As the number of people seeking special-meal requests continues to grow, how are restaurants accommodating their needs and preferences?

It seems simple really…you’ll show up and they’ll have plenty of options waiting for you that fit your dietary needs, right? Wrong. I have learned to not rely on others to handle this, but to take matters into my own hands. After all, we are in control of our own livelihood and well being. Not to mention, I don’t know about you but I always like to know what is on the menu before venturing out.

Here are 4 tips on how to handle those special-meal requests for us patrons with food allergies, lifestyle, and religious dietary restrictions.

1.) Always review the menu before you arrive. Either look it up online or call ahead to speak to a Manager about your preferences ensuring they can accommodate you. The last thing you want to is to show up to the restaurant with a group of work people or for a friends birthday dinner and sit there picking at the house salad for 2 hours.

2.) If you don’t have time to research the menu, ask the waiter what your options are upon arrival. For example, we went out to dinner on a whim the other night, and after speaking with the waitress I had many options for moderations (I decided on the primavera pasta with no cheese that night).

3.) If you’re flying the friendly skies internationally or booking a long flight that is going to serve a meal, you can request one that meets your restrictions. For example, they should have a vegetarian and vegan option always available. Make sure to put your order in while booking your ticket or call the airline to speak to customer service. Yes, this is an extra step in the process, however it will be worth it once you sit down in your seat. Plus, those that make these special requests always seem to get their meal first!

4.) Lastly, here are a few quick tips, on what an actual moderation can look like.

  • Sushi: If you aren’t into eating the fish, order a few veggie rolls such as avocado, shitake, cucumber and sweet potato. You’ll find these rolls are just as fulfilling as the real deal.
  • Italian: Large salads with lots of greens and even a nice grilled portabello mushroom are always crowd pleasers. Or, order the pasta without the cheese if you’re dairy free.
  • Steakhouse: This can be a challenging one, however ask if they have a grilled veggie spread. The best plant based meal I’ve ever had out was the fire roasted veggies at Bern’s Steakhouse in Tampa.
  • Mexican: Burritos with veggies and beans are simply the best. I would ask for the cheese and sour cream to be removed, and instead replace it with guacamole. Saying the word sub or replace is key because then hopefully they don’t charge you extra!

Good luck and happy dining!

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