Ryan Fernando offers a guide to globe-trotting vegetarian travellers on a quest for balanced food
If you have been born and brought up in a vegetarian household, the Indian thali of dal, roti, chawal and sabzi probably qualifies as your most satisfying meal… and happily, one that you would be served quite regularly. Researchers say an Indian diet is ideal, serving up a combination of protein, carbohydrates and fat. Our ancestors, too, thrived on these foods and this was the reason they weren’t prone to lifestyle diseases at an early age.
However, times were different then. Our forefathers were not under the constant pressure of deadlines and long hours. Unlike them, we are always on the move – mostly for professional reasons. So naturally, on a work tour to a foreign country, one topic often running through the mind of a vegetarian is food!
More than anybody else, working executives have a difficult time during official meetings, which are often held at restaurants or hotels. Limited variety in the vegetarian menu can compel them to settle for either fresh fruits and salads or the regular paneer, or assorted vegetable dishes. The important question here is: where is the balance of nutrients?
Similar concerns plague students about to commence studies abroad. Concerned mothers teach their children to cook before they leave home, or generously pack pickles, desi ghee, khakras and laddoos to carry along on the trip. Hectic academic schedules and daily classes leave students with little time to prepare a proper meal; instead, they find it more convenient to munch on packaged food, or khakras and laddoos that lack adequate nutrition in themselves.
For a vegetarian, finding a meal of choice in a foreign land – and sometimes even in a different city – is tough. And finding one that is nutritious, even more so. The following tips can serve as a useful guide for vegetarian travellers in their quest for balanced food:
- Ahead of your travel, research the food that your destination is famous for and browse for any health food stores in the vicinity.
- Intimate the hotel in advance that you are a vegetarian. Be specific, as “vegetarian” in a foreign country could also mean food without red meat or with egg, poultry and fish.
You may consult a nutritionist who can help you with a travel nutrition guide. Also keep the following tips in mind:
- Consume at least 24 almonds (6 gm of protein).
- Carry a protein powder that provides 8-10 gm protein per serving.
- Try consuming at least four to six dates daily.
- At a restaurant, you could order food that includes kidney beans along with rice. Other than filling you up, this meal combination is an excellent source of protein. To keep ordering at restaurants simple, just ask for the burrito bowl, which is the best example of this combination.
When you are on board a flight, do not forget to keep yourself hydrated. Stick only to water or fresh fruit juices that do not contain any sort of added sugar or preservatives. Also, ask for extra dry fruits and nuts (salted ones would do too) and keep munching on them at regular intervals. It will keep you full.
– The author is a celebrity nutritionist and the views expressed in the article are his own
Vegetarian food combinations you could choose from while travelling abroad
When in the US, the best option is to dig into the combination of kidney beans and rice. It is a good meal for vegetarians looking for adequate protein. The burrito bowl is an excellent example of this combination. Tacos and black/mixed beans with salsa is also a good option.
Europe is famous for its meat, bread and potatoes. Breads, in fact, occupy a major portion of European cuisine. So when you head off on that trip across Europe, you will have easy access to cheese, bread and jacket potatoes with delicious sour cream and chives. And the trusted pastas and pizzas are always there to fall back on. Just be careful while choosing your toppings.
Welcome to the land of fresh and exotic fruits. And rice is Asia’s staple food, so be ready for a variety of rice items. Do try the mango sticky rice; thukpa – a popular noodle soup – and laksa – a noodle soup served in a rich coconut milk-based spiced broth, along with eggplant, green beans, fresh herbs and tofu. And, of course, bite into tropical fruits such as rambutan, mangosteen, dragon fruit and jackfruit.