Vegetarian Food On Flights: Doesn’t It Just Make Sense?


It’s certainly not impossible to travel as a vegetarian, but it’s not always easy. Not only do I not eat meat, but I usually try my best to refrain from animal products of any sort. Navigating this kind of diet abroad can be tricky, but airlines could do their part to make it easier. On one of my most recent flights, my husband was literally mocked for wanting meat-free food, even if that just meant a piece of bread. All maliciousness aside, what always gets me upset about the pitiful selection of vegetarian food on flights is the pure logistics of it from an airline’s standpoint.From a purely business perspective, it seems like a no-brainer that airlines would serve vegetarian options. Everyone eats vegetables (or should). Not everyone eats meat. In fact, some of the latest estimates say that there are more than 400 million vegetarians worldwide. While both meat and vegetables can rot or become otherwise tainted, the risks of contamination are higher with meat, especially when stored for long-term use, not to mention that the meat that does have a long shelf life isn’t usually the popular choice — give me canned beans over canned Spam any day. Meat is also expensive!

I realize that passengers can usually request food that meets their personal dietary restrictions for flights in advance. What I don’t realize is why plant-based food should be a special request. It seems to me that increasing the availability of vegetarian food on flights wouldn’t just satisfy the millions of vegetarians who travel as well as many non-vegetarians who are more than happy to eat plants, but it would be good for the bottom line, too.

Travel Tip: Vegetarian Food That May Not Be Vegetarian

5 Detoxifying Spring Break Destinations

Spring break is a vacation time of the year wherein many people let loose and eat and drink with abandon. Fun as that might seem to some, your idea of a good time might be one that isn’t filled with worries about the pounds you’re packing on or the detox you’re going to need post-vacation to recover from all of the alcohol. If you’re looking for an detoxifying escape plan this spring, here are some ideas that will get you started.

1. Sweet + Thrasher: St Lawrence Gap, Barbados

This resort is offering a health-conscious vacation package called “Fitness + Foolishness” for April 18-22. The package includes daily yoga, Pilates, morning runs, surf classes and dancing in the evening at the hot spots in town.2. Playa Nicuesa: Gulfo Dulce, Costa Rica
Playa Nicuesa is an eco-friendly lodge in Southern Costa Rica. Fully immersed in the rain forest, this beautiful destination can only be reached by boat. Once you’re there, you’ll take part in fresh and communal meals and have an assortment of detoxifying activities to choose from in between, including yoga, massage, hikes through the rainforest, swimming and more.

3. Esperanza, An Aubrege Resort: Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
This “Find Your Balance” program offers guests vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free meals and the resort offers relaxing ways to stay in shape. Spend your time attending vegetarian cooking classes, practicing yoga in a private lesson or enjoying a massage at the spa.

4. Wanderlust Festival: Vermont, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Canada and Chile

The Wanderlust Festival’s locations this year are all fantastic and each offer their own advantages. While attending this festival, you can join in on a yoga class and indulge in the food at the healthy marketplace during the day and see live music at night.

5. Grand Velas Resort and Spa: Playa del Carmen, Mexico
This grand expanse of luxurious accommodations is the perfect place to pamper yourself and detox this spring if you’re looking for something top-notch. The resort is all-inclusive and you’ll have your choice of fresh juice, salads and veggie-heavy meals – the restaurants are also equipped to adjust their menu to your diet if you ask. When you’re not taking advantage of the detoxifying food options, you can spend your time swimming, scuba diving, kayaking, snorkeling, doing yoga or working out in the resort’s fitness center.

[Photo Credit: Elizabeth Seward]

Three Unique Spring Break Ideas

Vegetarian Travelers Still Experience Culture

“You can’t travel if you don’t eat meat,” says a person who likes to both travel and eat meat.

But that’s not true – of course you can travel if you don’t eat meat. Contrary to what many travelers and even travel writers believe, you can genuinely learn about and experience another culture without eating meat or any other food your diet restricts. I’ve traveled as a meat-eater, a pescetarian, a vegetarian and a vegan. I’ve watched as others have shaken their heads in disbelief, unsure of why I’d ever travel in the first place if I didn’t want to taste what steak is like in another country. I’ve heard some people claim that travel and meat eating are so inseparable that culture simply cannot be experienced while practicing a plant-based diet. This is misleading and unnecessarily dissuasive.

Culture is a term we use to describe myriad facets of any given society. Merriam-Webster defines the word as:

1

a : the integrated pattern of human behavior that includes thought, speech, action, and artifacts and depends upon the human capacity for learning and transmitting knowledge to succeeding generations

b : the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group

Food is just one part of culture. Food is important because we need food to survive. We eat several times a day. We eat socially. We eat emotionally. We love to eat. So let’s get something out of the way: those who do not consume meat (or nuts, soy, gluten, alcohol or caffeine, for example) do still consume. I’ve visited countries around the world and sometimes I’ve eaten animals or animal products in those countries and sometimes I have not. But no matter what I eat, I’m eating unfamiliar food that is prepared in a way that is new to me when I travel. I’ve tried fruits and vegetables that I never knew existed but are simultaneously staples of the diet in other cultures. In that way, I’ve experienced the food of a different culture and all of the excitement that it brings without having to eat meat.

Because we spend so much time eating and because eating is often communal, having a restrictive diet can make it more difficult to eat with others, especially while traveling. If you don’t eat meat, you may have to disclose that to restaurants or hosts in advance. You may have to work extra hard to seek out places that serve what you want to eat. You may have to go grocery shopping while traveling (which is one of my favorite things to do and a good way to gain cultural insight, anyway). You may get lucky enough to have a host who is willing to prepare animal-free food for you. Some cuisines of the world are laden with meat while others are based in vegetables. The difficulty you’ll have eating as a vegetarian will depend on where you are. No matter the case, you will eat and what you eat will likely be different from what you normally eat when you’re at home.

What’s important to recognize though is that food is not the only part of culture. Similarly, an anything-goes diet is not necessary for experiencing culture. If you have dietary restrictions, that’s fine. I think we should treat food as medicine and think carefully about what we put into our bodies as regularly as possible, even when we’re on vacation. If you’re visiting a place wherein locals eat a cow tongue and lard custard, you don’t have to feel guilty when you choose not to try it. You can learn about this specific food, if you care to, by asking questions and by learning about the history behind the dish. Nothing compares to trying a dish for yourself, but you don’t have to try everything to be a good traveler. You can enjoy other aspects of the culture at hand. You can explore the arts community, listen to live local music and dance the traditional dances of the region all night long. You can listen to and share stories with locals. You can go swimming where locals go swimming. You can shop where they shop. You can visit their churches and schools and you can drink their wine.

This idea that culture cannot be experienced without throwing caution to the wind and eating whatever is set before you while traveling is misguided. I’ve traveled and eaten in the places I’ve traveled to with meat and without meat and the difference between the two is hardly memorable at all for me. Travel might be a more difficult if you have diet restrictions, but travel might also be more difficult if you have other restrictions – like being too scared to go free-diving with the locals, insisting on speaking English in a non-English speaking country or not going out dancing because you don’t like to dance. Lest we continue even further down the wrong path when discussing travel with others, let’s remember that learning about and experiencing another culture is not contingent solely on what you do or don’t eat.

Travel Tip: Learning Local Culture

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: From steel town to scenic city

pittsburghWhile many people still visualize Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to be an old steel city, the hilly town has certainly changed a lot in the last 30-40 years. My first impressions when arriving were that the lit up hillsides, public art, modern architecture, colorful bridges, scenic rivers, diverse restaurants and lively club scene made Pittsburgh seem a lot more eclectic and trendy than industrial. If you’re visiting Pittsburgh, here is a guide to help you navigate the best the city has to offer based on your preferences.

For a mix of history and food

Visit the Strip District. The area was home to many industrial innovations (it’s where Andrew Carnegie began doing business in the iron and steel industry) as well as a once booming produce industry, a legacy that can still be tasted through ethnic food shops, cafes, markets, and restaurants. Use Penn Avenue as your main focal point, and veer off as necessary. Make sure to stop in the Pennsylvania Macaroni Co. for traditional Italian groceries and natural alternatives to processed cheeses, sauces, soups, and meats, as well as Mon Aimee Chocolat for unique varieties of organic and artisanal chocolate. For those who love vino, Dreadnought Wines offers glasses and accessories as well as specialty wines and educational classes, like “Cooking with Wine” and “High Brows and Low Brows- Can You Taste the Difference?”. A stop in Penzeys Spices is a delight for the nose as visitors can walk around and sniff the many herbs and seasonings out on display, as well as ask questions about the products and get free recipes. Want to educate yourself on the city’s history and culture? A visit to Senator John Heinz History Center allows you to explore Pittsburgh’s past and present through six floors of exhibits on local sports, companies, heroes, innovations, artifacts, and more. My favorite parts were sitting in an old-fashioned trolley and walking through a life-sized replication of a traditional early-1900’s home.

For a list of businesses in the Strip District, click here. To keep up to date with events in the area, click here.pittsburgh If you love boutique shopping

Shadyside is home to myriad non-chain boutiques and upscale shopping in a quiet neighborhood. Use Walnut Street or Ellsworth Avenue as your focal point, and from there you can branch off as you wish. Some of my favorite stores to browse included Ten Toes for shoes, Francesca’s Collections for clothing, Feathers for housewares, Gardell Designs for handmade jewelry, and S.W. Randall Toys for a fun trip down memory lane.

Click here for a list of shops in Shadyside. To learn about news and happenings in the area, click here.

pittsburgh For the artsy traveler

Visit the Andy Warhol Museum, one of the four Carnegie Museums in the city. While it’s $20 to get in ($10 for students), you’ll get the chance to view over 8,000 pieces and installations by the artist, who was a Pittsburgh native, as well as his film and video work.

Another unique art museum worth checking out is The Mattress Factory, which features contemporary “room sized works called installations”. The unusual art is created by in-house artists participating in the museum’s residency program.

You can also take a stroll down Ellsworth Avenue in the Shadyside area where many galleries are located, including Aspire Auctions, Gallerie Chiz, Maser Galleries, Mendelson Gallery, and Morgan Contemporary Glass Gallery.

For those who like street art, Pittsburgh is filled with beautiful graffiti works. A walk around almost any of the urban areas, like the Strip District (pictured), Downtown, or South Side, will guarantee a free look at some of the city’s most colorful and creative outdoor masterpieces.

tapa If you’re a hipster

Head over to South Side, which is where you will find an array of clubs, bars, ethnic restaurants, eclectic coffee shops, art galleries, theatres, and funky stores. Visit The Exchange for vintage records, City Theatre for live performances, and The Zenith for vegeterian food, antiques, and an art gallery all under one roof. There’s also a really quirky coffeeshop called The Beehive Coffeehouse & Dessertery that has a hippie vibe and features speciality teas, pinball machines, delicious sandwiches, and a lively bar at night. For those who want something upscale with a large, interesting menu, Ibiza Spanish Tapas and Wine Bar is a great pick, with dim lighting, indoor and outdoor seating (in the winter they have a heated awning up), a knowledgable and friendly staff, and a huge menu of tapas as well as main courses. I would highly recommend the shrimp couscous, the pork chop topped with spinach and goat cheese, and the small plate of grilled scallops with mango sauce (pictured). For something a bit more low key, Mario’s South Side Saloon offers a fun atmosphere and delicious bar food.

If you go 1 mile east of South Side, you’ll hit Station Square, another trendy area with shopping, dining, and nightlife. For those who want to dance, Buckhead Saloon hosts live DJ’s on Fridays and Saturdays and is usually packed with a young, energetic crowd. They also serve bar food and delicious pizza by the slice for when those beer munchies hit.

pittsburgh For photographers and those who want to take in the view

A ride on the old-fashioned trolley at Duquesne Incline on West Carson Street makes for a unique way to see the entire city. The ride mimicks a similar route that was a coal hoist from about 1854 or earlier. For $4.50 round trip per adult, you will be taken up one of the very steep hills overlooking Pittsburgh to the top observation deck. There is a mini museum with historical facts and photographs as well as telescopes to get a close up view. The trolley runs until 12:45 AM, so it can be a good idea to go once during the day and once at night to see the city’s two different personalities.

There is also a 22-mile coastal walk called the Three Rivers Heritage Trail that allows you to experience the Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio Rivers. It’s also an excellent way to view the skyline and bridges from an array of focal points.

If you’re hungry or if it’s a little too chilly to be outside, stop at Jerome Bettis’ Grille 36 and ask for a table near the window. The restaurant sits right on the water and gives great views of the skyline, hillside, Points State Park, bridges, and Heinz Field, especially at night when the city is all lit up. The venue is owned by former Pittsburgh Steeler Jerome Bette and is a trendy restaurant with the feel of a sports bar. Side note: They serve the most amazing Spinach and Artichoke dip I’ve ever had as they add prosciutto and serve it with warm pita bread triangles.

pittsburgh If you love sports

The Senator John Heinz History Center in the Strip District mentioned above is also home to the Sports Museum. Here you will be able to learn about big name sports in Pittsburgh like football, hockey, and baseball, as well as lesser known athletics like marbles, bridge, ballroom dancing, and competitive eating. Moreover, because Pittsburgh is home to three major league sports teams, the Pittsburgh Steelers (NFL), the Pittsburgh Penguins (NHL), and the Pittsburgh Pirates (MLB), it can be a fun experience to go to a live game. Click here for team information and schedules.

Norfolk, Virginia: Thanks to PETA, it’s the next best destination for vegetarians


It seems likely that the site of the world’s largest Naval would be a place where meat monopolizes the menu. But in Norfolk, Virginia that’s simply not the case. The small city has truly embraced vegetarianism (and veganism as well), with nearly all of the restaurants featuring an ample list of veg-friendly options-plus plenty of places that cater solely to the meat-free crowd.

Obviously, larger cities like New York, San Francisco, and Toronto or towns that attract more eclectic inhabitants such as Portland, Bloomington, and Austin have plenty of demand for vegetarian eateries. In Norfolk, however, something else seems to be at work. The big influencer is actually the world’s largest animal rights organization, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), which is based there. For many positions at the organization, it’s actually a requirement that the employee is vegan-and it’s a bit of a no-brainer that the office culture probably dictates most employees stray from meat.

As the sailors filter in and out of the city, the PETA employees stay. As a result, there are plenty of places for vegetarians to eat morning, noon, and night. In the funky neighborhood of Ghent alone, there is a laundry list of over two-dozen restaurants that cater to vegetarians-and all seem to have mastered clearly marking menus for easy perusal.

Just a few of the favored pit-stops for vegetarians around Norfolk include Machismo Burrito Bar for Tex-Mex covered with nondairy sour cream and cheese, Rajput for Indian cuisine like veggie samosas and tofu palak, and Azar’s Market & Cafe for over 40 meat-free Mediterranean options. The menu at The Ten Top is dominated by veggies, and at Dragon City you can get cheap Chinese takeout that is assuredly vegan. Bella Pizzeria serves up pizza with soy cheese, and Yorgo’s Bageldashery goes above and beyond tofu cream cheese by serving a tempeh BLT wrap and “egg” salad. Even a local greasy spoon, the Donut Dinette, serves soy sausage with breakfast and vegan chicken salad for lunch.


Of course, the food isn’t the only draw to this seaport. There’s wine, too. Each year in May, the city’s waterfront becomes home to the Spring Town Point Virginia Wine Festival, when visitors pack the downtown area to sample Virginia’s finest vino and listen to live music.

But seriously: Besides food and wine, Norfolk has historical and cultural attractions that draw visitors year-round. History buffs will want to explore the naval museum Nauticus, where you can walk the decks of the impressive USS Battleship Wisconsin, a retired ship that’s storied history launched during World War II and continues through firing the first four missiles in Operation Desert Storm. Art lovers, on the other hand, should head to the Chrysler Museum of Art to peruse the expansive collection of 62 galleries or partake in a glass blowing workshop at the museum’s brand new studio. It’s also a good idea to weave through the local artist studios at d’ART Center, or possibly even plan a visit around the Stockley Gardens Arts Festival, a free event that brings 25,000 people to a local park (and just so happens to coincide with the Wine Festival in May).

No matter why you choose to come to Norfolk, it’s a city that is sure to surprise you once you arrive. My advice is to come for the food and wine, and stay for the great festivals and museums.

[Photos by Libby Zay]