What links Ellen DeGeneres, Pamela Anderson and a pack of Oreos? Veganism. This year, over 20,000 people pledged to live without meat, fish, dairy and other animal-based foods for ‘Veganuary’, with many making the change permanent.
The international drive is spearheaded by the eponymous charity, Veganuary, whose website provides followers with a ‘vegan starter kit’ alongside heaps of myth-busting information and inspiration for why you should switch to the green side. As well as benefitting animal welfare and reducing human impact on the environment, going vegan is reportedly a boon for health with lower cholesterol, blood pressure and a lesser risk of diabetes and heart disease.
Keeping animal products out of your own kitchen may be a doddle but when it comes to travelling, sticking to a vegan diet is a different kettle of… plants. Yet staying meat-free needn’t be stressful just because you’re not within walking distance of Wholefoods. SUITCASE offers some tips to keep you veggie-oriented while travelling.
Fed up of trying to gesture ‘no dairy’ to a perplexed waiter? It pays to learn useful phrases such as “I do not eat meat/ chicken/ pork/ eggs” or the name of a local vegan dish (hummus, daal, etc.) ahead of travel. The Vegetarian Guides’ vegan passport is every herbivore’s essential travel companion, detailing the dos and don’ts of veganism in 79 languages so wherever you’re visiting, cooks can prepare an animal-free feast.
Be aware that some ostensibly vegan dishes may well be cooked with animal fat or broths, so you’ll have to learn to ask about these ingredients.
Don’t be afraid to ask. If there aren’t any vegan options on a menu, find a dish that you would like and ask for a meat-free version. Gnocchi with marinara works well in Italian cuisine as does a rice and bean burrito in Mexican. After all, being vegan doesn’t mean you have to settle for a plate of steamed vegetables and limp salad.
Before travelling, research vegan and vegan-friendly restaurants and health food shops at your chosen destination. HappyCow app is a great tool to help with your search as are vegan travel blogs such as Mostly Amelie, Plant-Powered Nomad and Vegan Food Quest.
What’s more, with the ever-increasing number of foodies documenting their every mouthful, apps such as Instagram, Foursquare and Pinterest are valuable resources for an unfiltered glimpse at what food may actually look like when it lands on your table. Search the restaurants you plan to visit, local vegan dishes or scroll through hashtags such as #vegantravel.
Notify your accommodation about your dietary requirements ahead of travel. Many places will often stock your hotel room fridge with soy milk even if they are unable to cater to an entirely vegan diet when it comes to breakfast.
Alternatively, chose to stay at accommodation with your own cooking facilities. Many cities have their own vegan group on Couchsurfing, a great opportunity to meet like-minded folk with the low-down on the best plant-powered restaurants and local vegan dishes.
Get crafty in your hotel room: coffee pots can be used to steam veggies and cook soup or couscous; boil the kettle to make porridge from pre-cooked cereals; the hotel-room iron can be used to press paninis or heat toasties.
Carry portable cutlery and a plate and hit up the local farmer’s market; it’s a great way to discover local culture, food and cater to your dietary requirements all at the same time. Take a lunchbox or a small, light container too. That way, when you find a decent vegan meal, you can buy extra and save your leftovers for a packed lunch later on. The hotel’s mini fridge can often accommodate extra nibbles you pick up.
Plant-based or not, carrying snacks is rarely going to be a bad idea. No one likes being hangry. A homemade trail mix, crudites, fruit and energy bars (or balls, if you’re going trendy) make for a quick and satisfying snack.
Carrying protein-rich legumes such as crunchy chickpeas ease the problem of dining out in non vegan-friendly restaurants. Just toss a handful over salad for a more nutritional, rounded meal. A few small jars or pouches of your favourite herbs, spices and powders – turmeric, pea protein, spirulina, etc. – are a great handbag-hack for sprinkling into drinks, cereal, smoothies and soups too.
But remember: no liquids on the plane. If you can’t survive a flight without the infallible chia pudding, carry the seeds on dry and add liquid on board. By the time you’ve watched safety announcements and chosen your in-flight film, it will be ready.
And don’t forget, take a b12 supplement; the likelihood of finding nutritional yeast among the condiments at a hole-in-the-wall diner, or indeed a Michelin-starred restaurant, are slim.