Tag Archives: vegan travel

Eat Healthy and Save Money on Vacation

If your normally healthy diet goes out the window when traveling, you’re not alone.

Regardless of the type of diet you follow, temptation begins the instant you leave home. While the airlines have practically eliminated free snacks and in-flight meals, the airport, timezone changes, the waiting, lack of routine and accountability–especially when traveling alone–can all wreck your discipline.

When I heard the upscale Embassy Suites Waikiki offered a nightly evening manager’s reception, I pictured eating green salads, antipastos, and raw vegetables I had often found in Hilton’s Asian properties.

It took me 2 days to realize the happy hour’s “rotating menu of snacks” alternated between a variety of salty junk foods (peanuts, pretzels, party mix and chips), which–try as I might–I couldn’t resist shoveling onto my plate. What’s worse, I still ate a normal dinner afterward, in order to feel satisfied.

I had to make sure this situation would not continue, or I would certainly be in store for big weight gain during my vacation.

How does a traveler stay healthy, when it seems so much is out of your hands??

  • First of all–it may sound obvious–but don’t select a vacation destination just because of its unbridled eating opportunities. Your subconscious mind is more powerful than you think.
  • If you have a choice of hotels, check around ahead of time and choose one that offers fresh foods containing plenty of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. Continue reading

A Vegan Diet Doesn’t Mean Skipping the Omelette Bar?

Years before becoming vegan, I used to love omelettes and especially the hotel omelette bars that can make even stressful business trips feel like a vacation-if only for a few brief moments.

But during my most recent stay at Waikiki’s Embassy Suites, the promotional copy on the room-key card was taunting me:

“How do you like your eggs? Free or complimentary? Complimentary cooked-to-order breakfast every morning.”

Part of following a whole foods plant-based diet means resisting most of the food that’s out there, often “free” for the taking, such as the all-you-can eat breakfast buffets included with your hotel room.

Not that I miss eating eggs at all, but since becoming vegan I felt that by forgoing the omelette bar I was missing out on something I paid for. And who doesn’t appreciate the luxurious feeling of someone preparing something just the way you like it?

While on my high-protein kick in my 20s and early 30s, I would order 3-egg western omelettes. As I grew concerned with high cholesterol, I began to request the omelette chef discard a yolk, then 2, and eventually ordered egg-white omelettes–believing that was healthy–even though I still added lots of cheese.

Although I’ve cooked all varieties of eggless omelettes and other comfort foods at home, it wasn’t until the 2nd day of my most recent hotel stay it occurred to me to visit the omelette bar for a no-egg omelette. What could it hurt?

I helped myself to the vegetables–mushrooms, onions, chopped tomatoes, bell peppers, jalapenos, and lots of baby spinach–from beside the omelette station,  then brought some cubed tofu from the salad bar, and handed them to the omelette chef. Continue reading

Do You Like Coffee in Your Milk, or Milk in Your Coffee?

A recent article in the Washington Post discussing the effects of various foods on heart health identified the greatest health risk of coffee to be weight gain from blended coffee beverages packed with empty calories from sugar and dairy fat.

Lately, it seems the creator and biggest purveyor of the beverages has been trying to rise above criticism they’re as guilty as McDonalds and other fast food chains for contributing to high rates of obesity and diet-related diseases.

Along with introducing oatmeal to its menu, Starbucks published guides to 20 Drinks Under 200 Calories” as well as “Favorite Foods under 350 calories” on its website.  Unfortunately, Starbucks plays down the healthiest beverages (full-leaf teas, brewed coffee, espresso, caffe Americano, etc.) which all have under 10 calories. For example–if you’ve grown tired of Pike Place–did you know you can order any beans Starbucks carries be prepared with a French-press?

Adding milk or cream and sugar to brewed coffee is so common among Starbucks’ U.S. customers, the baristas “leave room” in the cup by default. No wonder hard-core coffee drinkers (those who know the difference between an ibrik and a v60) don’t take the chain seriously, especially after it introduced the lightly-roasted Blonde coffee (now its most popular), further blurring the line with pedestrian coffee.

Of course, only Starbucks’ pure coffees/teas and those made with soymilk–instead of dairy milk–are of any interest to those on a whole foods plant-based diet (those who haven’t given up caffeine, at least).

For the record, Starbucks custom-blended soymilk contains more calories and saturated fat than its skim milk. However, soymilk contains no cholesterol (vs 5g for non-fat milk) and does contain fiber, a beneficial nutrient found only in plant-based foods. Continue reading

Is Tokyo’s Vegan Dining Scene Improving?

Even in London, with thousands of vegan residents and visitors, great vegan restaurants come and go. Still, it is a sad statement of Japanese interest in veganism that Tokyo begins 2012 with three fewer vegan-only restaurants than last year.

  • First, there was the closure in March of the vegan and organic J’s Kitchen in Hiroo, owing to a shortage of safe and secure food products following the Tohoko disaster.
  • In December, Tokyo lost Manna Foods (a raw vegan restaurant) in Daikanyama and Cafe Little Hands (lunch only pop-up restaurant) in Jiyugaoka. I had never been to Manna, but had sampled their raw lasagna at VeggieFesta. Like many others, I found their food delicious, but pricey for the small portions.
  • Attending the farewell event at Cafe Little Hands, I regretted I had never eaten there before because the food was wholesome–not oily or excessively flavored–and included a variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, grains and nuts. It was like eating a home-cooked meal, and reasonably priced, too.

On the positive side, there is a growing number of plant-based dining alternatives from restaurant chains to pick up the slack:

  • After months anticipating the arrival of Fukuoka’s Mana Burgers in Tokyo (it was renamed “Island Veggie” with backing from the Aloha Table chain).
    • Visiting Island Veggie in Hiroo for a weekend lunch, I ordered the set, and was given a choice of deli items with either bread (the “whole wheat” bread was not baked in-house, and whole wheat content minimal), brown rice, or rice cracker.
    • The namesake “Mana Burger” my friend had was small and light on lettuce and tomato. Although the patty is vegan, they offer dairy cheese on the burger and no dairy-free cheese option. Bun was not particularly healthy either, perhaps why Mana Burger’s originator calls it “natural junk.”
    • Island Veggie’s novelty, and upscale location attracts a good crowd for now, and–despite small portions and high prices–its corporate support should keep it afloat.

Continue reading

How to Eat Healthy and Save Money in Paradise

While in Honolulu for last year’s marathon, I discovered Loving Hut, Simple Joy, the vegan-friendly Green Papaya, and the not so vegan-friendly Roy’s. Staying in an apartment with full kitchen, it was not restaurants, but farmers markets–such as the one at Kapiolani Community College–that topped the list for fresh, local produce and economical home cooking.

This year, I decided to stay in Waikiki and experience Honolulu without wheels, catching an airport shuttle bus ($15) to the hotel, and getting around by foot and public transport. Over the course of a week, I easily saved $400 for car rental and parking (which alone costs over $30/day at some hotels!).

Unsure of the availability of nutritious vegan foods, I had baked myself a couple loaves of whole-wheat sourdough bread, okara quinoa carob cookies, and prepared batches of protein bars and sesame halvah bars, too. I packed so much that I overloaded the baggage scales before leaving Japan.

I have to commend All Nippon Airways for its comfortable flight (how did we ever live without personal movie screens?) and vegan meal service. The two meals–ratatouille with 100% whole wheat roll, and a spinach wrap sandwich, both accompanied by salad and cut fruit–seemed better quality than the standard “beef or chicken” fare. Be sure to order ANA’s “strict vegetarian meal” when you make your reservation!

During my one week stay in Waikiki, I found plenty of choices within walking distance and/or by “The Bus” service ($2.50 per ride–Take No. 4 toward Nuuanu and get off at University and S. King intersection) that were vegan and budget-friendly, too.
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The ultimate result of Tai-ichi Matsuda’s battle with his conscience is great news for Japanese diners, and animal lovers everywhere.

It all began when the owner a popular south Kyoto yakiniku-ya (Korean-style barbequed meat restaurant)* went searching online for a family pet, and landed on some animal rights web sites.

For the first time, Tai-ichi learned about the way breeders and pet shops abused animals, how meat production is cruel to animals and pollutes the environment, and that eating animal products was harmful for one’s health, too.

Like most people, he had always believed we needed meat to survive. But the more he learned, the more he questioned his values and came to understand a vegan lifestyle was the right path for him. Within a week, Tai-ichi proceeded to give up meat and fish, quickly followed by eggs and dairy products.

He had kept it a secret for a month, before his wife became suspect. “Why don’t you eat meat any more?” she asked. He feared telling her, especially since the yakiniku-ya had been their livelihood for 10 years. Thankfully, Atsuko (along with his 3 young children) agreed to share his vegan crusade, yet doubted the former meat-lover would stick with his decision for long.

But while Tai-ichi never questioned his own ability to stay vegan, deciding the fate of his yakiniku restaurant consumed him with worry and depression for months.

Continue reading

What Does 311 Teach Us?

It’s been a little difficult for me to go back to writing about a vegan diet and new vegan recipes given events of March 11 and the ongoing crisis just 150 miles away in Japan’s Tohoku (northeast) region.

We grieve for those who lost loved ones and property, now staying in evacuation shelters and perhaps unable to return to their homes. Indeed, thousands have had their towns decimated, or made uninhabitable due to radiation. Countless farm animals and pets were swept away, and many roam in the perimeter of the reactors, without food.

Trivial by comparison are the psychological effects of those indirectly affected, and others who now realize they are living near active earthquake zones, coastlines, or more than 50 nuclear power plants in Japan: Continue reading

Vegan Scallopini With Artichokes

Tokyo is a city famous for its convenience, but unfortunately not so for vegan eating.

Maintaining a healthy vegan diet in Japan and other countries where veganism has not caught on often means having to make everything from scratch, from breakfast cereals, breads, egg-replacers, non-dairy milks and mock meats, to vegan mayonaise, cheeses and ice creams.

On my latest trip to the States, I went out of my way to sample a number of vegan ready to eat and convenience foods. Since meeting Tal Ronnen last year, I was intrigued by the Gardein plant-based products he is developing–which according to some vegans–feel too much like eating meat. Continue reading

Resolve To Live Your Dreams

Been thinking about your New Year resolutions?

Perhaps you’re considering going on a vegan diet, but can’t see how you’ll ever get there. Maybe you’ve dreamed about running a marathon, too, but abandoned it as impossible?

If so, just think of the expression by William Arthur Ward:

“If you can imagine it, you can achieve it; if you can dream it, you can become it.”

Five short years ago, I had not begun a vegan diet, nor had I run more than an occasional 1-2 miles on the running machine (staring at the wall at the fitness club, it felt like a death sentence). Growing up, I had been a miserable athlete, skipping all PE classes from the 9th grade to save myself embarrassment.

Just as a plant-based diet often begins with small steps, such as avoiding meat one meal a day (or one day a week) or eliminating a single kind of meat from your diet, until you’ve actually begun running, it’s totally natural for you to believe you’re not capable of getting in shape to run a marathon. Continue reading

Vegan UFOs

Tastes great when you're 5 miles high.

Airline meals were the butt of many jokes until they were largely eliminated from domestic flights. Now, all you hear is how much people miss them! However, international passengers can still look forward to airline meals, if only to break up the monotony of long-haul flights (or deride in their blogs).

Most airlines offer a wide variety of “special meals,””  including various kinds of vegetarian ones, such as Asian vegetarian, and lacto-ovo vegetarian, in addition to vegan.

Not long ago I wrote about a suprisingly good vegan meal served up by Philippine Airways. After writing PAL to commend them, PAL’s customer service quickly provided me with photos of their lunch as well as a description of the dish. Continue reading