I have become spoiled living in Toronto with grocery and health food stores with sections devoted to being vegan. For those of us who don't like to cook, there are restaurants which cater to vegans, vegetarians or raw food diets in almost every neighbourhood, making it easy for meal planning. I just didn't know how easy until I took on a new position which requires travel throughout Canada. It now takes a little more creativity when the restaurant names, menus or even grocery stores aren’t branded with vegan labels. Traveling with coworkers who are not vegan or vegetarian makes it a little more difficult however, with a little communication and planning, I have managed to fare well in both the small towns and the bigger cities.
My latest trip was in Fredericton, New Brunswick. I had been to smaller towns in New Brunswick this past summer so, was a little better prepared for what to expect. The hotel was extremely accommodating when I was ordering meals in their restaurants or through room service however, soy or almond milk was still not an option. Room service suggested an amazing Coconut Milk Pad Thai dinner and made arrangements with the chef to ensure no egg, meat or dairy was used. I was also thrilled they had a veggie wrap that did not include cheese but had a generous layer of hummus and a side salad for a lunch that felt complete. Their breakfast buffets are a great way to control what you get on your plate; I opted for the oatmeal with walnuts and almond slivers as garnish, peanut buttered toast and plenty of fruit. I tend to avoid the jams or jellies as I am not always sure they are made with pectin (vegan) and not gelatin (non-vegan).
Tip: Ask for a hotel room with a mini-fridge to stock up on conveniences like almond/rice/soy milk, walnuts, seeds, dried and fresh fruits, and other snacks!
As I ventured out of the hotel, I found the location of my work was a little less accommodating. The meals were not as complete and I found myself eating a lot of vegetables and bread, with little to no protein. It amazes me that whole wheat bread, brown rice and soy milk is still an anomaly. I have found that small diners prove to be the best option as they make their sandwiches from scratch (leaving out the mayonnaise and using mustard) and knew the ingredients in their homemade soups (tomato based and not chicken broth).
Tip: Carry protein such as nuts and seeds with you to supplement your meals and add nutrition as well as helping to make your meals more filling.
I have also found little surprises along the way. Second Cup was offering a clearly labeled vegan cookie which tasted better than the packaging looked, and their oatmeal can be prepared with steamed soy milk for one of their most delicious best kept secrets! When you are far away from your juicer and in need of a quick fix, Jugo Juice offers a Max Veg juice which has been a staple for me on the road.
Overall, I've found there are always options for being vegan although they may not always be pointed out to you. Be prepared by taking along snacks that will get you by when there aren't the best options and be sure to ask for what you want, and don't want, up front. This will save you from the frustration of your meal arriving with hidden surprises like mayonnaise or butter on your bread or parmesan cheese in the sauce! I have learned not to rely on the menu to give you all the details and to tell the server up front I do not eat meat, dairy or egg, to avoid these upsetting surprises. I hope to continue to explore this beautiful country of ours, finding vegan along the way!
Photo credit: Talia