As the newest contributor to The Dish, I’m fortunate that October happens to be an official food month I know a thing or two about – it’s National Vegetarian Month! Throughout my life, I’ve gone days at a time eating vegetarian and thought to myself, “I could do this full time.” So, last November, I did. Now, in honor of National Vegetarian Month, I want to enlighten my fellow writers and you faithful readers about the joys (and relative ease of) eating vegetarian in the restaurants you already know and love.

I’ve learned you can find delicious and satisfying vegetarian options at so many different restaurants, but let’s start with the zestiest! MEXICAN. Eating vegetarian at Mexican restaurants is natural because the staples for these delicious dishes are typically corn and beans. Nutritious and protein rich! Add in all the spices that make your mouth water, like cilantro, lime, onions, garlic, cumin, peppers and chipotle, and your mouth will delight in a fiesta that will make you want to do the sombrero dance. Balance out the heat with some (not too much, but just enough) soothing Mexican crema and Chihuahua cheese. And don’t forget the quintessential Mexican appetizers: chips, salsa and guacamole are all vegetarian items you can enjoy! Your main course can be veggie tacos topped with pico de gallo (a less liquidy form of salsa), slices of ripened avocado, a squeeze of lime and Spanish rice on the side. Or veggie fajitas. Or sopes. Or spinach enchiladas. Or a grilled veggie burrito … the list goes on!

The next cuisine you can easily enjoy as a vegetarian is Mediterranean. A natural fit for eating meatless entrees, hummus is the most notable accompaniment for this cuisine. Hummus is yet another healthy meatless option loaded with protein, plus heart healthy (and flavorful) olive oil and garlic. Highly versatile, a great lunch option is some veggies –succulent, smoky grilled and on a skewer – a whole bunch of hummus and a side of basmati rice. Mediterranean tops the spice and flavor list with olives, lemon, curry, nutmeg, garlic, parsley, saffron, turmeric, rosemary and more. Others delicious dishes to sample are Baba Ganoush, a dip made of smoked eggplant, garlic and lemon, and falafel – deep fried balls of ground chick-peas. Throw in some crumbled, tangy feta to round out your satisfying vegetarian escape to the Mediterranean coast!

Next up: Italian! Mama Mia! Consider…
– Starting with a Ricotta Cheese, Pistachio and Honey bruschetta and Mushroom Risotto Fritters
– A delicious Minestrone Soup with fresh spinach, green beans and tender cannellini beans
– A fresh Caprese salad with nutty olive oil, soft mozzarella, tomatoes and basil fresh from the garden
You might be full at this point, but don’t stop yet! Every course can be vegetarian. Try:
– Gnocchi Gorgonzola: Potato dumplings stuffed with gorgonzola cheese with tomato cream basil sauce
– Neapolitan pizza with extra virgin olive oil, dry aged mozzarella, mushrooms and onion
– Share a side of roasted garlic mashed potatoes or creamy polenta with shaved pecorino.
– Tiramisu: creamy mascarpone, espresso coffee and lady finger goodness.

This much variety only covers three nights of eating! I would like to give honorable mention to Ethiopian – a cuisine that is spicy, vegetable rich and can also be vegan. Thai food also has great vegetarian options, but be careful, a lot of dishes are not truly vegetarian as fish sauce is used in many cases (great for Pescatarians- those who eat fish but not other animals).

I have found that eating vegetarian has been such an easy transition and I am definitely not missing out on trying wonderful cuisines from around the world. Try eating vegetarian tonight and let us know what you enjoyed – I think you’ll find it’s easier than you might expect!