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Making compassionate food choices when traveling abroad

© iStock | Fly_dragonfly

Finding meat, dairy and egg alternatives can be much easier in the West than in other parts of the world. This is not to say that those who follow a plant-based diet can’t make the same compassionate food choices abroad.

All that’s required is a little preparation, awareness and curiosity to be able to enjoy the local cuisine and make animal-friendly choices at the same time.

It’s important to bear in mind that different countries have different animal welfare laws, different labelling systems and might consider vegan or vegetarian food differently than you would expect.

To avoid any confusion, it helps to learn a few important words in the local language and to understand a little about the culture and the typical dishes served there. That way, those who wish to follow a plant-based diet may opt for local dishes adapted to suit their diet and lifestyle preferences.

Here are some tips which may help you make more animal-friendly food choices when abroad:


  • Plan ahead: Find out how to say vegan, vegetarian, or understand the words used for milk, meat, eggs, or fat, lard, and ghee in the local language since many dishes, even plant-based ones can be used to cook with that.


  • Research: A lot of useful tips and information can be found online via forums, groups and social media networks about what to try, where to go and what to avoid.


  • Make friends: Part of the fun whilst exploring a new country is getting immersed in the culture and getting to know the locals. Forming connections and learning about the culture can help you better understand their way of life, what is usually eaten and perhaps get an insight on how animals are treated.


  • Stay healthy: Regardless of the diet you follow, bring additional Vitamin B12 with you and any other supplements you normally take, and don’t forget to drink plenty of water wherever you may be!


  • Be culture savvy: Some cultures find it offensive if food is refused by a guest, so brush up on learning about the customs and traditions to avoid any awkward situations which could lead to misunderstandings.


  • Ask questions: Does this dish contain meat? How are the animals kept, raised and slaughtered? What does this label mean? These are just some example of questions that you could ask when in doubt. Generally, villages and smaller towns might have an easier traceability of their food sources compared to larger cities, but if something is unclear, it’s always best to ask for clarification.


  • Enjoy yourself: Be open to try a dish which is well known in the area, but perhaps could be altered slightly to suit your preferences. There are usually veggie options available which might not necessarily be named or labeled as such. If the restaurant runs its own kitchen, it’s usually easier to have something more customized to suit ones needs. If you want to plan where to eat abroad and  find vegetarian and vegan restaurants, you can do so on  


  • Extend compassion: Making compassionate food choices does not have to start and end at a restaurant or place where you choose to eat. Read labels of products at grocery stores and visit local markets to get a better understanding of the products made and sold there. Local food sold at stalls, open markets and by street vendors can be a cultural experience and doesn’t have to include animal-based products. With many food options available nowadays, there is also the option to be creative in your own ways by mixing local ingredients and trying things differently!


© iStock | Bartosz Hadyniak