Being away from home can make business travel and vacation challenging and stressful for anyone who’s trying to eat healthily. This is particularly so for new vegans who are still trying to adjust to a diet without animal products but may have fewer alternatives than usual.
However, given the fact that business travel is often necessary for our jobs, and most people enjoy going somewhere new for vacation–at least occasionally–how does the vegan or aspiring vegan deal with eating away from home?
Below are some tips for business and vacation situations:
1. Business travel–Eat as much healthy (whole-grain, low-fat and minimal refined sugar) vegan foods you can at those meals where you have the most control over the venue. For me that’s breakfast, because lunch and dinner are often spent with colleagues or clients, and you’re less likely to have a say over the restaurant chosen or the menu.
Breakfast buffets at hotels are quite vegan-friendly, and as a result they are probably the safest places to eat while away from home (provided you don’t give in to temptation to eat 80 percent of the food that is non-vegan!).
a. Most salad bars have an enormous variety of fresh vegetables and fruits. Just remember to stick with oil and vinegar dressing (did you realize that there are 120 calories per tablespoon of oil?).
b. Asian dishes (tofu, vegetable stir fry, rice/noodles, vegetable curry, porridge)
c. Whole-grain cereal (hot or cold) prepared with soy milk. Note that oatmeal is usually prepared using dairy milk, if you don’t specify otherwise.
d. Whole-grain breads (check to see whether they contain butter or eggs first)
If you have any doubts whether something is prepared with animal products, just check with the wait staff. And don’t forget (or feel embarassed) to take a few pieces of whole fruit (banana, apple, etc) from the salad bar to eat for snacks later in the day. This will enable you to fend off hunger until you can find another healthy vegan meal.
If you are unfortunate enough to have to spend all of your meals with non-vegan co-workers during a business trip, be sure to let them know your vegan diet preferences, and suggest restaurants that are likely to have foods you will want to eat, too. The longer the trip, the earlier you should inform them, as you may find it difficult to return to your vegan diet if you fall off the vegan wagon during your trip.
2. Leisure travel–Culinary travel takes on a whole new twist if you’re trying to stick to your vegan diet. It used to be that going somewhere foreign, you’d probably eat out 3 meals a day. And, if you’re staying in a conventional hotel, often you have no choice. Rather than being at the mercy of the restaurants or room service, I highly recommend finding a room equipped with a kitchenette, so you’ll have the ability to prepare some of your own meals if you cannot find vegan-friendly restaurants.
A refrigerator in your hotel room is also essential for you to store and eat fresh fruits/vegetables. Ask the concierge at the hotel for directions to a nearby market to buy fresh fruits and vegetables, and try to carve out room for them among the mini-bar items. Again, the longer your trip, the more important it is to follow this advice.
If you don’t like the idea of cooking for yourself while on vacation, by all means do your research ahead of time so you are prepared to have a vacation that is both enjoyable and healthy. For example, London has a great variety of vegan restaurants, as well as 100s of Indian restaurants that are typically vegan-friendly. Whereas other countries, such as Spain, have more meat-centric diets (you may have guessed when every restaurant in Madrid is ornamented with cow’s shank in the window and/or hanging from the ceiling). Still, this shouldn’t necessarily stop you if you’re dreaming to visit Madrid for a look at Picasso’s Guernica.
3. What about times when you’re not traveling far from home, but just have no time to cook healthy? It’s difficult enough for one person, let alone two, to grocery shop, cook, and align their schedules perfectly to eat together on weekdays. Therefore, be sure have a list of vegan-friendly restaurants that are convenient to wherever you and whoever you’re dining with may be. Decide how far you are willing to go out of your way to eat healthy, and plan ahead.
It would be great to eat at home all the time, especially when becoming vegan, but as busy people we often don’t have control over the timing or even the location of travel. That’s why it helps to get used to cooking and eating healthy at every opportunity. Then, when you’re away from home, maintain consistency in your diet. You won’t feel like eating just anything, but will be more motivated to make an effort to seek out and plan healthy meals.