When living in larger Canadian cities such as Ottawa or Edmonton, finding vegan options is not very difficult.
Staples such as tofu, plant-milk, black beans, chickpeas, lentils, spinach, banana, quinoa and oats are readily available for affordable prices at every grocery store. I also have access to a kitchen, where I have the space, time and appliances required to turn all these basic foods into my favourite tasty meals. These cities also have tons of restaurants with vegan-friendly or sometimes entirely vegan menus, that make eating out very simple.
I recently returned from a week long road trip through the Rocky Mountains and although travelling as a vegan requires a little more planning, but I'm here to tell you that it's 100% doable and delicious. Here are 4 tips and tricks that I used to ensure that eating on my vacation was never a hassle!
1) Do Some Research!
This first step is key! Whenever I'm going to a new location I always make sure to consult websites such as HappyCow to find stores and restaurants in the area where I can find plant-based options. The website show restaurant reviews, pictures and recommended menu options. It was on Happy Cow where I found the restaurant 'Nourish' located in Banff that had the most beautiful and delicious array of both vegetarian and vegan options. My veggie mom and I went there for dinner both days and would highly recommend trying the cashew cheese platter, having the falafel for dinner and their incredible raw 'cheesecake' (vegan) for dessert.
Finding places to eat in your area of choice on Happy Cow won't take long, but it will save you a lot of time once you get to your destination.
Before arriving in Jasper, we'd already planned to have dinner on our first night at a local restaurant called "Coco's Cafe" that served a couple vegan options, like a tofu scramble burrito (yum). For our second night we decided stop at A&W so my mom could try the new Beyond Meat patty, which is now served at their over 900 locations across Canada. *Note: to make the burger vegan just ask for NO mayo!* Looking up these places in advance took minimal effort, but it really paid off when we already knew where we could eat after a long day of hiking.
2) Bring Snacks!
Before taking off on your adventure, make a quick pit stop at the grocery store to stock up on quick grab-as-you-go snacks and simple ingredients for lunches! Try starting with some heartier fruit like bananas, apples and oranges that have peels and won't bruise as easily. For vegetables, stick with things that can be eaten raw and require little prep or cooking such as baby carrots, peppers and cucumbers. To spice it up, pick up something to dip them in like hummus or guacamole. The best snack s are the ones that won't go bad like crackers, granola bars (like Larabars, those are the bomb) and even dry cereal!
If you have access to a kettle at an airbnb or hotel, instant oatmeal for breakfast: oats are very filling and will help keep your energy levels up for several hours! For lunch, try making a super simple, 3 ingredient banana sandwich before you head out for your daytime adventures. All you'll need is sliced bread, nut butter (peanut, almond or even soy if you've got an allergy) and sliced banana on top to sweet lunch that is easy to prep and eat either on the beach or the top of a mountain!
3) Just Ask!
If you find yourself in an area or a restaurant that doesn't seem very vegan friendly, just explain your restrictions to your host or waiter to see if they'd be willing to try and make something work. As plant-based lifestyles becoming increasingly popular across Canada and over the world, businesses are becoming aware of this growing market and are usually happy to accommodate.
If you're really lucky, you might just accidentally stumble upon a place that has vegan options, like we did at Lake Louise. We found an entirely vegan smoothie/juice bar called Jusu with tons of amazing smoothie bowls topped with fresh fruit and granola that made for the perfect post-hike snack both days we were there!
4) Work With What You've Got!
Sometimes, despite your best efforts to be prepared, things might not go quite as planned and you might end up eating a boring plate of fries or a random collection of vegan items if you're in a pinch (see my makeshift lunch in Drumheller to the right). It's not ideal, but when you're on vacation it's important to try and make the best of your situation and go with the flow (this doesn't just apply to what you're eating). Being placed in this situation is increasingly rare, but if you do end up here just make the best of things! If I can manage to find vegan options on the remote drive back from Calgary to Edmonton through rural Alberta, this is proof that times are truly changing.
Go Forth and Vacation!
Travelling as a vegan doesn't have to be a chore! Try out these 4 simple tips and tricks next time you're planning your next trip, whether that's a weekend getaway to Montreal or a backpacking trip through Australia.