetarian, appetizers and sides are often your best friends.
It’s often pretty easy to put together a seriously satisfying meal, simply by combining a bunch of smaller dishes on a restaurant’s menu. And again, there’s always the option of asking for components of main course dishes to be replaced with meat-free alternatives from the restaurant’s menu of appetizers.
Don’t Be Disheartened
Last up, it’s inevitable that you will occasionally come across a restaurant that’s anything but accommodating.
Some places seem hell bent on making life difficult for non-meat-eaters, and look at conscientious diners with disdain.
Don’t be disheartened or let the occasional ignorant individual rub you up the wrong way. Take pride in your healthy and responsible lifestyle choices, and take your business somewhere it is genuinely appreciated.