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9 Travel Tips for Plant-Based Eaters

Sharon Palmer

So you’re going to be taking your plant-based diet on the road. Whether you’re on a plane, train, or automobile, sometimes it can be challenging to find healthful, whole plant foods on your journey—especially when you are in remote locations or in meat-loving cultures and regions. I have traveled all over the world, and I know just how difficult it can be. The good news is that plant-based eating is growing, and vegan options are more widely available in the U.S., as well as Europe. And some cultures have always been more plant-friendly (that’s you, Thailand, pictured above, and Greece!). Still, it helps to be as prepared as possible so you can enjoy your local food culture, while still feeling healthy, happy and satisfied. That’s why I asked some of my favorite nutrition experts to weigh in on their top plant-based travel tips.

Hurray! I’m hiking in the Dolomites, Italy while eating a plant-based diet all the way!

9 Travel Tips for Plant-Based Eaters

Enjoy the local culture of plant foods which are part of every region, such as citrus dishes in Sicily.

1. Plan for Plants. It’s best to frontload your trip with a bit of thoughtful planning. “To ensure you have healthy foods you enjoy that meet your dietary preferences, pack snacks with you for a road trip or to carry on an airplane. Although you can’t bring beverages through, there’s no stopping you from having food in your carry on, though you should check with the airlines for international travel rules. Planning ahead to your destination is also helpful. Will you have access to a mini fridge or microwave in the hotel room? Is continental breakfast included? Or will you have access to a full kitchen in a rental house? Bringing food with you or grabbing some items from a grocery store can be helpful to meet your needs, and avoid having to go out to eat all three meals a day. Try looking up restaurants near you ahead of time to find places you can find some great plant-based meals!” says Margaux Empey, MPH, RD of Off the Vine Nutrition.

See if you can prepare some of your own meals; here is a breakfast I enjoyed in my rented apartment while visiting Italy.

2. Pack Up Some Plants. It’s a must to always bring a few, nutrient-rich, satisfying plant-based snacks along with you. “I pack nuts, dried fruit, and non-melting nutrition bars (KIND popped bars or Lara) when I travel. They make quick in-between snacks for long trips and save me from buying expensive airport food,” says Lisa, Andrews, RDN of SoundBites Nutrition. “The best plant-based snacks for traveling are GoGo Squeezes! Besides being delicious, they’re portable, no mess, and each 3.2 oz. pouch provides 3 grams of fiber,” says Wendy Kaplan, MS, RDN, CDN of Food4Health. “I pack a bento lunch box of sturdy plant-based snacks for the plane and slip it in my carry-on. Whole grain fig bars, pistachios, grapes, dates, snap peas, roasted chickpeas, and Lara Bars,” says Kristine Duncan, MS, RDN, CDE of Veg Girl RD.

Hit a local supermarket to truly experience another food culture, as well as hunt down plant-based options, like these in Sweden.

3. Track Down a Supermarket. Some of the best plant-based options you’ll find is in a local supermarket, including meat alternatives, jars of pulses, produce, and snacks. “I love checking out new supermarkets when traveling. It’s so interesting to see different produce and regional specialty foods they offer. If traveling within the states, a quick online search can give you the closest grocery store information. If traveling internationally, ask around. Ask the locals or your travel guide where the closest grocery store is, or what the best options are for purchasing fresh foods,” says Patricia Bannan, MS, RDN. “Supermarkets, like local farmers’ markets, don’t just sell what’s grown locally, they sell what the locals love to eat. If you’re in a New England supermarket, chances are, you’ll find quite a few foods that are unique and different from those sold in South Carolina. And of course, when you buy your own food at a supermarket, you can prepare it yourself if you’re renting a house or condo or even camping. Cooking your own meals when you are on vacation makes plant-based easier because you have full control,” says Liz Weiss, MS, RDN, of Liz’s Healthy Table.

Ask about what plant-based items are available at eateries; there were oh so many choices in Bangkok, Thailand.

4. Find Plant-Based Options Before You Jet. Before you even get on the plane, check out plant-based options in your vacation destination via the Internet. “Look for restaurants in the area you’ll be visiting that have plant-based options, so you already know where you can eat without a lot of hassle. Almost all restaurants publish their menus online nowadays,” says Jean Maxwell MS RD, Owner of MaxWell Nutrition LLC.

5. Bring Along a Cooler. A small insulated cooler is a great travel accent for packing along your own healthy, plant-based options while you travel, whether it be trains, planes, or automobiles. “I travel with an awesome cooler from RTIC because I never want to leave it to chance! I make several plant-based dishes ahead of time and also pack things like cashew milk, nut butter, homemade trail mixes and roasted chickpeas, grain free granola, fruit, homemade granola bars, hummus, and veggies,” says Kellie Blake RDN, LD, IFNCP of Nutrisense Nutrition.

More and more places are offering plant-based offerings, such as this bakery in the Alps.

6. There’s an App for That! Don’t forget to check out apps to find plant-based restaurants on the road. “When travelling I rely on the app called Happy Cow. Happy Cow is a user managed phone app which displays all available vegetarian and vegan restaurants in your general vicinity. It even includes tips, reviews, and photos. This app is particularly helpful in countries where you cannot speak the local language,” says Chris Vogliano, MS, RDN of Forward Eating.

Visit a local farmers market to observe true plant-based food culture at it’s finest, such as this market in Crete.

7. Eat Like a Local. Don’t assume that your country of destination has no plant-based offerings—most cultures have plant-based dishes that are part of food traditions. “Countries around the world have many dishes that showcase vegetables using local herbs and spices. Don’t be afraid to look around at what others are eating and see how that might fit a plant-based diet. Often times, you’ll find that many of the dishes served locally already fit into a plant-based diet. Meat is often served separately with a plethora of veg dishes to choose from!” says Sherene Chou, MS, RDN. “Find a local restaurant and research their menu! This is one of my favorite parts about traveling, because believe it or not, you can find many plant based options everywhere! It may be a simple ask such as omitting cheese on a vegetable- grain based dish, but it is 100 percent possible!” says Liz Shaw, MS, RDN, CLT, CPT of Shaw’s Simple Swaps.

8. Learn Important Food Words. It may come in handy when you’re ordering at a local eatery if you know a few important plant-based words. “If you’re traveling in a country with a different language, it helps to either know the word for ‘vegetarian’ or ‘vegan’, depending on your needs. If you’re in very unfamiliar territory, it also helps to have a local write the word down on a piece of paper so that you can show it at a restaurant you are visiting. This can help ensure that people understand your dietary needs,” says Ginger Hultin, MS, RDN, of Champagne Nutrition.

For more advice on plant-based travel, check out: 

17 Dietitian Tips for Eating Well on Your Vacation
5 Hot Tips for a Healthy Vacation

One thought on “9 Travel Tips for Plant-Based Eaters

  1. That’s a good idea to check with the restaurant ahead of time to see if they have plant-based options. One of my friends is a vegan, and I would want to make sure that she could find food that she likes as well. I’ll have to look into that if we decide to try some restaurants while traveling.

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