So, what can you eat? In my case, that’s a difficult question to answer. As someone who does not eat meat (except for fish) and strives to incorporate whole foods wherever and whenever possible and keeps kosher (no pork and most seafood) and has a gluten intolerance, there aren’t many options left on the menu.
I have no interest in being that customer who asks for several ingredients to be omitted from their dish, but sometimes I can’t help it. I have to.
If you face a similar conundrum, and have a long list of dietary restrictions that make the waiters cringe, no need to worry! I am here for you.
Keep on reading to find out some of my best tips and tricks to make your life (and the waiter’s) a lot easier.
I will also provide two great recipes for pescatarian / gluten-free individuals like myself!
My first line of defense for any diet-menu war, is to do your research beforehand.
Know which foods you want to avoid and which you can eat.
For example, when I first became gluten-free, I was surprised to learn that soy sauce contains wheat. WHEAT?! Why would that be in a sauce? Turns out it’s a filler in most condiments, i.e. ketchup, salad dressing, pasta sauce and the list goes on.
It’s important to know which additives are incorporated into your food and to have an in-depth understanding of those trickier items. It will save you a lot of time and embarrassment when the server has to teach you about what types of foods you can eat.
Another trick that I have, is to check the menu for symbols that indicate which foods work with your dietary restriction (vegan, gluten-free, vegetarian). This will save you a lot of time.
If the menu does not include symbols, ask the server for a menu listing the ingredients of potential allergies. I guarantee, almost every restaurant has this list.
Alright, now what if you are in the situation where you feel too embarrassed or uncomfortable to share your restrictions with the other people at the table? Pro tip: go on the restaurant’s website before meeting with your friends and choose what you will eat on their online menu. This way, you will have a game plan before dining out.
So… why am I gluten-free? Gluten is known to cause gas, bloating, stomach pain, fatigue and/or diarrhea in people with a celiac disease and people with a gluten sensitivity/intolerance. AND LET ME TELL YOU, IT IS NOT FUN.
Okay, and how do you explain the pescatarian part? Am I just trying to make my already hard life even harder? Yes, I kind of am. But with a good cause, because I am trying to reduce my current water-footprint on this planet. Meat is a major contributor of the planet’s current GHG emissions.
The only downside to these dietary restrictions is that I am making it difficult for the waiters. They have to patiently wait for me to scan the menu, ask twenty different questions about the food, stand in silence as I think about each option, and then write down an order of garden salad. I hate being that type of person.
Let me tell you, at the beginning of my diet, IT WAS HARD. There seemed to be no options on the menu for me whenever I dined out with friends and I was clueless about recipes. Turns out, with more research and time, it becomes second nature.
After five years of adjusting my meal plans, it is not difficult for me to opt for a salad at lunch or swap a burger for a plant-based protein, because I truly enjoy eating these foods!
Alright, so what are some great recipes for someone who is also living a pescatarian / gluten-free lifestyle?
Here are some of my two favorites, they are both super easy to make (especially for an inexperienced cook like myself).
The Infamous Tofu Stir Fry
This is a great one, and an easy recipe that I make all the time on my own. It’s quick and packed with nutrients if you incorporate veggies!
Approximately 10 – 20 minutes.
- Extra-firm tofu (this is important because it has the least amount of liquid and is the easiest to cook with in a stir fry)
- Fresh garlic and ginger
- Veggies of your choosing (chopped, of course)
- Tamari sauce (note: as mentioned above, normal soy sauce contains wheat)
- Press out as much of the tofu liquid. The less liquid, the crispier the tofu will be! This is definitely a tip that I had no clue even worked before doing some research into making awesome tofu stir fry. To do this, place wrap the tofu block in paper towels and gently press down. If you want, you can even add something heavy (like a plate) on the top of the block and allow it to sit 5 -10 minutes. I’m typically very impatient, so I choose to skip this step.
- Cut the tofu into 3/4-inch cubes. You can theoretical chop your tofu any size that you want, just remember that higher surface area means that it cooks faster!
- Add some oil into a pan and put on medium heat. Now, you can add your tofu into the pan.
- Add your tamari sauce in increments as you cook. This adds some amazing flavor to your dish and makes it taste delicious!
- Add your chopped veggies into the pan. Cook for about 8 – 10 minutes, or whenever it looks done!
- Save the sesame oil to drizzle on at the end to preserve its flavor. I don’t always do this step, but it definitely adds a nice touch to your dish.
- Viola, you are finished! As easy as that!
Build-Your-Own Buddah Bowl
If you are like me, a hungry student trying to incorporate whole foods into their diet, this is a great recipe! It doesn’t even require much cooking or prep time.
Approximately 30 – 40 minutes.
*Note, technically you can go crazy here and add in whatever topping you think work best*
- Rice (my preference is multi-grain)
- Avocado x1
- Chopped veggies of your choosing
- Sweet potato x1
- Preheat oven to 425F. On a baking sheet, (lined with foil for easy clean-up if you wish) prick sweet potatoes all over with a fork. Stick on tray and cook for 30-40 minutes.
- Add 1 cup of rice : 2 cups of boiling water in a pot. After adding rice, bring your boiling water to a simmer and add a lid to your pot. Check on your rice after about 18 minutes of cooking.
- In the meantime, chop veggies and add washed spinach into a large bowl. Add whichever toppings you enjoy the most. I also recommend chopping up almonds and adding them into your bowl.
- Now it is time to incorporate all of your ingredients. I also enjoy adding some avocado to my bowl!
Between these two recipes, I am able to make some delicious lunches that work with my dietary needs!
It’s completely normal to struggle with finding places to eat or recipes to make on your own. As a university student, who has had to eat in a dorm cafeteria for an entire year, it was especially hard for me to find meals that worked. But, do not worry, you are not alone!
If you are also someone who struggles with a long list of dietary requirements or has a great recipe to share, comment below.
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