Maintaining a plant-based diet while traveling can be challenging, especially if you are with omnivores or in places with limited plant-based options. It can feel especially daunting if you are relying on non-vegan restaurants for food. Fortunately, the increase in accessibility to plant-based products in restaurants and grocery stores makes being a plant-based traveler possible and enjoyable.
Numerous fast food and chain restaurants have been expanding their menus to include plant-based options. In the U.S., Chipotle, Blaze Pizza, Burger King, Ike’s Love and Sandwiches, and Panera Bread are just some of the chains with plant-based menu items. Even Baskin Robbins offers a couple of non-dairy flavors! If you are in search of a more formal sit-down restaurant, try cuisines such as Thai, Indian, Middle Eastern, Mexican, and Japanese. Some of my favorite plant-based dishes from these restaurants are Thai curry with tofu, chana masala, falafel, rice and beans, and plant-based sushi rolls. Trying new cuisines not only provides you with more food choices and increases variety in your diet but also opens your eyes to different cultural dishes.
Sometimes, you can modify dishes that traditionally have meat, dairy, and eggs upon request. Ask if you can have a cheese-less pizza or if they have plant-based cheese. An egg scramble in a diner may be turned into a tofu scramble or sautéed veggies and potatoes. Remove the meat and cheese from a loaded burrito and you still have a complete protein from the rice and beans. Don’t be embarrassed to make requests to accommodate your dietary and ethical choices.
If you are able to cook your own food while traveling, you can modify your usual diet to what is available in stores near you. Focusing on simple, whole foods that are locally grown can be helpful in this context. Rice, pasta, oats, beans, nuts, fruits, and veggies of different types are generally easy to find in supermarkets. Prepared foods can also come in handy, like canned soups, quick-cook rice and oats, and even premade salads. You do not need a health food store to be plant-based, and buying these items at generic markets will save you money as well. Some inexpensive and satisfying meals are oatmeal with fruit or rice with beans and veggies. If you are unable to cook your food, you could eat things like overnight oats, peanut butter sandwiches, or carrots and hummus. No matter where you go, I suggest being prepared with satisfying portable snacks like protein bars, dried and fresh fruit, nuts, and crackers.
When you are in a new place, apps and websites for locating restaurants in your area can save you lots of time and energy. Happy Cow is an app and website that allows you to filter through vegan and vegetarian restaurants in your area. A similar website is VeggL, which gives you a detailed guide of plant-based options in airports, restaurants, and stadiums. It has saved me from wandering aimlessly around airport terminals on several occasions. If you are interested in traveling on a budget, Toni Okamoto of Plant-Based on a Budget wrote tips for how she ate plant-based and saved money at Disneyland. She also made a video on the same topic! For reviews of plant-based and vegetarian food products, cosmetics, and restaurant dishes, try an app called Abillion. Not only does it guide you towards great plant-based products, but it also allows you to donate a dollar to a non-profit organization of your choice when you write a review. You can choose from a long list of organizations, including FFAC!
In some locations, it is particularly hard to avoid all animal products. Perhaps the local cuisine is primarily animal-based. A language barrier in a new country might present you with different challenges in finding plant-based food. When additional food access issues arise, it is important to not be hard on yourself if you accidentally eat something that’s not plant-based or if you can’t find anything fully plant-based to eat. What’s most important is that you are trying your best to prevent harm wherever you go, and if you are eating plant-based as much as possible, you are making a difference. Try researching your plant-based options prior to traveling to make the decision process easier.
Audrey Bailey is an intern with FFAC.