Why is it So Hard for Vegetarians to Dine Out?

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I begin this post by saying that I believe that everyone has a right to make their own decisions about the food they eat. It would be hypocritical, and frankly very un-yogic, of me to condemn anyone for eating meat, as I myself have wavered in this arena throughout my life. My decision to be a vegetarian comes after years of inquiry, self-education and discovery. It is my hope that no matter what you eat, you make educated decisions and ultimately do what is best for you.

Recently, I've been a little more than frustrated by the lack of good vegetarian options on the menus of restaurants I've visited. While I usually plan ahead and choose places that I know will have something I can eat and will enjoy, the decision of where we dine is not always up to me. And while I'm happy going with the flow and grateful for the time I get to spend with friends and family, I often get tired of piecing together side dishes to make some semblance of a meal.

It's not that I'm asking for all restaurants out there to over cater to us veggieholics, but is there really nothing else you can cook other than a vegetable platter or a cheese quesadilla? Seriously, does chicken/beef/seafood have to be included in every option? And forget it with the salad. Given some of my digestive issues, there's only so much of that stuff I can take, and to be honest, during the winter, a salad is the last thing I want to eat. I simply find it hard to believe that these well established venues have a hard time coming up with something creative, delicious and vegetarian. Don't I deserve a healthy, well-balanced meal as well?

This never used to bother me. In fact, it was always a non-issue. But that's only because I used to make exceptions every now and then for seafood. However, times have changed, I have changed, and eating meat, including seafood, is no longer an option for me.

In the end, I realize that the onus is on me to be educated about the food I'm eating, and prepared that I might not get that delicious meal I've been hungering for each and every time I go out to eat. In fact, that's why I've been so ardent about trying new recipes and learning to cook great vegetarian dishes for myself...which by the way, has been much more fun than I ever expected.

I'm curious...have any of my fellow vegetarians out there encountered this same problem and if so, what do you do to overcome it?