People may choose to be vegan for any number of health or ethical reasons, including ecological impacts. According to The Economist, up to a quarter of U.S. citizens between the ages of 25 and 34 identify as vegetarian or vegan, as of 2019. Such dietary restrictions can be difficult enough to maintain to begin with, but it may be even more difficult when one goes abroad.
Many businesses in the U.S. are increasingly meeting the demand for vegan and vegetarian alternatives; however, the same cannot be said of every area of the world. In many parts of the world, meat features prominently in a range of traditional dishes. Traveling with foodies can make it challenging to find options that please everyone.
Furthermore, even areas that do have these alternative options may be unfamiliar to a traveling vegan, which can still cause roadblocks when it comes to finding a meal. The below guide will provide helpful tips and resources for vegetarians and vegans that would like to know what their dietary options and resources are outside of their native country.
Keeping Healthy During Your Travels
Despite a reputation for healthy eating, in some scenarios, vegans can experience more difficulty than anticipated in terms of trying to eat well-balanced meals. For example, in a pinch with few options, a vegan may be forced to stick with safely vegan (although unhealthy choices) such as french fries (which are usually vegan, but not always). Therefore, a vegan who wants to eat healthy during their time abroad needs to prepare and be aware of the best options available to them.
Finding Non-Meat Protein
A common criticism that vegans may face is the protein content of their diet. In truth, a variety of non-animal-based products are protein-rich; however, these alternatives may vary depending on the area. Nuts, beans, and many types of leafy greens are excellent sources of protein, and it therefore is in the best interest of traveling vegans to research such foods that are native or available in the area they are visiting.
Another option is to use supplements to bolster a diet. Many vegans may already be well aware of the importance of B12 supplementation, but depending on the available non-animal-based foods available in the areas they visit, it will be helpful to do some research beforehand, anticipate nutritional gaps, and pack the according supplements. Although food is usually a better source for these nutrients, supplements can at least help mitigate any negative effects in the short term.
Tips While At Your Travel Destination
There are also a few general tips that are great to keep in mind if you are a vegan traveling abroad.
Prepare Your Own Easy Vegan Meals
Those who have been vegan for a long period of time will likely already be accustomed to this practice. Preparing your own meals allows you to be more certain of what ingredients are in your food, and circumvents the need to ask for alterations or communicate dietary restrictions to others. Barring that, ordering simple foods will also make it easier to make informed eating decisions, and to communicate about your dietary restrictions.
Buffets: A Vegan’s Best Friend
Buffets are an unlikely hero for traveling vegans, due to the varied, simple options, which often include fresh fruit and salad bars. Buffets are found at many locations at many price points throughout the Old World and the New, and — particularly convenient for travelers — buffets are a staple in resort hotels. Furthermore, a buffet is a great compromise for vegans traveling with others who do not have the same dietary restrictions. For many travelers, a visit to Spain wouldn’t be complete without sampling the paella or local seafood — booking a stay at the all-inclusive PortoPetro would let vegans and omnivores share a table without going off-diet, thanks to the buffet options.
Be Prepared to Communicate Your Dietary Restrictions
It is best to not rely on hearsay when it comes to restaurants or other food services advertising something as “vegan.” However, overcoming this obstacle becomes more difficult if you are visiting an area where you are not able to communicate well. It will benefit you to learn some simple words and phrases to communicate your dietary restrictions; however, be prepared to come across differing attitudes about food preparation and dietary restrictions. For example, in some areas, it is not commonplace for patrons to ask for alterations to their meals, and the business may not agree to do so.
The simplest solutions are to either be accompanied by a guide who speaks the language natively and understands the culture, or else get a custom-made card explaining your situation, and ways the business can help. Another option is to choose to visit a business such as a spa hotel or resort, which will often have translators and guides on hand to assist their visitors. Such destinations will also offer restaurants in the hotel, which should be more suited to the tastes and expectations of visitors.
Be Aware of Attitudes Regarding Veganism
As stated, cultural attitudes can be different, and sometimes in surprising ways. Choosing to not eat animal products may be met with confusion or any number of other reactions, so it is a good idea to be prepared. Additionally, individual attitudes toward veganism can vary, and sometimes can be negative. While veganism has in some cases been used as a form of protest, not every vegan traveling abroad will want potentially negative attention drawn to themselves, and therefore may want to be wary of how they discuss their lifestyle with other people.
Resources for Vegan Travelers
There are many resources to help vegan travelers have a great trip.
Happy Cow offers an online map that catalogs vegan-friendly restaurants throughout the world — the largest and most comprehensive of its kind. An app is also available.
Although it would usually be ideal to have cards identifying your dietary restrictions custom-made, various generic “v-cards” written in multiple languages are available online. These can help vegans at a grocery store or restaurant clearly explain their situation with limited aptitude in the local language.
Vegetarian Phrases in World Languages
There are also many online resources that catalog helpful phrases for vegetarians and vegans in many languages.
While there are many helpful practices for a vegetarian or vegan to use while traveling abroad, the specifics will depend largely on the individual and their destination. Therefore, it is especially important for a traveler with dietary restrictions to research the area that they intend to visit.