7 Tips for Navigating Non-Vegan Environments as a Vegan

Navigating non-vegan environments can be a challenge for vegans. To help, we’ve gathered seven insightful tips from founders, CEOs, and travel bloggers. Discover how these experts manage their dietary needs while traveling or dining out, from packing sufficient vegan snacks to planning meals.

  • Pack Sufficient Vegan Snacks
  • Explore Local Food Markets
  • Modify Vegetarian Dishes
  • Communicate Dietary Restrictions
  • Research Vegan-Friendly Eateries
  • Read Vegan Travel Guides
  • Plan Meals in Advance

Pack Sufficient Vegan Snacks

Nothing makes me feel worse while traveling than when my stomach begins to rumble and I notice a decline in my energy. As a result, I always carry some snacks in my luggage for “hunger emergencies.” 

Having some vegan snacks on hand makes the day go more smoothly, especially if you spend a lot of time traveling by car or plane. I frequently bring a couple of vegan protein bars in my luggage when preparing for a trip. I like to stock up at the neighborhood supermarkets when I get there. 

My preferred travel snacks are seasonal fruits, oatmeal cookies, or healthy chips. If you’re lucky, you can locate some vegan bars. I strolled into a random grocery store in Budva, Montenegro, and found some delicious vegan chocolate protein bars! I bought so many of them because I was so thrilled.

Axel Hernborg, Founder and CEO, Tripplo

Explore Local Food Markets

If you’re traveling to a country with limited vegan dining options, I recommend exploring local food markets to ensure you can supplement your meals with fresh produce. You can look for healthy food elsewhere, especially if you eat little at restaurants. Hand fruits and nuts are easy to carry, and you can eat them on the go. If your lodging has cooking amenities, I recommend buying vegetables, beans, and grains that you can prepare for yourself. 

Make sure to wash produce with clean water to prevent food-borne illness. Finding groceries with fresh fruits and vegetables is an effective way to stay healthy while traveling and allows you to experience the culture and food of your destination.

Michaela Ramirez, MD, Founder, O My Gulay

Modify Vegetarian Dishes

The easiest move is typically to ask for vegetarian dishes to be made vegan. Since most have dairy or egg in their ingredients, it’s often easier to remove these than to remove meat—the major component—from other dishes. 

If you can’t find a good vegetarian option to change, try combining a few side dishes. Many side dishes are naturally vegetarian or vegan. While a salad might not be filling enough, combining it with one or two other side dishes can make for a heartier meal!

Brian Nagele, CEO, Restaurant Clicks

Communicate Dietary Restrictions

In today’s modern climate, most restaurants understand that different people have unique diets and might have special requests. If you open up immediately and talk about your restrictions, they can let you know what can be done and how they can handle it. Most restaurants will pivot to make it work for specific requirements; if they can’t, they will tell you.

If you walk in and require food to be vegan, it’s recommended to say it to the host. Ask them if anything can be done to facilitate vegan diets and see what they say. If they can make it work, amazing! If not, move on to the next place and ask the same.

Most restaurants are used to being asked to work with customers with different diets, like vegan, gluten-free, vegetarian, and so much more.

Jeremiah Robison, Founder, Roam the Carolinas

Research Vegan-Friendly Eateries

My best tip is always to do your homework! I remember visiting a small town in Italy where vegan dishes weren’t common. Instead of settling, I researched ahead of time and found a local eatery willing to customize their pasta dish to suit my vegan needs. The chef and I had a delightful chat about plant-based ingredients. 

That experience was nourishing and turned into an unexpected cultural exchange. So, preparation can lead to memorable moments, even in the most unlikely places.

Haya Subhan, General Manager, First Aid at Work Course

Read Vegan Travel Guides

You can figure out some things about a new destination’s vegan options. Chances are, other vegans have gone before you and have detailed their experiences and tips.

Search on Google for a vegan travel guide about your destination. Don’t settle on the first article; look for the most recent and detailed guide, often different from the first result on Google.

A good vegan travel guide should feature vegan restaurants in a destination and indicate which non-vegan restaurants have vegan options. It should also include vegan-friendly tours and day trips.

From there, plan your trip around the information you learn about the destination. Book a hotel in a neighborhood with vegan options nearby, and book vegan-friendly day trips.

Annie Blay, Travel Blogger + Freelance Writer, Your Friend the Nomad

Plan Meals in Advance

Book restaurant meals and call ahead. While it requires more planning to book meals while you travel, that extra time allows you to connect with the restaurant’s management and discover your options. 

Upon arrival, they might even offer to create a vegan dish from other ingredients. Some restaurants won’t bend around vegan requests, but it’s good to know beforehand while you still have time to plan something else. And the flexible restaurants appreciate the heads-up. 

If you haven’t booked, call local spots a few hours before your meal to discuss the options and give them time to prepare.

Paul Kushner, CEO, My Bartender

Images: DepositPhotos

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