Exploring different cultures by traveling to new places is one of life’s greatest pleasures, but is it possible to globe-trot while adhering to a plant-based diet? You’re probably thinking, “I’ve already said goodbye to cheese, do I really need to give up travel too?” The good news is, you don’t. With a bit of research, creativity and flexibility, you can explore the world and stick to your veggie guns.
Food is such an integral part of travel and something we’re not willing to compromise on, so we’ve developed some habits and tricks over the years. What started out as a necessity (“Help, I won’t be able to eat anything in Korea!”) has turned into a cherished part of planning that gets us pumped for the trip ahead. As you’ll see, preparation is everything when it comes to eating plants on the go.
Here are our top 8 tips for thriving while maintaining a healthy diet on the road:
Preorder a plant-based meal if you are flying internationally and plan some snacks. Some destinations are strict about foods entering the country so you may need to finish fresh fruits, seeds and nuts onboard or leave leftovers. Remember that liquids are restricted, so take that into consideration when planning what to bring.
You will definitely want to bring your own food on domestic flights. Grain and bean salads, sandwiches and wraps, pre-cut fruits and veggies, seeds and nuts are all good options. Hummus is also a great in-flight snack but can be considered a liquid so stay under the limit set by the TSA.
Researching your destination, be it Toledo or Florence, is critically important. Google the local gastronomy and familiarize yourself with dishes and traditions. Many cultures have dishes that happen to be plant-based, even meat-loving Spain has gazpacho! Find them and explore what other culinary treats work with one or two tweaks.
Find plant-based and vegan blogs about your specific destination. Mine them for good addresses, produce recommendations and general tips. Ask for help on plant-based Facebook groups or search specific hashtags on Instagram like #VeganParis or #VeganLosAngeles and see what comes up. Reach out to plant-based Instagrammers and ask questions. You might make friends along the way!
The right apps will help you find places to eat and shop plant-based. Top of the list is Happy Cow (www.happycow.net), a paid app that crowdsources reviews of vegan and vegan-friendly restaurants and shops across the globe. TripAdvisor (www.tripadvisor.com) and Yelp (www.yelp.com) offer useful filters and search functions for finding plant-based options near you. Before you set out, use the ‘list’ or ‘favorite’ functions of these three apps to pinpoint locations you want to try.
With sites like Airbnb (www.airbnb.com), you can book apartments anywhere in the world. Ditching the hotel means you have access to a kitchen where you can cook healthy plant-based meals. This is especially useful if you have strict dietary restrictions for health reasons. Ask your host/rental agency about what kitchen equipment is available and how close the apartment is to shops. Try to stay near a market so you can enjoy some local flavor and fresh produce. Think ahead and bring a few light essentials with you, like favorite spices, instant oatmeal, dehydrated soups, plant-based protein shakes, etc.
Pack lightweight containers and lunchboxes for lunches on the go. If traveling within the US, think about bringing a compact appliance like a NutriBullet to make green smoothies and open up your food prep options.
For road trips, pack a cooler to keep homemade snacks and meals fresh and to help you avoid greasy diner and gas station food. Plan scenic lunch stops on your itinerary. Lunch always tastes better with a beautiful view.
Preparation is key when traveling to foreign countries that don’t speak English. Create a cheat sheet for yourself with important words and phrases like “vegan,” “no meat, dairy or eggs,” and “I only eat vegetables.” The concept of plant-based eating or veganism may be unfamiliar to certain cultures, and you must be prepared to explain what it means. Get the Google Translate app (www.translate.google.com) and download relevant languages so you can access them offline. This app is invaluable for deciphering menus and communicating with restaurant staff.
Finding plant-based snacks can be challenging, especially in touristy locations where junk food reigns supreme. Circumvent the issue by always carrying healthy snacks with you, like dried fruits, nuts and seeds. This is of particular importance if you plan on doing a lot of hiking or sightseeing. Hangry happens fast, don’t let it catch you off guard!
No one is perfect, and it can be really challenging to eat plant-based 100% of the time while traveling. Use our tips to stick with your healthy diet as much as possible but give yourself a break if you slip up once or twice. Just make sure you get back on the wagon at the next meal.
Beth Williams is a food writer, recipe developer and co-founder of Williams Raines, the plant-based recipe and content development agency. Born and raised near Paris, France, Beth has an obsession with travel and good food, as well as a photographic memory for outstanding meals. She lives in Barcelona, Spain with her husband.
Meg Raines is a food photographer, recipe developer and co-founder of the plant-based recipe and content development agency. Originally from Buffalo, New York, she travels abroad as often as possible to find inspiration for her food and photography. Meg lives in Chelan, Washington, with her husband and three dogs.