Holiday season!

Summer is here and we’re off on our hols! We booked our trip some time ago after checking out things like weather, accommodation and things to do. There’s also one more thing we have to check out – food options.

Having food allergies or sensitivities, or choosing to eat a plant based diet for health or ethical reasons, eating away from home can prove to be challenging at times. Eating out, particularly overseas, has the potential to be stressful when you should be relaxing. And if you accidently eat something that you shouldn’t, you could end up feeling unwell – or worse – during your time away.

I started eating a plant based diet for health reasons whilst actually living overseas, and had many opportunities to travel to different countries. At first, I found it really difficult to find things to eat – simple sandwiches are not even an option for me. Over time, I developed various strategies to make sure I found some good grub without making myself ill; fortunately, increasing awareness is making it easier to be able to have a great time without the worry.

So if you are off on your travels but are worried about your food, here are my top tips for happy holidays.

Do your research. You can spend hours and hours searching for the perfect hotel, apartment or yurt, comparing prices for flights and checking out the best beaches. So add eating options onto your list of things to check. There are some great websites to help – www.happycow.net is a great resource if you’re looking for vegan or vegetarian food (they have an app too) and www.canieathere.co.uk helps you check out restaurants closer to home if you have food allergies or sensitivities (the US version is www.canieatthere.com). Trip Advisor has filter options so you can search for a gluten free restaurant or vegan hotel. Lonely Planet or Time Out have really helpful guides too.

Be prepared. If you know there are certain things you eat but may have difficulty finding, add them to your packing. As I don’t eat bread, I always carry rice cakes or oatcakes with me so that I know that breakfasts or snacks will be ok. If you are flying short haul, don’t expect to find anything you can eat on the plane, so take your own snacks with you. Fortunately, in the UK, most larger airports have some takeaway options at their flight-side kiosks. Don’t expect that at other locations though (she says from bitter experience!). Most long haul carries provide meals for dietary requirements but need booking in advance, so don’t forget! The advantage to ordering a special meal is that you tend to get served first, but always check the label to make sure you have the right meal.

Don’t be afraid to ask. For many people, it’s difficult to ask, or ‘make a fuss’ about what to order, especially if you are with people who don’t have the same problem or get embarrassed easily! But I have found that most places worth going to are more than happy to answer queries and to find a dish that’s right for you. Fortunately, many restaurants and cafes have their menus on line, so you can check them out before hand. If you’re not sure if you can eat there, call them up and ask – I’ve been really surprised quite how accommodating places can be, as long as you ask nicely of course!  Naturally, language can be a real problem overseas; although English is spoken in so many places, you can’t expect it. If you want to eat purely plant based then download this vegan passport to help you communicate your needs – http://issuu.com/vegan_society/docs/vegan_passport_2010or check out this website to help you find translation cards for food allergies http://travelstore.glutenfreepassport.com/collections/dining-translation-cards

What’s local?Some of the best plant based food I’ve eaten has been local specialities, so don’t be afraid to try new dishes, particularly if you’re visiting more exotic countries. I discovered some amazing plant based dishes whilst living in South India, which are both tasty and healthy, rich and spicy Chakalaka in Cape Town and the most amazingly beautiful Mediterranean grilled vegetable platter in Croatia, the flavours developed by the sun. Try out local fruits and vegetables too, especially ones that are difficult to get hold of at home, as they taste so much better freshly picked.

Specialist holidays.If you feel it just won’t be a holiday if you don’t get the right food, then why not try out a specialist holiday company? Or look to go for a spa holiday or yoga retreat? I even saw an advert for a vegetarian yoga cruise along the Danube recently; there are lots of options out there. In fact, we’re planning a Sensitive Foodie Kitchen escape where you can eat, learn and relax at the same time – maybe that’s the holiday the ticks all the boxes?
So there you have it. With a bit of research and planning, and a willingness to think creatively, you can still have an amazingly happy and healthy holiday. Enjoy!

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