Eating out?
Our recipe for success

Tip# 02

For a special occasion

call the restaurant in advance and discuss suitable lactose free options – then you can really relax and enjoy the event.

Eating out ?
Our recipe for success

Eating out should and can be one of life’s great pleasures – for everyone. Some restaurants already serve dishes that are dairy or lactose free, and a good chef should be more than happy to adapt a recipe – it’s a chance to show off their culinary skills. The chef is always the best person to talk to rather than the waiting staff, who may not always know all the ingredients used in different dishes.

  • Talk to them and tell the restaurant that you are following a lactose free diet. Ask if any dishes can be adapted, before you get there if you can.
  • For a special occasion, call the restaurant in advance and discuss suitable lactose free options – then you can really relax and enjoy the event.
  • Seek out dairy free or vegan options highlighted on the menu.
  • Get chatty with your local restaurant or eateries you most often frequent – most will be more than happy to accommodate.

Now read on for some pointers about fabulous lactose free dining, whatever your favourite style of food.

  • Italian

    Famous for their many cheeses and ice cream, can you imagine Italian food without these two traditional ingredients? But it is perfectly possible to enjoy a meal at any trattoria without lactose – here are a few hints:

    Prefered options:
    - A starter of antipasto, with salami, Parma ham, salmon or shrimps, marinated vegetables and panini or bruschetta with tomatoes and olive oil is a great choice
    - Main course meat and fish salads are often lactose free (but check the dressing or ask for it on the side)
    - Many Italian main meals can be adapted – have a chat with the chef
    - Many pizza recipes can be prepared without cheese – just ask and check that no other dairy ingredients are used.
    - Italian breads often use olive oil in their ingredients, but check with the restaurant to be sure
    - Plain pasta is generally dairy free although filled pasta often uses cheese
    - Try and choose the tomato and meat based sauces, and avoid those based on cream and cheese such as carbonara and pesto.
    - Check that olive oil and not butter is used to fry off the onions/garlic and meat/fish
    - Legendary Italian sorbets usually contain no dairy and therefore are lactose-free (who needs ice cream!).

    Points of attention:
    - Risottos often contain butter, cream or cheese – ask the chef.
    - Lasagna and cannelloni are always accompanied with a dairy-based sauce.
    - Check if the soup is made without cream.

  • Japanese

    Very little dairy is eaten in Japan, so it’s the perfect cuisine to choose for anyone on a dairy or lactose free diet.

    Menu are based on
    fish, rice, noodles & soya

    Prefered options: You’ll have free choice from a menu based mainly on fish, rice, noodles and soya.

    Points of attention: Just avoid the pancakes and check the ingredients of other Japanese desserts – some still use traditional rice creams, but increasingly this is being replaced with Western style dairy ice cream.

  • Chinese

    Chinese cooking traditionally uses very little dairy, so this is a great choice for followers of a dairy or lactose free diet.

    Prefered options:
    - Meat, fish and vegetables in soy/bean/sweet and sour sauces
    - Meat, chicken and vegetable chow meins
    - Plain and egg fried rice
    - For dessert go for fruit such as lychees, and sorbets rather than ice cream.

    Points of attention: Avoid anything in batter, both savoury and sweet!

  • Thaï

    Based around rice and noodles with a little meat or fish, delicately spicy Thai cooking traditionally uses very little dairy in savoury dishes. Even the creamy curries are generally based on coconut milk and coconut cream, but check with the chef if there’s anything you’re unsure of.

  • Burger Bars

    For fast food on the go or a family outing, your favourite burger bar should present no problems.

    Prefered options: Always check the buns and any spread used are lactose free. Go for a meat, chicken or fish burger (not in breadcrumbs) and instead of cheese toppings – go for pickles, relishes, mayo, tomato/brown sauce and mustards.If you opt for potatoes, just make sure there is no flavoured or crispy coating as these may contain lactose.

    Points of attention: Avoid batter

  • Mexican

    The liberal use of sour cream and cheese makes going Mexican a bit of a walk on the wild side, but with care you can do it and stay lactose free! And sometimes there’s nothing like a red-hot chilli to hit the spot.

    Prefered options:
    - Tortillas are generally lactose free, but check, as milk is occasionally used to make them lighter in texture.
    - Taco shells are generally lactose free – check.
    - Go for plain meat, chicken or vegetable fajitas, but check for dairy sauces or accompaniments.
    - Burrito with meat, beans and salsa is generally fine

    Points of attention:
    Always ask if your dish can be prepared without any sour cream or cheese. Guacamole sometimes contains buttermilk – check with the chef. Ask for salad dressing to be on the side and ask if they contain dairy. Nachos generally have cheese topping.

  • French

    Northern French cuisine is lavish in its use of butter and cream, and the French lay claim to nearly 400 different cheeses. But further south, the Mediterranean lifestyle means greater use of olive oil and slightly less dairy, making it easier to be a dairy free bon viveur.
    Always tell the chef that you can’t eat butter, cream, milk and cheese.
    Ask the restaurant to point out any dairy free options on the menu – don’t miss out on something special for the sake of asking!

    Prefered options:
    - Starters of vegetable salads such as carrottes rapés, meat and fish patés and terrines should be fine – but always check.
    - Look for dairy free menu options like salade Nicoise, or stick to plain grilled meat or fish, plain vegetables and boiled rice or potatoes, and avoid sauces unless sure they are dairy free.
    - French baguettes generally do not contain milk

    Points of attention:
    Always ask for the meat or fish to be cooked in vegetable or olive oil rather than butter, and make sure that they do not sauté the potatoes in butter or put butter on vegetables when they serve them.

  • Middle-eastern / Turkish/ Greek

    These are cuisines mostly based around olive oil, so will be largely dairy free and offer plenty of options to explore.

    Prefered options:
    - Mediterranean vegetable dishes such as beans in tomato sauce, dolmades and stuffed peppers should be fine – but always check for added cheese or toppings
    - Hummus, baba ganoush (aubergine dip) and taramosalata
    - Mains of grilled meat, fish and seafood
    - Oven cooked meat dishes such as stifado and lamb with lemon
    - Desserts – go for fruit, Turkish delight, lokoumathes (honeyed dough balls) – but check the dough is free from yogurt or milk, semolina and almond cake – normally made with oil – check with the chef.

    Points of attention:
    A few dishes are based on cheeses like feta and halloumi and should be avoided, such as spanakopita, for example
    - Some starters and dips can be yogurt based, like tzatziki
    - Moussaka has a béchamel topping that makes it one to miss, and some Greek pasta dishes include dairy ingredients
    - Desserts often include butter, yogurt and milk e.g., halva, pastries such as baklavas

  • Spanish / Tapas

    Spanish food relies heavily on eggs and olive oil, flavoured with garlic, tomatoes, peppers and paprika. Its full on flavours will more than compensate for the fact that you just can’t munch on the manchego or sample the crema catalana!

    Prefered options:
    - Morning coffee and churros – ask for your coffee with a soya milk alternative if possible. Traditional churros do not normally contain dairy.
    - Spanish omelette or ‘tortilla’ does not traditionally use milk in the egg mixture but do check as traditions change within regions and chefs.
    - The primer plato, or first course, such as grilled asparagus, sautéed artichokes with ham or mushrooms will usually be prepared in olive oil but always check that no butter is used.
    - Fresh fish and fish dishes such as paella, fish soup, sardines a la Santanderina, bacalao con tomato (cod in tomato sauce), Urta a la Rotena (baked Snapper) should all be dairy free and traditionally use olive oil. However, check the restaurant is using olive oil and not butter when cooking
    - Meat dishes are traditionally dairy free

    Points of attention:
    - Many specialty cheeses, which you will need to avoid
    - Many Spanish soups and desserts use milk and cream