Avoid sneaky sources of meat.
You’re getting into the swing of the meatless lifestyle, but now you have plans to order out — or maybe you already have, but didn’t think to ask “How is this made?” Restaurants are notorious for slipping animal products into seemingly innocent plant-based menu items. Here, experts share some of the dishes that may seem vegetarian — but sometimes really aren’t.
Ask questions before ordering the soup—even French onion or minestrone—since meat stock is a simple, cheap way for chefs to add depth and a punch of flavor. All soups are suspect as often they are made with chicken or beef broth, says Carol M. Meerschaert, MBA, RD. Miso soup, too, is a no-go for the meatless lifestyle, says Virginia Messina, MPH, RD, since it’s made with dashi, a fish-based stock.
That salad section on the menu is probably your safest bet. But even there, you might find anchovies, fish sauce, or garum (an Italian fish sauce) used in the salad or salad dressing, says chef Bridget Batson of SupperBell. For instance, a three-bean salad often gets a zip of fish sauce for flavor.
Unless they’re specifically labeled vegetarian on the menu, ask your waiter how they’re prepared. “Countless Mexican restaurants and taco trucks still put lard in their refried beans. So when you think you’re getting a vegetarian burrito, ask if the beans are truly vegetarian,” says Claire Martin, RD, cofounder of Being Healthfull.
Think you’re safe with the pizza or pasta option? Maybe not. “Some tomato-based pasta sauces may have anchovy paste,” says Messina. Chicken stock can also make an appearance in marinara sauces. “And don’t forget vodka sauce, which can have pork,” adds Toby Amidor, RD, CDN, author of The Healthy Meal Prep Cookbook. Thai curries may also contain fish sauce.
Ask questions before ordering pie: Great pastry often uses lard, since it makes the flakiest pie crust, says Lisa Davis, Ph.D., chief nutritional officer at Terra’s Kitchen’s. And gelatin-based desserts are a no-go, because it’s made from the skin and bones of cows and pigs.
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