Wednesday, September 24, 2014

It Makes a Difference Where You Travel

About two months ago, I (mostly) gave up meat.  Since then, I’ve been cutting back on dairy products.  Two weeks ago, I discovered that it’s hard to find an entrée without meat when you’re dining in a small town.  In general, you have much more control over your diet at home than you do when you’re traveling and eating in restaurants.  Since then, I’ve gone on two trips that were five nights each, and I’ve found that it makes a big difference where you travel.

The first trip was to Lake Tahoe.  Lake Tahoe is a resort area where tourists outnumber local residents.  There are many restaurants, and they cater to diverse tastes.  Finding entrées without meat was easy.  I did eat meat once, but it was a deliberate exception.  The Lake Tahoe Marathon always has a grill at the finish line, where they cook hot dogs.  There are other finish line snacks, but it’s the only hot food.  It’s also become a post-race tradition to have a hot dog after finishing the race.  I saw no harm in continuing my tradition.

I didn’t try to give up dairy on that trip.  I ate brick oven pizza three times at two different restaurants.  I also had fat-free chocolate milk as a post-race recovery drink.  Finally, I went ahead and had milk in my morning tea.

My next trip was to Costa Rica.  One of the staples of Costa Rican cuisine is gallo pinto, which consists of seasoned rice and black beans.  Another is fried plantain slices.  The resort where I was staying had a breakfast buffet that included gallo pinto, fried plantains, fresh fruit, various breads, seasoned potatoes and juice.  Breakfast was easy.

At Costa Rican restaurants, I could usually find food without meat or dairy.  Of course, I still made an exception so I could try the local pizza.  I also made an exception for piña coladas.  A restaurant near our hotel had the best piña coladas any of us had tasted.

One night, we went to an Argentine restaurant. That was more difficult, as Argentine food is big on meat.  They only had two vegetarian entrées, and both were big on cheese.

On my flights to and from Costa Rica, I was able to get upgrades to first class, and three of the four flights included meals.  Most airlines will provide vegetarian meals if you request them in advance.  I requested meals with no meat or dairy.  I didn’t know what foods they would serve, but I was willing to try something new.  One of the reasons I’m cutting back on the staples of my old diet, is to make it easier to incorporate more fruits and vegetables in my diet.  Part of the process is discovering foods that I might not have tried in the past.

For some reason, my meal preference didn’t get saved for my outbound flights.  I found out that’s not a problem if you’re willing to eat dairy.  There are usually two choices of meal, and one is usually some type of salad with chicken on the side.  It can be converted into a vegetarian meal by omitting the chicken, but it will mostly likely include cheese.

On my return flight, I had the meal I requested.  It had no meat or dairy.  It featured pasta with a sauce that included tomatoes, peppers, onions, zucchini and carrots.  It also included a salad, fruit, and rice cakes.  I enjoyed most of the meal, but rice cakes are kind of bland.

Finding ways to change my diet at home is a learning experience that mostly involves finding new things to eat or making substitutions.  Changing my diet while traveling requires more effort.  It also depends on the destination.  Sometimes it’s easy, but other times it’s going to take planning.  For small towns, I may have to prepare my own food.


  1. I loved the traditional Costa Rican breakfast. I could it the beans & rice and tropical fruits every day!

  2. It was nice to be able to get beans and rice with any meal. I could get used to Costa Rican food.