One of the nicest things about every single day is the way that we habitually stop what we are doing and put the world on pause for a while to devote some time to enjoy our breakfast, lunch and dinner. Whether we choose dairy free meals or opt for a healthy diet both go hand in hand to equip us with the knowledge that we need to enjoy dining out. The benefit of feeling healthier and more alert is far too precious to be weighed down with restaurant meals that are laden with calories so follow these easy steps to enjoy the good things in life without feeling guilty.
Pigging out or dining out? If you are able to recommend some suitable restaurants, conduct some research to find ones which are able to satisfy all of your diners needs. Browse through menus to see if there are dairy free options and dishes which cover a range of different dietary plans. You never know, you may even convert ‘Dave the chip fanatic’ into becoming a weight watcher.
Name that food: If you have any doubts as to the ingredients within the dish, don’t be afraid to ask. A good waiter will naturally want his diners to be happy and many will confer with the chef to ensure that your dietary needs are catered for. The hospitality industry is very much aware that dairy allergies are on the increase and offer a wider selection of vegetarian and vegan dishes. Some restaurants are so keen to include a wider clientele that they will even include low carb options or smaller portions for the weight conscious. A good restaurant should be able to offer something for even the pickiest of eaters.
Is it Kosher? People who follow a kosher diet are very strict about keeping meat and dairy products separate. Therefore meat restaurants are not permitted to sale dairy products of any kind. If you or your guests share these strong religious beliefs, look for Kosher ‘meat’ restaurants in your location.
I got this body from junk food: If your overindulgence with burgers and buns have turned your once trim thighs into flab, you may be able to console yourself with the knowledge that your stomach will cover them. However, there comes a time when it is better to get a little ahead instead of a big behind so make it an aim to browse past all those foods which are laden with fat. Not only do they stay for a moment on the lips but forever on the hips, they are also a danger for diners who follow a dairy free diet.
The kitchen is the heart of a restaurant: Most menus will state whether a meal has been cooked in butter or oil but if this information is not been readily available, do not be afraid to ask. If you are following a dairy free diet, you should also mention that you do not want butter to be added to any meat, fish or vegetables as some chefs find it customary to add a knob of butter to steamed or grilled foods to enhance the flavour.
Go Continental: Pasta dishes bring out the taste of Italy but opt for meals which are olive and tomato based rather than rich, creamy sauces which are laden with saturated fats. You could even console yourself with the knowledge that tomato based sauces count as one of your five a day!
Keep it light: There is nothing healthier or more nutritious than a crunchy, fresh salad especially if it is drizzled with a nice tasty dressing for that added va va voom. The ones to avoid are ranch and blue cheese dressings. Mayonnaise is a good choice for diners on a dairy free diet along with honey, mustard, oil and vinegar and vinaigrettes but a tiny splash is all that is needed to keep fat and sugar content to a minimum.
Don’t take any chances: A lot of women prefer their salad dressings and condiments to be served individually so that they can personally control how much they add. This is also a good way to gain peace of mind that their meal will be dairy free.
Salad bar or soup of the day? Salads are a colourful and pleasant way to eat as much food as you want without piling on the calories. As long as you avoid dishes which sneak in cubes of cheese, salads can be enjoyed without any nasty little dairy surprises appearing. Soups help to calm the mind and sooth the soul. They are the perfect comfort food on cold, winter evenings. These days vegetarians are spoilt for choice with vegan ‘cream’ soups but make it a point to check the ingredients on all soups as innocent sounding flavours such as ‘split pea’ or ‘vegetable chili’ may not necessarily be dairy free.
A balanced diet is a hamburger in each hand: Nowadays, restaurants are aware that in any party of diners there is likely to be a vegetarian or vegan. Gone are the days of boring tomato pasta being slotted into some obscure corner of the menu and in are the days of variety. This means that in many cases the meatless options are devoid of any animal products making them both dairy free and meat free.
Mashed Potato Time: Potatoes are the ultimate comfort food and complement almost any dish. Avoid generous dollops of butter, sour creams and cheeses which turn the humble spud into a rich, fatty indulgence to shape your world accordingly. Instead, look for dairy free versions of salad cream and salsas or simply add a smattering of salt and pepper to bring out the flavor. If you really do love your spuds, go for steamed, boiled or roasted for a healthy compromise.
If butter will not melt in your mouth: Restaurants offer a large range of fantastic dips and spreads to accompany your appetizers, breads and meal. Sample the many flavoured oils, savoury and sweet salsas, guacamole, hummus and tapenades with a pre-drink aperitif.
Full Steam Ahead: Become attracted to dishes that are either dry-sauteed, steamed , poached, boiled or grilled and you will walk away at the end of the evening feeling healthy and more satisfied than those diners who indulged on the fried or dairy side of the plate. Stay dairy free and you will naturally stay slimmer and feel better within.
The Good Old Days: Cast your mind back to when you were a child and you will likely be filled with memories of how your mother followed recipes from your grandmother, serving scrambled eggs, waffles or other traditional fayre. Reduce the milk, cut back or eliminate the dairy ingredients and you can revamp those traditional recipes with just a few minor alternations to make them dairy free.
The crash diet which makes you crash and burn: Some menus will happily include the latest craves and health fads. If these include cheese-less and cream-less options any reduction in fats is certainly worth choosing but make sure that they are not accompanied by a pan-fried feast.
Black is black: If you prefer your coffee without calories ask for it to be served black or choose tea sans milk or cream. For those who prefer a drop of milk, there are many online stores or health shops which sell rice or soy based creamers. Pop a few in your brief case or handbag and enjoy dairy free alternatives wherever you go.
What’s for dessert? If the puddings on the menu are laden with dairy or are far too fattening, don’t be afraid to ‘pass’ on dessert. When you arrive home you can indulge in one of your home made or store bought dairy free alternatives which tip the scales at just the right balance. If your guests insist that you dine with them look for dishes which are fruit or sorbet based rather than laden with heavy cream or hidden butter fats.
Going back to basics: If your aim is to make it through the evening on a dairy free diet, go for foods which are either dry-sauteed, poached, boiled or grilled. This guarantees that you will enjoy an evening with family or friends content in the knowledge that you have engaged in healthy, low calorie dishes
The Ethnic Minority: Adopting a dairy free diet means that you can still become a well travelled food connoisseur even if you have never left your home town. Vegetarians, vegans and people with dairy allergies and intolerances can enjoy diets from China, Japan, India and Vietnam as they are nearly always dairy free. Foods from India, Greece and Italy require a bit more attention with regards to ingredients but don’t be surprised to find some appetizing dairy free choices.
The tips above should help you to enjoy eating out without the hassle associated with a restricted diet. There are always hidden dairy ingredients waiting to surprise us when we dine out so if your choice of appetizer, main meal or dessert causes any cause for concern, the golden rule is…..ASK.
What can I eat at my local fast food restaurant?
OK, we've found McDonalds quite good for dairy free food. My children have the fish finger happy meal, which doesn't have milk in it. The ingredients list is time consuming to browse through so I've listed the dairy free options below:
• Chicken Select (3 & 5 pieces)*
• Crispy Chicken and Bacon Wrap (only available in Tyne Tees and Anglia regions)*
• Spicy Vegetable Wrap (only available in Tyne Tees and Anglia regions)*
• Sweet Chili Chicken Wrap (only available in Tyne Tees and Anglia regions)*
• French Fries*
• Hash Brown*
• Onion Rings*
• Garden Side Salad*
• Fruit Bag*
• Grilled Chicken & Bacon Salad*
• Grilled Chicken Salad (No Bacon)*
• Barbeque Dip and Tomato Ketchup (Heinz)*
• McDonald's Low Fat Balsamic Dressing*
• Smokey BBQ Dip, Sweet and Sour Dip, Sweet Chilli Dip, Sweet Curry Dip*
• Toasted Bagel*
• Bagel with Strawberry Jam*
• Apple and Cherry Pie*
McDonalds Website Link
Burger King has a really useful downloadable pdf Nutritional Booklet, which other fast food chains don't seem to have. There seems to be a wide range of foods available.
Download the nutritional booklet
Burger King Website Link
Like Burger King the Wimpy website has an even more comprehensive downloadable pdf of their menu which includes calories, information on protein, fat, salt, allergies and intolerances as well as the ingredients list of all their food. Well done Wimpy!
Download the nutritional booklet
Wimpy Website Link
Kentucky Fried Chicken - (KFC)
After researching the menu we've found that all their chicken contains milk. Which means this fast food restaurant is one to avoid, unless you go in for fries and a soft drink. No downloadable ingredients list but your able to view ingredients list on website
KFC Website Link
I can't say I've eaten here. Their website gives an ingredients list of all their foods. Best to ask when ordering for the packet it came from to check the ingredients list. Food looks good through. No downloadable ingredients list but your able to view ingredients list on website
Subway Website Link
American Diner Restaurants
Frankie & Benny's
We've always had good food at Frankie & Benny's. The penne pasta with tomatoes is a good option or the fish and chips. Whenever we've been there they are very helpful and willing to cook up a dish that suits our dairy free requirements. The sorbet is a good choice for dessert. No downloadable ingredients list but your able to view ingredients list on website
Frankie & Benny's Website Link
Motorway Service Stations
Most motorway service stations have fast food outlets like McDonalds, Wimpy or Burger King in them.
Any coffee shop that I've been to seem to have little to no dairy free tray bake or biscuits on offer. Fruit seems to be the only thing to eat which is very frustrating. But, there is a chink of light at the end of the tunnel. Now a number of coffee shops are offering soya milk for their coffee or hot chocolate drinks.
• AMT - also do a soya chai steamer, which is gorgeous. But the smaller stores (the kiosks in stations) often run out. Website Link
• Cafe Nero - but their coffee is so strong it tends to curdle the soya milk. Website Link
• Starbucks - but its sweetened, and I don't like my coffee to taste of apple juice. Also they charge extra, which I think is cheeky. Website Link
• Eat - very good coffee with soya milk, not many non-dairy food options though. Website Link
• Costa Coffee. Website Link
...Whenever you go to any eatery we strongly advise you should always check the ingredients, as they could change them. Remember the food mentioned in this section of the website doesn't contain milk or milk related products but some contain eggs & nuts (for the people allergic to eggs & nuts).
Drinks: All fast food restaurants sell soft drinks and black coffee (we haven't found Soya Milk in any of them yet).
*All these fast food and coffee shop outlets are based in the UK. The same restaurants from other countries ingredients may be different. Again please ask for a list of the ingredients before you eat anything.