I was initially worried that my vegan diet would be difficult to accommodate when I studied abroad in New Zealand. However, I found that with a little planning, my lifestyle was as easy to maintain in New Zealand as it is at home. Although it is important to try new foods and partake in the culture while studying abroad, it can also be critical to fuel your body well so that you feel your best to go out and explore. Here are some tips for both living with dietary limitations and general healthy eating abroad.
1. Shop seasonally and locally
The most popular spot on a Saturday morning in Dunedin is the Otago Farmers Market. There you will find an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables, breakfast foods, and even some specialty items such as homemade hummus. I shopped at the market whenever possible to fill my refrigerator with delicious, healthy food to eat throughout the week. Buying from famers markets also supports local growers and is better for the environment.
2. Plan Ahead for Trips
When travelling from major city to major city in New Zealand, restaurants are scarce and usually have a limited menu. I always made sure to eat before hitting the road and brought along my own snacks. In some of the small towns that provide accommodation for many of the popular hiking trails, you should not expect that all restaurants will be able accommodate any diet. However, most of these towns have grocery stores, and many hostels have communal kitchens; cooking your own simple meals while traveling is inexpensive, and hostel kitchens are a great place to meet other travelers. When booking an accommodation, search online or call the front desk to learn what nearby food options will be available to you so that you know what you expect before leaving home.
3. Don’t be afraid to ask
On the other hand, never hesitate to ask what the restaurant can prepare for you! Kiwis are some of the friendliest people I have ever encountered. Almost anytime I asked about vegan options, the wait staff and chef were happy to work with me. I often travelled with two girls who have a gluten allergy, and they were similarly met with kindness and helpfulness. Also, you may be surprised by the options the restaurant already offers. For example, I was able to enjoy a meal at Fergburger, a famous burger joint in Queenstown.
4. Be flexible
While it won’t be necessary to abandon your way of eating abroad, you may have to be a little more creative than usual to meet your needs. Combine foods in new ways, make do with what you can find, and count unusual meals as part of the adventure.