One frequent question I get from low-histamine vegans is whether or not you can eat this way at restaurants. While it’s common for most vegans to primarily eat at home, depending on their location and schedule, eating out is something we all do, at least every once in a while.
So is it possible to get your food low-histamine AND cruelty-free?
The not-so-easy answer is…yes…and no.
I’ve found, as a vegan myself, that vegan-friendly options tend to exist primarily in urbanized areas. The closer you travel to major cities, the more likely you’ll find the word “vegan” on the menu OR stand-alone vegan restaurants (a highlight of any day). Unfortunately, the more rural you get, the less likely you are to find a something that is completely meat-free, dairy-free, and egg-free.
Which is why, when I know I’m going to the country, I always bring backups.
Taking all of this into consideration, if you are going vegan AND low-histamine at the same time, you may start to freak out a little when going to your favorite local restaurants for the first time since “the switch”. Plus, the waiter may think you are absolutely bonkers when you order the salad with no dressing, no tomatoes, no spinach, and no croutons.
“Sooooo….lettuce then? That will be $7.50.” Exactly.
And truly, finding vegan options for me is like a sport, as well as a learned skill.
For example, I know which mexican restaurants in my area have vegetarian options (easily made vegan) and are a snap to order from, and which mexican restaurants I should avoid at all costs because they can’t manage to bring me a bean burrito WITHOUT. CHEESE. I know where to order an Italian dinner without freaking out (too much) about the possibility of dairy in it, and how to get a vegan pizza on the fly. And, like most people, I also know all the restaurants that have let me down in the past, which I’ll never return to…because they are just jerks. Am I right?
This type of thing naturally takes time…and a little patience.
And so, if you’re trying to throw low-histamine into the mix, I’m going to tell you the honest truth: if you SERIOUSLY have histamine intolerance, complete with flair ups/rashes/crippled with a stomach-ache for days because you ate one. wrong. thing. then please remember that anytime you eat out, you are essentially playing with fire.
Yup, you’re leaving your fate up to your waiter, Anthony.
Or Sandra, whichever.
I mean YES, I think if you played your cards right, went to a flexible restaurant that you are familiar with, and ordered something simple, I’m sure you could manage to pull off low-histamine and vegan. However, please remember that you are always running the risk that there has been a cross-contamination, potentially throwing your system out of whack.
That being said, as a vegan, I know that I am always at a risk when eating at non-vegan restaurants. Unbeknownst to me, there could always be dairy or egg or something else in said dish that I’m unaware of (soilent green anyone?). BUT, I also remember that I need to live a little too, and that TRUST is part of the process. So I do my best and try to not sweat it (too much).
And so, if you are just doing low-histamine TEMPORARILY to get your system back on track (and perhaps pinpoint some allergies or food sensitivities), OR your symptoms aren’t life-threatening, there’s no harm in occasionally attempting to eat at a restaurant + make it LHV.
My suggestion though, is that you try to go to vegan restaurants as much as possible (juice bars/ cafes), where ordering might not be so weird or stressful.
For the majority of the population however, I know that’s not entirely possible. If you find yourself in a situation where you have to stop and grab something or HAVE to attend that social engagement that you just can’t get out of, I suggest you do the following:
1. Plan Ahead
If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Look up the restaurant menu in advance, and do a full scan of your options. See what you can order (that already exists on the menu mind you) and what you can reasonably tweak. In my experience, waiters HATE IT when you try to order something off menu (it makes ringing up your order a pain in the arsh), so I like to pick a menu item and ask for substitutions and/or to leave things off. At the end of the day, it’s just easier for everyone involved, and you don’t seem *too* difficult.
For example: “I’ll have the ‘Big Salad’ with romaine and no cheese or tomatoes. Can I add broccoli to that? And do you think you could just bring me some olive oil for the dressing? Thanks so much!”
See? That didn’t sound too crazy.
2. Be Nice
You attract more flies with honey (or maple syrup?) than with vinegar. Talking to your friend or family member ahead of time about restaurant choice for said event never hurt anyone.
However, if it’s out of your control on where to eat, and you are completely lost on number one, call the restaurant ahead and ask to talk to the manager about vegan options. I wouldn’t mention low-histamine necessarily (that might throw a wrench in the whole thing), but see what the vegan options are first, and then proceed from there.
Psst! Rinse and repeat numero uno.
3. Worst-Case Scenario, Eat Ahead (sad face) OR Bring Something
Ok, if the restaurant is totally NOT vegan AT ALL and the manager was super unhelpful and why-do-you-have-to-go-to-this-anyway-I-mean-who-cares-shes-just-having-a-baby-no-biggie, (DEEP BREATH), then as a last resort you could bring something with you or eat ahead of time.
I know, super sad face on eating ahead, because that’s no fun. At all. BUT, I’m giving you an honest option, and that is one. So take it or leave it.
Option number two, you can *call ahead* and explain that you are part of a large group that is coming in on said day, but that you have a severe allergy and wanted to know if it was alright if you brought yourself something? (This is where that be nice thing comes in.) Chances are, it won’t be a big deal and no one will even question you.
As an example, I called ahead last year when I wanted to bring a dairy-free cheesecake to an Italian restaurant for my daughters’ 13th birthday. I explained that we didn’t do dairy and since it was a birthday, would they be ok if I brought my own dessert, pretty please? To my delight it totally wasn’t an issue, and they even said they would put birthday candles on it (although in the end they brought out ice cream for the kids as well…riiiiiiggghht). Point is though, I WAS able to bring my food item, and that’s the positive side here.
Ultimately, whether or not you decide to eat out while doing a low-histamine + vegan diet is in your hands. I hope that these tips have helped though, in case you ever decide to venture out into the big wide world.
Just remember that it takes patience and planning on your part, and perhaps a little compassion for your wait staff. Low-histamine is still unknown to most, so we have to keep that in mind when putting our well-being into the hands of others.
Because at the end of the day, you have to honestly ask yourself: is this worth the risk or not? And then take it from there.
Thank you for taking the time to invest in your health and happiness!