Veggie plate with cashew cheese, green sauce and carrot dipping sauces, Green Spot, Barcelona

Health and Travel: Traveling with Special Dietary Requirements (Reader Questions Answered)

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Health and Travel How-To: Travel with Special Dietary Requirements

So your husband has diabetes, you’re on a low-oil diet, and you’re wondering how on earth you can you can ever fulfil your dream of a family vacation to Italy? How can your health and travel fit together? Today, I’m kicking off a series of a reader questions answered and in the first post today I’ll be talking about special diets and travel.

I’m going to talk about health and travel, particularly traveling with special dietary requirements (beyond a vegan diet). I deal with this issue in my book The Essential Vegan Travel Guide, in which I talk about what to do if you’re traveling with allergies or special dietary requirements above and beyond veganism. But I wanted to delve into some more specific requirements, based on reader questions I’ve received in the last week.

Before writing The Essential Vegan Travel Guide, I made a guide to Slough (of The Office fame) for a friend with some very specific requirements. She was traveling to Slough for work and was concerned because she was not only vegan, but also allergic to almost all grains, and Slough is not known for having a wide array of food options. So I had my work cut out for me! Still, I managed to find a few options for her, convincing me that no matter where you’re going and no matter what your special dietary requirements, you can find food for you!

Here, I’m going to talk about traveling on a low-oil diet, a whole foods diet and a low-sodium diet. If you want your vegan travel question answered just send it my way for a future post.

Reader Question Answered: Low-Oil Food

I eat a low-oil vegan diet (I don’t eat food with added oils although I do consume high-fat foods like nuts). Can I even travel?? I have a dream of going to Scotland and exploring my family’s roots!

Scotland is the land of deep-fried everything, from deep-fried candy bars to deep-fried butter balls (wtf?!), so you definitely have good cause to nervous. Is there any hope for a low-oil vegan in the land of haggis? Of course! You can see the rugged beauty of Scotland, learn about your family’s history and manage to bag some low-oil food.

As you eat high-fat foods like avocado and nuts but avoid added oils, try and stick with vegan, raw food restaurants and vegan restaurants with raw options, because very few to no oils (depending on whom you ask) are considered raw. In addition, most raw chefs are more than willing to adapt their meals to your requirements, so you can request them to leave any added oils out.

Glasgow was named the UK’s most vegan-friendly city by PETA and has a growing number of raw-friendly eateries. Check out Juice Garden  for foods, smoothies and juices, Juice Warrior for juices and Laurianne’s for raw cakes. If you want to connect with local healthy vegans you can even join the Glasgow Raw Meetup.

In Edinburgh, you can get salads or raw food dishes at Pumpkin Brown and juices and raw dishes at Juice Warrior. Edinburgh’s also home to a raw food meetup if you fancy meeting others.

If you head to the Highlands of Scotland, you will find your choices more limited, so rent a place with a kitchen so you can prepare your own meals. In restaurants, you can always go for the classic vegan choice – salad (just hold the dressing).


Reader Question Answered: Whole Foods, Plant-Based Dishes

I’m a whole foods, plant-based eater and don’t consume processed foods. How can I find food when I’m traveling?

The secret is in planning ahead! If you’re flying, make sure you pack snacks for the plane, and order your meal well in advance (the vegan meal option may contain oil or processed foods, so you might wish to order the RVML, or raw vegan meal, if it’s available, bring your own food, or eat around any processed foods). If you’re driving, bring a cooler full of healthy food and snacks.

Research your destination, Google “healthy vegan restaurants in [destination]” or “whole foods vegan [destination]” and look for vegan restaurants on HappyCow, then peruse their menus for healthy, whole foods meals. Know in advance where and what you can eat. And make sure you have plenty of snacks, in case you find yourself hungry between meals (that way you won’t succumb to any moments of weakness).

When you check into your hotel or short-term apartment, ask where the nearest supermarket is and go and buy a few items. If you have a kitchen, you can make a few meals, but even if you don’t, you can always prepare something simple in your hotel room, like a salad!


Reader Question Answered: Traveling on a Low-Sodium Diet

My husband has diabetes, and is on a low sodium diet. How can we travel?

Don’t let your husband’s illness hold you back from seeing the world. You can still travel, you’ll just need to plan a little more in advance.

Make sure you’ve got a low-sodium meal packed for the plane if you’re flying, or in your car if you’re driving to your destination. While some airlines offer low-sodium meals, not all do, and they’re not necessarily vegan. And make sure you have plenty of healthy snacks with you at all times!

If your husband takes any medication, make sure you’ve packed twice as much as he’ll need. TSA does allow you to fly with diabetes medication; just make sure you separate it for screening through security. Before you travel, your husband should visit his doctor and have a check-up to make sure he’s fit for travel, plus he should ask for a letter from your doctor stating what the medicine is and why your husband needs to fly with it.

The American Diabetes Association states that you can travel with diabetes and has a lot more advice on traveling with diabetes.

Of course, you husband should continue trying to eat as healthily as possible on the road. Luckily, most vegan restaurants have plenty of healthy options (make sure to avoid any vegan fast food or fast casual restaurants as these often have a lot of processed and high-sodium foods).

Look up some vegan and vegetarian restaurants before you go, and check their menus. You might even want to call them in advance. Most restaurants are more than happy to adapt meals to your needs if you request in advance! The better prepared you are for the trip, the more likely your trip is to go off without a hitch, and the better you and your husband will feel going into the trip – so you can relax and enjoy your vacation!


Reader Questions Answered: Up Next

If you have a question you’d like to see answered in a future article, you can submit it to me via email.

Here are some upcoming reader questions I’ll be answering in the next few weeks:

-How can you get past the language barrier and make sure others really understand what ‘vegan’ means?

-How can you avoid foods with ‘hidden’ animal products at home and abroad, especially if you don’t speak the local language?

More Vegan Travel Questions Answered

Did you notice a theme in this post? It’s all about planning ahead to meet your dietary requirements, whatever they are! I wrote a guide showing you exactly how to plan your meat-free, stress-free trip, exactly for this reason. In it I cover everything from researching restaurants before your trip to booking the most vegan-friendly accommodation possible, to connecting with local vegans. The Essential Vegan Travel Guide is my Amazon bestseller.

The Essential Vegan Travel Guide: a complete guide to planning your vegan travels


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Caitlin Galer-Unti

Hi, I’m Caitlin and I’ve been vegan since 2008 and vegetarian my whole life. Since going vegan, I’ve lived in 4 countries and travelled to over 30! I’ve also published two bestselling vegan books (The Essential Vegan Travel Guide and The Barcelona Vegan Guide) and had my work featured in The New York Times, Vegetarian Food & Living and Vegan Life magazine. I’ve veganised my life and I’m here to help you design your life around your vegan values. 


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