I’ve recently struggled with travelling internationally and being a vegetarian. It’s causing me huge problems with eating and not annoying the crap out of my travelling companions.
I’m not a strict vegetarian (e.g. I choose to not eat animal products but don’t have hissy fits over if my food is cooked along side meat, if ice cream has gelatin in it or if my asian food has had fish sauce on it - I can hardly find food to eat anyway let alone if I was strict) but wont eat chunks of meat/fish etc.
Trying to eat in a remotely healthy way is posing a huge problem. It is OK if I just want to eat carbs, lettuce and dessert … but I walk around food stores and can’t even see food I can eat (I’m not fussy, eat spicy food, will try most things). In Europe often the only vegetarian option was lettuce salad or a rich cheese pasta dish (fine once, but not twice a day, every day); in Asia other than dragging my companions to actual vegetarian restaurants I would often have no options than plain rice/bread.
Finding protein and non oil/fatty dishes seems impossible. I get myself all tied up and stressed because I can’t eat a balanced diet then eat stuff which makes me feel disgusting. Breakfast is usually easy (cereal/eggs/fruit) … and it just goes downhill from there. Making food or buying components is not an option in most of my travellling.
Most recently I booked in for a meal at a very fancy place and they kindly offered that they could make a vegetarian option, I was looking forward to it … they served a white bread sandwich with a slice of lettuce and a slice of tomato (the non-veg options were high-end hot food).
Would love some advice on how people cope with this? Your travelling companions choose a restaurant where there are no vegetarian choices - how do you not create a fuss? how do you get decent food?
Choose your countries wisely. Italy is fantastic for vegetarians, particularly southern Italy where meat has traditionally been a very small part of the local diet. Or go to a country where they are more accommodating of vegetarians - every single restaurant in the UK, for example, will have veggie options on the menu. Many hindus are vegetarian, so India is an obvious choice.
Don’t go to France. Unless you like eating a LOT of omelettes.
The UK was one of the worst … other than going to vegetarian restaurants I found the options awful. I was surprised because I expected many more choices there. Indian food there was OK … but I can’t eat rich Indian food for lunch/dinner for a couple of weeks.
France was bad!! Those iceberg lettuce salads with oily potatoes were hideous!
I’m an English vegetarian, and I have absolutely no trouble finding vegetarian options in restaurants here; varied and good quality options too, and not just curry.
I never go to vegetarian places with my family -my Dad likes meat far too much- but I don’t remember ever going to even to get a pub lunch and there not being a choice of vegetarian options that me, my Mum, and my brother (all approximately veggie) were ok with, forget going anywhere upscale.
I’ve also spent several years travelling internationally, including around Europe, and I’ve had very little trouble finding decent vegetarian food anywhere I’ve been (at least once I’d managed to get used to specifiying no chicken or fish’ as well as ‘no meat’ in Malaysia). What trouble I did have was simply the language barrier, not availability.
I genuinely think you must’ve had very bad luck in Europe. I was a vegetarian for 8 years and travelled all over Europe. All restaurants have decent vegetarian options. I can’t even think of any near here that don’t! I still often choose vegetarian options just because I like them better. I can’t imagine where you would’ve been in the UK that doesn’t have vegetarian options. Even simple pubs do.
Eastern Europe I admit is much more problematic, and outside big cities it can sometimes be difficult to explain not eating meat at all. But most of Western Europe has vegetarian options on every menu, from sandwich places to restaurants. Most nice ice cream parlors around here serve options without gelatine and lactose, sometimes without sugar too.
Outside Europe again there are places where it is very difficult. It’s the reason I eventually gave up: there are places where vegetarianism is just not understood at all. What you can usually do is find a health food store in a big city and buy tofu, so you can prepare your own meals to get some protein.
Don’t go to Cuba, apparently. My husband said he nearly starved while he was there. All he pretty much could eat were potatoes and rice.
The only time we had a problem finding vegetarian food was at a resort in Mexico the last night we were there. There was plain salad at the salad bar, IIRC, but we didn’t feel like having just that. Good Lord we could NOT find anything else vegetarian anywhere. We ended up ordering french fries from room service because we were just too hungry.
Italy/Austria/Germany was fine for finding vegetarian options on menus. I had the best risotto of my life at the Ratskellar restaurant under the Glockenspiel in Munich. But yeah, I ate a lot of delicious cheese and paid the price with stomach cramps, lol. Lots of pizza and pasta but I love that stuff anyway.
Well, I was going to suggest the uk and anywhere else in western europe, although france is more difficult. I’m a vegetarian who’s lactose intolerant, but it’s still not difficult at all. If you had problems in the uk then you’ll likely have problems anywhere.
The only places I’ve seen here without a veggie option (or several) for a full meal are kfc, which is stupid, and certain restaurants where the big draw is MEAT with a capital MEAT, like an Argentinian bbq, which is understandable.
KFC actually had a veggie burger for a while here in Canada and it was quite good. It was frozen soy pretend-chicken and they had to cook it fresh for you every time. You still got that unique, greasy KFC taste we all love but without the meat. They discontinued it … last year, maybe? … and I miss it.
Or to Southern Spain, there’s areas where people will claim that chicken is not meat (apparently the confusion is linked to the RCC considering eggs not-meat for purposes of abstinence). In Northern and Western Spain it’s easier to find vegetarian options; many restaurants and bars which don’t officially offer one will be happy to whip up a salad or, if given enough warning, prepare the veggies without meat. Often dishes which may or may not be vegetarian (such as paella) turn out to be.
And don’t trust any dish called “vegetal”: it may contain both egg and tuna. Ask before ordering.
I’m also surprised about not having had much luck in the UK. In general the pubs and restaurants have varied and interesting vegetarian meals. I wouldn’t call them “options” even, because there are usually a few choices and they are proper meals, not just afterthoughts.
But what was the risotto cooked in? Isn’t it commonly prepared using chicken or other stock? And I’m wondering how long ago the OP went to Europe. I imagine that vegetarians are relatively common today, and some restaurants at least would have something for them to eat.
All travel within the last 12 months, the choice of restaurant was often not mine which added to the problem.
I suppose I don’t view a vegetarian option as a meat meal, minus the meat. So eating a burger without the meat (just bread/lettuce) does not equal a meal.
In the UK I was travelling through Derbyshire and the Lakes District - pub/cafe options mostly included vegetarian lasagne (drowned in cheese), spinach cannelloni (drowned in cheese), mushroom risotto (as suggested above, this means a risk of it being made with meat stock - also, usually with … cheese) or a green salad. I did find one amazing meal in Bath (would so go back there!) polenta with mushrooms and spinach. And don’t even get me started on the non-animal rennet cheese issues!!! Yes there is a vegetarian option on most menu - but is it edible? is it the same option as every other place?
I also find this an issue at home (Australia) … went out to top level restaurant with family a couple of weeks ago and the only vegetarian option was cold crudites (none of the salads were even vegetarian) … which is where I run into the problem of: do I quiz the waiter and ask for something special? asking about each item because people just don’t seem to understand that when I say no meat that includes meat stock, fish, ham or seafood.
(and yes, I’m turning into my own worst nightmare - the fussy eater who can’t go out to restaurants without causing annoyance and being the centre of attention)
The Middle East should also be easy. Falafel and hummus are ubiquitous, as are fresh vegetables, nuts and cheeses.
In Israel, in particular, just choose a kosher restaurant that is dairy, and except for fish dishes, you will find no meat whatsoever. Even meat restaurants in Israel seem to have vegetarian options (and those will be dairy-free, although they may contain eggs).
We had pretty good luck on a recent trip to London, Bath and Paris. The B&B we stayed at in Bath even offered a veggie sausage option (a homemade specialty of the proprietor) on the Full English Breakfast (which covered me through lunch easily enough–baked beans are filling).