Following a vegan diet can be more difficult when you are away from home. But there are more and more tasty choices available from airlines and at the airport.
Here are some tips to help keep you well-fed while you’re traveling.
Most airlines now offer a wide variety of special meals, but it’s very important to request yours in advance. You can usually do this online via the airline’s website and there is often quite a wide variety of choice.
For example, Qatar Airways offers six different kinds of vegan and vegetarian meals (including a fruit platter), as well as two ‘religious’ meals. Many of these will also be suitable for those following a gluten-free diet, plus most airlines will also offer a dedicated gluten-free option.
Natasha Eldred from Shine PR follows a vegetarian and gluten-free diet and eats vegan food most of the time. Based in Thailand, she travels frequently between Asia and the UK. She says: ‘I usually order Asian Vegetarian which is available on many airlines.
Most of the time it’s gluten-free – the main meal is always rice and daal – occasionally they’ll add paneer, but in Asia it’s mostly vegan.’
Taking Snacks On-Board
Even if your airline provides a meal to suit you, it’s worth taking your own snacks to be sure of something suitable to eat in between meals.
Flic Everett, editor of UK magazine Vegan Living says: ‘Traveling as a vegan is getting easier, but it’s by no means perfect. If you’re taking your own food, a simple option is to bring dried fruit and nuts from home.At the airport, outlets like Subway, Costa Coffee and Starbucks all now offer a vegan choice that you can take away. Vegan crisps, dark chocolate, Nak’d bars and fresh fruits all make good snacks for flights – though try to avoid anything that will stink out the cabin, like bananas – your fellow travelers will thank you.’
Before you set off, check out the Air Vegan app which will let you know how many outlets offer suitable food at whichever terminal you are traveling from - green means you have lots of choices, yellow means you have a few, red means there’s almost nothing. This way you can plan accordingly!
At Subway, choose Hearty Italian, Italian or Sourdough Bread filled with your favorite veggies and several of their sauces - ask if you’re not sure.
Costa Coffee options include a sticky coffee and pecan cookie and Thai Red Curry, while Starbucks offers a vegan wrap with falafel and slaw, five grain oatmeal porridge and several cakes and bars. If you’re traveling from the UK, Boots and WH Smith also offer dairy-free products and sandwiches.
Frequent traveler Lynley who follows a gluten-free diet adds: ‘I order a gluten-free meal, but I always pack a small cooler bag of food for the flight too. Veggie sushi is good and other small snacks. As long as they’re not liquids, I’ve never had a problem getting them through security.’
If you’re vegan and want to take food with you from home, you could take a sandwich with your favorite vegan filling, carrot sticks and hummus. In sandwiches, why not try avocado with salad leaves and pine kernels? Perhaps slice up an onion bhaji to enjoy with some mango chutney in a wrap, or try mushroom pate with gherkins and red onion. Alternatively you could make a pasta or rice salad with your favorite vegetables and a simple vinaigrette.
Have a look at The Vegan Society’s website - they have loads of ideas. If you’re following a gluten-free diet, you can make any of the above by substituting bread or pasta for their gluten-free equivalents.
Eating at the Airport
Some airports offer more choice than others for those following a special diet, but you’ll usually be able to find something to suit you at A380 airports. At Heathrow, Leon and Prêt a Manger are popular choices, Peta2 lists several options on their website for a number of American airports, while mango and sticky rice is a tasty, widely available option at Bangkok Airport.
There’s been a brand of popular Los Angeles vegan restaurant Real Food Daily at LAX since 2013, while this year the airport has launched ‘grab and go’ vegan poke bowls sold from the Farmers Market in Terminal 5, with vegan chicken wraps and soy-based ‘chicken’ Caesar salads also in the pipeline. Spoiler alert: they offer special holiday menus!
If you get stuck, the Happy Cow app (and its mobile version) lists user-recommended places around you offering vegan and vegetarian food. You can also rely on A Billion Veg which will help you find and review vegan and vegetarian food at any restaurant. And those following a gluten-free diet can try the Find Me Gluten-Free app.