The challenges of maintaining a No-added Fats, Whole-food, Plant-Based Diet whilst traveling.

I have been traveling a lot recently for both work and pleasure, including a recent trips to Johannesburg in South Africa and my holiday in Estoril, Portugal, made me realise how difficult it is to maintain a no-added fat, whole food, plant-based eating plan when you are not buying, preparing and cooking your own food.
I’ve written before about some of the challenges of eating a Plantalicious diet when traveling, but I think I missed a few things out.
Firstly, on these trips I realised that few people know what WFPB means, so instead I use the V word. I say I’m Vegan. As you may know from previous articles I’ve posted, the two are not the same and as a result I get food that does not conform to my nutritional standards. On these recent trips it meant that I had a lot of refined carbohydrates in the form of white pasta and bread. A lot of the food also had added fats such as olive oil etc.
I’m now wondering if I should be more assertive and be more specific about WFPB and what I do and don’t eat. The dilemma that this presents is that in a number places I’d really only be able to eat the soups, vegetable side dishes or salads. I’d miss my pastas etc.
While I am on the subject of pasta; it brings me to added fats and salt. I recently had a dish of pasta with porcini mushrooms. I’d checked the ingredients listed on the menu and they seemed ok. What I had not expected, would be how much added fat and salt would be in the dish. I also think that there was cheese in it, which was not listed on the menu.  Given that I am often sitting with colleagues and clients, now here’s my dilemma, what do i do?  Make a fuss, or just suck it up and eat it?  What did I do?  I ate it!
Another example was at the BA lounge at Heathrow where I had a delicious proper slow-baked jacket potato. The flesh was soft and buttery. Perfect. Reminding me of the ones we had as kids as a treat on bonfire night that had been wrapped in foil and baked for hours. One of the choice of toppings was a “ruby coleslaw”. Shredded beetroot, carrot, white cabbage and onion. Lovely but bound in a thick egg and oil based mayonnaise. It was delicious, but it wasn’t plant-based nor was it vegan, it was vegetarian. I know I’m not on a diet and that I can eat whatever I want, but if I want to stick to this for the majority of the time, I may have to trade-off simple/bland or boring food choices with foods that go against my nutritional principles.
This brings me to another peril. That of fried foods. Twice during the week in South Africa and numerous times in Portugal, I had a major dilemmas, over fried foods. Firstly in a Thai restaurant. The only thing on the starters list that did not contain meat or fish were spring rolls or samosas. Both of which were deep fried. Hardly no added fats! All of the veggie burgers in Portugal were served with chips.  Hmmm.  What’s a greedy boy to do?  They were all lovely, but again they did not conform to what I am trying to do. Another day I had veggie sandwich which came with chips. I was brought up not to waste food so guess who ate them like a little starving piggy?  Believe it or not, this was the best option that my hotel restaurant could offer. It’s also hard to discuss my dietary needs with staff who have little or no English. Asking for whole meal pasts or brown rice in South Africa usually results in a huge smile and a “yes sir”. What gets brought to you is usually exactly what is on the menu and usually is refined carbs loaded with fat. Drat.
In London last week I ate at one of my favourite restaurants with clients. They were splendid in accommodating my requirements with a black radish salad without the buffalo mozzarella but just as wonderful with teeny tiny micro tomatoes and blackberries. A perfect autumnal starter. Then a risotto without butter or cheese but made with wild rice
Finally there’s the issue of refined carbohydrates.  White rice, white pasta and white flour – all vegan and vegetarian but not WFPB.  In Portugal as in South Africa, that is another challenge, where a lot of dishes are made with refined carbohydrates.  We had a lot of lovely pastries in Portugal, delicious, but again not WFPB.  Veggie risotto sounded like a healthy treat, but made with white rice, lots of added fats and undoubtedly some cheese, it was a nutritional nightmare.
So it is time to be a bit more assertive.  Time to be more picky.  I know, I do not have to do this, but I want to in order to be able to be healthy.  Time to ask more questions, “can you tell me, what is in this in addition to what is listed on the menu”, making choices that avoid refined carbohydrates.  Stipulating that I want wholemeal bread, ordering soups made with veggie stock and salads with the dressing on the side or just balsamic vinegar.
In summary – time to be more assertive and less British in my food choices.  It’s my body and it is my choice and in my power to decide what i put in it.
Take a look at my first viideo blig – here for a short update on this topic – http://www.plantalicious.com/?p=2996
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