It’s not as hard as (I’m sure it used to be, in the olden days!) to eat vegan in major cities. Alas, challenges arise when you are extremely sensitive to oil it borders on an allergy (more here on why some are avoiding oil for health).
For example, if you’re just eating vegan- Israel is so easy! Because of the work that Omri Paz has done with veganfriendly.org.il, food and restaurants can be labeled as either ‘100% Vegan’ or ‘Vegan Friendly’. It’s AMAZING.
Happy Cow, and the many Vegan City Facebook groups are fantastic (not an exaggeration) for finding local vegan restaurants. And, many, many places are adding vegan options to their menus, regardless of the type of place it is!
However, if you eat whole food plant-based, a way that doesn’t feel restricted while eating at home but can certainly feel difficult when trying to eat out, it’s harder.
People often ask me why I’m so strict with it. Aside from the fact that I’m pretty sure my body is allergic to oil, I made the bold decision to get off of my Crohn’s Disease medication in the Summer of 2016. However, I still have a chronic autoimmune disease. I just choose to use food as my medicine. And I take it very seriously.
If I want to preserve my health, and continue living the quality of life that I am comfortable with, one where I feel good more than 20% of the time, am free to travel because I don’t have to get medication infusions every 4 weeks at the hospital, I need to be serious with eating right.
And I know that if others are eating out vegan, there is no way there aren’t some awesome restaurants that can work with my oil allergy!
So I decided, I’m going to find places that can work with me for oil free, and keep track so not only I can keep going back, but others can as well!
*It’s important to note that whole food plant based way of eating advocates for no added oils, no added sugar, and minimal salt. However, as I’ve learned how my body is sensitive to these different ingredients, oil, as the highly processed and not nutrient dense ingredient it is, is extremely triggering for my Crohn’s and so this is what I do not eat when I go out. I’m definitely sensitive to added sugar and often feel best while eating at home, but it does not upset me the way oil does, and it’s important for me to find the balance that I need in order to eat out when I choose to.
What I usually do is reach out to a place- either on Facebook, through email, or by phone, before I go to make sure something can be made without oil. Some of the best places I’ve found that can work with me, though, I’ve quite literally stumbled upon.
Some things I’ve found:
- Nicer restaurants are easier than chains, as a Chef is more willing than anyone who is hired to cook to switch up ingredients
- Veggie sushi is pretty easy to eat out, most rice is just made in vinegar and if you don’t get tempura you should be in the clear (watch out for aioli sauces though)
- Asian food places are usually pretty accommodating and are happy to stir fry in water
- Smoothies, acai bowls, and other fruit based juices and snacks are almost always a go.
Of course, money and time keep me from exploring more eateries in these cities and beyond. Some of the cities will have more places, depending on how long I visited (or lived) in each place. So since I’m always trying to plan my next trip and contacting restaurants that look good no matter where around the world they are, I’ll include in each city places that say they can work with you on oil- but I can’t swear by a place unless I’ve been there. Think of this as my food travel diary, slowly evolving with each place I am privileged enough to visit.
Though not eating oil is really helpful to those of us with medical conditions where we use food as medicine, I recognize that is not everyone’s first priority to eat as clean and healthy as I do. Still, there are countless of us who do use this way of eating as medicine (and more in the future as plant-based nutrition becomes more widespread), so how cool that there are others who are trying to make eating like this possible! Check out what Plantricious is trying to do- certify restaurants and foods as ‘Plantricious’ and what Dr. Miriam Maisel is doing in Israel with her ‘Healthy Dining Project‘.