We’ve all been taught to eat our vegetables; that broccoli’s not really the enemy; that binging on carrots is like nature’s version of Lasik eye surgery. (Was I the only one who bought that last one?) Except what happens when we travel to a country where it seems that toddlers won the battle, and vegetables were all but erased from the national cuisine?
I don’t know about you, but I rely on my fruits and vegetables. I’m not a vegetarian, but there’s only so much meat and potatoes I can handle until my body craves greenery. Plus, I need all that roughage to keep things, er, regular on the road.
Of course, the kind of foods you’ll have access to depends on where you’re traveling. If you’re heading to Vietnam, fear not for the fresh vegetables. In Costa Rica, you’ll be in tropical fruit paradise. But my recent adventures have led me to such places as Germany, Hungary and the Czech Republic, where the greens put up a pathetic fight against meat, beer and potatoes.
Like I said, I’m not vegetarian, just a girl with wanderlust trying to stay scurvy-free. Here are my tips for keeping it fresh on the road:
1. Expand your horizons to different vegetables.
At one traditional Hungarian restaurant in Budapest, the only thing that even resembled a vegetable was actually a legume, in the form of pea stew. I’m not a big fan of peas, but green in a menu full of browns has a way of calling my name. (It turns out that they were creamed peas, so probably even less healthy than their lean meat counterparts, but that’s what we call “taking risks while traveling.”)
In Germany, it seemed that the entire populace was singing a love song to boiled white asparagus. I tell you, I enjoy almost any vegetable, and grilled green asparagus is high on my list. But slimy pale spears of boiled white asparagus? No wonder the country sticks to its pork. Anyway, I’m sure there was some vitamin buried deep inside the unappealing flesh, and even white asparagus can provide a welcome break from potatoes.
2. Stay in a hostel or rental house and use the kitchen.
Fruits and vegetables can grow in most countries, or at least can be imported, despite what the restaurant menus may lead you to believe. If you stay at a place with a kitchen, you can balance your heavy eating out with a bit of lighter home cooking. If a supermarket has a sad, wilting selection of produce, head to the frozen aisle for more options.
3. Check out local markets.
Even if you don’t have a kitchen, many local markets serve freshly cut fruit—some even accompanied with plastic forks ready for eating. In addition to sliced fruit or easy-to-eat grabs like apples and bananas, most markets will have stalls of nuts and dried fruit. Although loaded with sugar, a handful of dried fruit can do the trick in a pinch.
4. Head to a vegetarian restaurant.
Research vegetarian restaurants, either through word of mouth, Yelp or apps like Foursquare. If a meal without meat isn’t blasphemy for you (and it’s probably not, if you’re trying this hard to seek out some veggies), then a good bet would be a vegetarian restaurant. It may be the lone vegetarian restaurant in the whole city, but hey, there will be a salad there with your name on it.
5. Order from the sides menu.
While pig or beef may take center stage on a menu, seek out that little sides section. It may be so small you’ll need spectacles to find it, but in most cases, it’s there, offering not just extras of bread and potatoes but also small salads, grilled vegetables or something resembling plants. On the off-chance that there’s still nothing there that’ll offset scurvy, try asking the waiter if the kitchen can whip up a small side of grilled veggies. Most places are accommodating, and the majority of kitchens do have vegetables on hand, despite hard and fast evidence suggesting otherwise.
Here’s to hoping you get your fill of veggies on the road. And if all else fails, pop a vitamin C tablet while downing that liter of beer.