What do you eat when traveling is one of the most frequent questions I get asked. And for a good reason. Not only I don’t eat any animal products, I also tend to stay away from processed foods and keep as much as possible a whole food diet. Which can be a challenge when you’re away from home. In fact, in my experience, it really doesn’t matter if you’re a vegan or you’re on any other diet that stands out from norm, it’s not as if a whole food healthy options are readily available anywhere you go.
So I’ve been keeping track of all the big and small practical things I started doing since going vegan to make my life easier when traveling and here I’m sharing the first part of my essential tips on how to sustain a healthy diet on the road. So let’s roll.
1. First Things First, Get Informed
Sometimes you just get lucky and end up in a place which local cuisine is abundant with your kind of foods. But sometimes it’s just a perception of a place. Like a big portion of Mediterranean, well North West of it at least. The first thing that pops my mind when it comes to Mediterranean food is it’s delicious and it’s healthy. And so it is, but it’s not a vegan friendly one at all. In rare occasions of a few side dishes and salads, your options are pretty limited. In the past, when I didn’t really pay that much attention to what I was eating, I wasn’t noticing this at all. So I didn’t feel I was coming in for a surprise when I started traveling as a vegan, and that is where I went wrong. My beloved summer retreat area has close to none vegan places, most of the pasta is eggs based and I even heard of pizza dough with dairy, oh yes!
Regardless of how well you know the area, before you go you may want to get yourself informed about the local cuisine in general and what eating out options are available.
2. Pack for the Road
This one goes especially if you’re flying as the food options might be limited and it’s so easy to get dehydrated on a plane. Depending on how long the flight is, I pack from snacks to whole delicious meals. I’m also making sure every bite is a balanced carb&proteins so I don’t get in a starving mode soon after a meal. Keeping a sugar intake from fruits only and having plenty of water around.
What you’re looking for is a nutritive dense food that’s easy to carry around and that will keep you hydrated. Anything from dates to quinoa salads.
Another thing, I always pack a bit more than I might eat on a plane in case I get stuck at the airport or I don’t find a place to eat on a first day.
3. Read The Menu From Another Perspective
Ok, so you arrived, you’re hungry and you spot a restaurant you like. You order a drink and take a menu just to find out the only options are like sea fruit risotto and monte&mare pasta. You might be tempted to put the menu down at once, but don’t leave just yet. How about risotto with fungi? Look for all the vegan ingredients that the restaurant uses in their dishes. Then ask if you can get a dish with specific ingredients combined. You see, it’s unlikely that the chef in a non vegan restaurant would know what it is exactly you might need and just asking something like, do you have a vegan option, might be answered with a simple No. So helping with a specific suggestion is huge.
If you have a very concrete, and kind request to alternate a dish with ingredients that are already available in a kitchen, most chefs will happily accommodate you. This one is something I’d do anywhere eating out, not just on the travels.
4. Waiters And Chefs Are Your New BFFs
You don’t need me to tell you nobody likes a self righteous, fussy customer who rolls their eyes over a notion of there’s – no – my – food – option on the menu or saying things like a sour – cream – is – an – animal – product – too. So don’t be one. Just understand that most people don’t think of food categorized in groups. And that for many a word meat means a steak only, however strange it may sound. So get very specific. In a friendly manner. Works like a charm every time.
Asking if there are no animal produce in a meal, or saying you don’t eat anything that comes from animals, might not be enough. And I’ve had my fair share of funny answers and situations to that one. From oh, yes we do add a bit of cream to the soup, and may I then offer you a nice fresh salmon, to oh, but there’s no meat in it, it’s just a bit of bacon. I’d even once got a cappuccino with soy milk as a replacement but then topped with a heavy dairy cream, as this is a way we serve it here. And that scene didn’t happen in some small local tavern. It was one of the top rated iconic places in a big touristy destination. I got that cappuccino replaced again. My point here is, be prepared to check every single bit, such as if a risotto is cooked on butter or oil, if there are eggs in that pasta or breaded vegetables, even if there’s dairy in a bread or pastry.
Be patient, kind and friendly. People will surprise you. In a nice way.
Not everyone thinks of food the way I do.
5. And Food Markets On Your Top 5 Amenities To Visit List
This is probably my favourite one and it’s on my must visit list wherever I go. I just love green markets and the way they reflect a spirit of a place. All the different tastes, colours, aromas, all the hustle and bustle of it, green markets are also perfect places to chat and get to know more about the locals and all the ways they grow and cook the food. Especially if you’re staying for a longer time, you might want, or need to prepare some of the food yourself and what’s better than having some fresh, lovingly grown produce waiting for you every morning.
Green markets are also great stations for a fresh, yummy take away snack or lunch even.
Hope you find these tips helpful, feel free to add in the comments if you have some of your own to share. In the next post, I’ll be sharing some of my kitchen hacks together with easy and delicious recipes you can make when traveling. Until then, stay healthy and happy my friends.