Europe... the land of butter, cheese, charcutterie and gelato... basically a vegans nightmare but don't let this dis-way you from coming to Europe and experiencing what this world has to offer!
I hear so many people go, "F*** it, I'm on vacation" when it comes to eating healthy, staying in shape and feeling good in their body. They go and eat their little hearts out, gain weight, feel constantly bloated, constipated, tired, out of shape and broke... doesn't sound like fun vacation to me.
Vacations can be great and I am not saying that you can't "live it up" a bit and only chew on celery sticks while everyone else is out getting dessert, but there is a balance to be found between experiencing the new and keeping your body healthy.
So here are my travelling tips for keeping you, your body and your bank account healthy while travelling Europe.
1) Grocery Stores- Just because you are on vacation and you don't have a kitchen, it doesn't mean that you have to eat out 3 times a day. Not only will this get very pricey but it is also way harder to find healthy food in restaurants (unless you want to eat a plain ice-burg lettuce every-meal and pay 15 euros for it). Grocery stores are the way to go to find cheap, healthy food!
If you want to be successful eating at grocery stores it will take a little bit of thinking outside of the box but it is completely do-able once you get yourself in the right mindset. Here is my thought processes when I go into a grocery store.
a) For breakfast go fruity- Eating fruit in the morning has so many benefits as it hydrates you, fills your body up with quality nutrients and is easily digestible. Grabbing a couple pieces of fruit is really all you are gonna need. Remember just because you are travelling doesn't mean that you are running a marathon all day and need to carbo and protein load. Eating a lighter breakfast will keep you feeling great and regular, if you know what I mean ;)
*I usually grab a bunch of bananas (less than a euro), peaches, tangerines or peaches for a sweet, juicy, quick and cheap breakfast. There are so many great fruit stands everywhere even in the middle of Paris, so it should be easy to find breakfast.
b) Lunch time- So this is where the creative thinking comes into place. I love to eat a lot of veggies and so I am also looking at their produce section and what they have on hand. Do they have fresh green beans, avocado, lettuce, tomatoes, broccoli, peppers, spinach, peas? I will grab some fresh veggies and usually a lettuce (again usually under 1 euro) to make a big salad.
But Chlo, I can't just eat plain lettuce!!!!
yes yes calm down, we are gonna find you a nice good sauce to put over your salad to make it yummy. So head to the jarred/canned vegetable section. There will usually be some sort of tiny jar with marinated artichokes, zucchini, sun-dried tomatoes or peppers. I always look for ones that are marinated in oil with spices so that I spend money on not only vegetables but a dressing as well :)
In this photo I bought fresh peas, broccoli, and arugula. Then for the sauce I bought a little jar of grilled zucchini marinated in olive oil which gave the salad flavor. The nuts and seeds were from tip #4!
This meal cost 5 euros and feed me for 3 meals. Pretty nice no?
Another option is to buy a cheap balsamic glaze and olive oil that you can travel around with.
Of course on of my favorite snacks/ small lunch while travelling is raw veggies and hummus. Cheap, tasty and quite filling.
To add more substance to your salad think about adding a can of beans (gorbonzo, black, kidney or pinto), nuts and seeds, or precooked rice, quinoa or lentil packets. There are also pre-made salads that are way cheaper than getting a salad at a restaurant. Taboule is very cheap and great to mix with lettuce and avocado for a complete meal.
3) Ordering Sides and Mix Matching
A restaurant may not have a full entree that suits your vegan needs but don't forget to look at the sides that are offered. More often than note there are a lot of vegetables, grains or potatoes that come in small portions and are well suited for vegans.
I went to this restaurant in London with some friends and looked at the menu and it scared me :/ pork chops, rib eye steak and macaroni and cheese. I though I was doomed until I looked at the sides and saw that they had greens beans and shallots, steamed brussel sprouts, caramelized carrots, beans and rice. So I ordered a couple of these things and it ended up turning out really good!
* I also asked the waiter if they could cook everything in olive oil instead of butter and they happily obliged
** also another good option is to always look at the soups. Some places will have a vegetable soup with bread.
At this restaurant (picture to the left) they only had a plain lettuce and tomato salad. I was really hungry that day so I asked her if I could take the mushrooms from another dish and put them on the salad along with any other vegetables they had in the restaurant. What came out was by far one of the best salads I have had in a while, filled with a variety of vegetables. For the sauce (it came with a dairy sauce) I asked for olive oil and balsamic.
4) Sorbet for dessert
Let's be honest, you would probably be missing out if you didn't get ice cream while in Italy. Its so hot outside and your walking around all day that an ice cream cone can be the thing that hits the spot. If you are travelling with others I guarantee that they will be hitting up every gelato stand in every town you visit so you would socially be missing out if you didn't get one too. Well no fret my little cow loving vegan travelers, you can enjoy in this experience too! Almost every gelato stand is going to have Sorbet which is fruit juiced based, aka no milk! So you can now walk around and take pictures of your gorgeously staked ice cream cone while keeping your tummy happy :)
Cones can be fun and add to the experience but if you have been eating way too much bread and sweets then simply opt for no cone, no shame in that.
5) Making use of the Complimentary breakfast
Many hostels and hotels will provide free complimentary breakfast. Now since you are just gonna be eating fruit in the morning (which is great cause then you don't have to go out and buy breakfast) which is less than what most people are taking, then I would take the "second half" of my breakfast to go.
Bread for a sand-which, tomatoes and cucumbers for salads, nuts and dried fruit for snacking, mini jams for dessert, packets of peanut butter... these are some of the things that are usually for breakfast that Ill grab and save for later.
*note that I am not saying raid and take advantage of the free breakfast, but if you are eating just fruit in the morning then taking a little something extra to eat later is fine.
* The food in this picture was a sand-which that I made at the hostel and took to go. I added some vegan curry pate that I bought at the store to make it moist and yummy :)
6) Vegan Restaurants do Exist
While sadly going to Europe is no San Francisco or LA when it comes to vegan restaurants, they are gaining more and more popularity. Health food stores are all over Paris, London and Amsterdam along with vegan restaurant or restaurants who have a vegan option or two on their menu. Do your research of what options are available in the towns that you are staying in. If you are going to be in a small town with little food options then think about stocking up at the previous city with good groceries.
*One great thing is that Europe loves falafels which conveniently happen to be vegan :)
I spent a month in Europe with a lot of friends and everyone spent sooooo much money on food it was ridiculous. Some were upwards of 50-60 euros a day!!! For a month that adds up!! Where as I went days feeling very nourished and full while only spending 5-10 euros on food.
But don't think its just for money reasons that you may wont to try to eat this way, its for healthy and energy as well. Many of them, even after a couple of days, were saying that they didn't feel well and that they were eating so many sweets and panini's which gave them sugar crashes and major bloating, but didn't know how to get vegetables in their diet when travelling, hence why I wrote this post. Eating healthy IS doable and will keep your body strong for all the fun things that you get to experience and do while travelling!