Unless you’re going to a vegan paradise, chances are you might hit a few bumps on your vegan voyage, whether it’s somewhere exotic or just a road trip.
Being prepared but open to adventure at the same time will set you up in the best possible way so you can enjoy your holiday and avoid the bread, beans and potatoes routine.
1. Do your research
It’s always a good idea to do a little digging – search for ‘vegan food in [your destination]’. You may not get a neat information package but there are always tips from people who’ve been there and done that or you may find useful reviews. You may also discover important food or water safety advice.
Doing research before travelling can not only help keep your stomach safe, it may also spare you from carting along unnecessary foods and give you something to look forward to.
2. Plan ahead
While doing your research, you’ll inevitably come across restaurants, cafés, bistros and bars that offer vegan options. Even if there’s just one place that looks hopeful, make room in your schedule to try it because more often than not, if you don’t search for it, you won’t find it.
At the same time, not everything’s online and you may well discover the best gems while exploring your new locale. Be ready for chips and salad but hope to find something better than that.
An essential part of your holiday planning should be to look up some basic phrases in the local language, especially around food. While veganism is spreading, many people still don’t have a clue what it’s about so it pays to know how to ask if the food is free of fish, seafood, dairy and eggs. It might also be useful to look up the words for some common ingredients so you’re not lost when shopping.
3. Be prepared
No matter where you’re going, some foods are a travel must. Nuts, seeds and dried fruit are a convenient trio that is easy to bring and it can truly up your nutrient intake when you’ve drawn a blank. Don’t forget to pack your favourite snacks for a bit of comfort. Energy bars, a pack of biscuits, oat cakes or crispbread all travel and keep well and can be great holiday companions.
If you’re planning any adventures, a protein powder mix can come in handy and provide sustenance even in the most basic conditions. You can prepare it the usual way and shake it with water or add a spoonful to your breakfast cereal – if all you can get for breakfast are cornflakes or rice crispies, protein powder mix can save the meal! If you also bring some freeze-dried fruit, nothing can get in the way of your eating well.
When booking your holiday, aim to get a place with its own kitchen corner or at least a kettle and a fridge – that can make your holiday so much easier!
And, one last thing about being prepared – if you drink tea or coffee with plant milk, that may be an issue in some places so bring a powdered coffee creamer – ideally in its original packaging in case of security checks.
4. Buy local but safe foods
Having said all the above, don’t bring tons of food and miss out on local produce and cuisine! If you’re in a place where food is safe to eat, try what’s on offer! If you’re not sure, there are a few rules to follow:
- Buy fruit and vegetables that you peel before eating, such as bananas, oranges, mangoes or avocado. Or bring a concentrated fruit and veg disinfectant that is diluted in water and rinse your purchases in it before eating. Much better than being scared to eat fresh food the whole time you’re on holiday.
- Water purifying tablets (usually sold in outdoor shops) can be a life saver when tap water is dodgy or when you need to get water from a spring. There are many options, including filters and laser purifiers but the good old tablets are the easiest. If you’re buying bottled water, always check that the top is attached to the ring that ensures it’s the original packaging – sometimes, bottles are refilled and sold as new. Better be safe than sorry!
- If you’re in a restaurant, you have to trust the chef but if you’re buying street food, always watch how it’s prepared before you make a decision. Meals that are handed to you right after cooking are safer than foods that have been lying around for a while and handled repeatedly.
- When you ask for something vegan and it arrives distinctly non-vegan, it’s always a tricky situation. If you send it back, try to see how it’s handled as sometimes, the non-vegan stuff is simply picked out which is problematic not just for vegan reasons but also from a food-safety point of view.
- There are some staples that you can buy almost anywhere to assemble your own meals – nuts and seeds, crisps (not ideal but if there’s nothing else…), biscuits, dark chocolate, bread, pasta/noodles/couscous, breakfast cereals, fruit and vegetables, jam, peanut butter, tinned beans and peas, tomato sauce, etc. Not that they will provide the most impressive feast but at least they’ll fill you up.
5. Don’t be afraid to ask
Many of us tend to be shy when it comes to asking for vegan food but try not to be. If you’re staying somewhere, ask for information on where to find vegetarian food as people may not know the word vegan but most know what vegetarian means.
In bistros or cafés, ask if they have vegan options and if they don’t, suggest an easy one that would make you well-fed and isn’t complicated to make – it can be a sandwich with roasted veggies and nuts or seeds, tortilla chips with guacamole, bean salad with bread, veggie sushi, or whatever they have on the menu with just a little vegan tweak. And it’s the same with restaurants – communication is key. Even if it results in the chef coming out of the kitchen to have a look at the person who ordered pizza without cheese, at least you’ll have fun memories!