With Contributions By: Caroline Best
I recently visited my boyfriend, who’s studying abroad in Europe this semester. To me, a really big part of traveling is trying new foods. I find it very cool to experience the food culture of new places. This was my first trip as a vegetarian and I was worried about limited food options. Long-time vegetarian friends gave me warnings about being stuck eating only pasta or salads while traveling due to lack of options. The idea of having few protein options for a week of adventures made me a little nervous. Depriving your body of protein has some seriously negative effects. You will likely feel fatigued (I was NOT about to feel too tired to explore these fun places.). Your muscle mass can decrease. Lack of protein can decrease immune system function. Nobody wants to get sick on a trip.
After a week of traveling, I was surprised how far a little effort went to increase my protein options. If you’re going to be traveling and are vegetarian, don’t eat red meat, or are someone interested in non-meat protein options, here are a few tips!
5 Travel Tips for Getting Enough Protein As A Vegetarian
Breakfast is a Big Deal
Caroline: This might be my most important travel tip. There are so many easy, protein-heavy breakfast foods. In London and Scotland, cheese and eggs on toast was popular. Doubling up on eggs and cheese are 2 great protein sources that will give you energy for a day of exploring. Ordering an omelette is also a great way to load up on protein for the morning. In Paris, we went to a little pastry place for breakfast. While a chocolate croissant is wonderful, consider having yogurt with your pastry. That way you won’t be hungry in so quickly. So many little breakfast additions can make a big difference in your energy and fullness.
Be Aware of Non-Meat Sources of Protein
Caroline: If you’re a long time vegetarian, you’re probably an expert in plant-based protein options. I’m a new vegetarian, and still learning all of the non-meat protein options. I’ve discovered some unexpected dishes that are loaded with protein. Having a mental list of solid protein options can be helpful while traveling. This way you know what to look for on menus. Lentils and beans are popular, so look for bean burgers, lentil or bean chili, or bean salads. Chickpeas have protein as well, so a snack of hummus or a lunch with falafel can bolster your protein intake for the day. Having a few foods to look for on a menu can make selecting a dish with protein a little easier.
Caroline: Traveling is often being constantly on the go. Walking around, shopping (Seriously adds to the amount of walking you do!), and outdoor activities, such as hiking a local trail, expend lots of energy. I’ve said this a few times, but I can’t stress enough how important protein is. It leaves you feeling full with good energy. Stopping for snacks with a mix of healthy fats, protein, and carbs will keep you going for your day full of sightseeing and exploring. My go-to is a peanut butter granola bar. One day in Paris we stopped for a snack of bread, cheese, and fruit (local eating culture and a filling snack). Try a handful of nuts and an apple, some trail mix with dried fruit, or any other snack you enjoy. Throwing a snack or two in your bag is so easy. Taking 10-minute snack breaks can play a big role in a successful, active day.
Caroline: You’re on vacation, and your meals should be fun and not a source of stress or major planning. This is NOT me saying check out of being aware of your protein needs. I can see how easy it would be to mostly order low protein dishes while traveling. Lack of protein has such big impacts on energy. I want you to have lots of energy to explore. I AM saying that you’re on a trip and enjoy yourself. If you’re at a restaurant and the only vegetarian option (or best sounding option!!) is a veggie or pasta dish, enjoy it without stressing about lack of protein. Maybe have a cup of yogurt before bed, or an omelette the next morning. Eat the local food and embrace the local way of eating. If you feel that you didn’t get enough protein at a meal, you can always have a protein heavy snack or next meal.
Check for Options
Caroline: I was SO pleasantly surprised at the amount of restaurants that had vegetarian options. When we were looking for places to eat, we’d do a quick google search of popular, local places. Most places list their menus online, so it’s easy to see if there are good vegetarian options. Vegetarianism is becoming popular enough where it’s easy to find restaurants that feature vegetarian dishes. Popular in London was “vegetarian fish and chips”, which substituted halloumi cheese for the fish. Whenever we went to the real “touristy” neighborhoods, all of the places to eat listed their menus outside. This was super helpful. I could do a quick scan to see if there was a dish I wanted to try.
If you need help with fitting more protein into your vegetarian lifestyle, make an appointment with one of our dietitians by clicking here or calling 301-474-2499.