My wife and I became vegetarians in 2013. Living in Southern California, there is no shortage to vegetarian or vegan options. When traveling abroad, we’ve found that finding food options can be a challenge in certain areas. Like anything, major problems can be avoided if you do a little research and plan ahead. While the focus of this post is centered on finding vegetarian or vegan options, the concept can be applied to any allergies or dietary restrictions.
Probably the most important thing you can do is learn how to communicate your dietary restriction. Memorizing a few simple phrases can save a lot of headache and risk of accidentally consuming a product that you normally wouldn’t eat. While it is easy to find people in large cities who speak English well enough to communicate what you want, rural areas are different.
Some recommended phrases to learn:
“I’m a vegetarian/vegan”
“I don’t eat meat”
“Does this contain ________?” (then learn a few words like “meat”, “eggs”, “cheese” or “dairy”)
“I’m allergic to _________” (This is especially useful as restaurants tend to take an allergy more seriously than simply a dietary choice.)
B.Y.O.S. (Bring Your Own Snacks)
Never underestimate the power of having snacks readily available in the event you are having trouble finding food. We learned this lesson the hard way a couple of years ago on a trip to Paris. We packed a few snacks for the plane, but assumed that we could just buy what we needed upon arrival. We didn’t think about the fact that our flight was arriving very late in the evening and all of the stores would be closed. Ever since, we always pack plenty of snacks to last throughout the trip. Not only does this keep us from being left hungry, it is also cheaper than buying snacks everywhere you go. Plus, as you eat the food you brought, you will free up room in your bag for souvenirs.
Some of our favorite snacks:
- Nuts and Seeds – great source of protein to keep you full and a lot of calories in a small amount.
- Oatmeal packets
- Bars – I recommend Larabars. Plant-based and lots of different flavors. My personal favorite below. 🙂
Hit the Grocery Store or Local Market
We’re definitely foodies and enjoy eating at restaurants. However, restaurants can sometimes be tricky. This is especially true in areas where the local food tends to be tailored toward local produce. For example, it can be difficult to find non-seafood restaurants in coastal areas.
We have found that we also enjoy visiting local bakeries and shops for a quick snack to eat at a nearby park. Since we usually rent an apartment through Airbnb or Homeaway, we often buy food from a local grocery store or market anyway. This makes it easier to prepare some of our own food and pack lunches.
Besides the convenience, you’ll also save lots of time that you can use to explore the city more. Plus, you’ll get more of an opportunity to mingle with locals rather than a restaurant packed with other tourists.
Try New Things
According to the United Nations, there are hundreds of thousands of edible plants. We only eat a small number of them (I’ve read that 90% of the fruits and vegetables that Americans eat come from only about 20 different plants). Many of these foods are only found or consumed in certain areas around the globe. Take the opportunity to try and experience a new food that you may never see again.
“Of the 4 percent of the 250 000 to 300 000 known edible plant species, only 150 to 200 are used by humans. Only three – rice, maize (corn) and wheat – contribute nearly 60 percent of calories and proteins obtained by humans from plants.”
~ United Nations, Food and Agriculture Organization
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