This is probably one of the most commonly asked questions on social media, and one of the easiest to answer!
Being a vegetarian consists of avoiding meat products, chicken, beef and fish etc. But being vegan involves avoiding animal products all together, eggs, cheese and milk…anything taken from an animal, including the animal itself. Pretty simple, right?
A lot of people would assume that living on the road makes it hard to follow a stricter diet. Wrong! Being vegan on the road has proved to be a lot easier than any meat-eating diet.
So what do we actually eat?
Being budget bike tourers means we very rarely eat at restaurants, we have visited vegetarian restaurants as a treat in the past and tried some South American market food. However, eating out in general adds up and we find eating fresh produce from markets much cheaper and easier.
When you don’t carry a refrigerator around with you, being a vegan bike tourer is much simpler than you think. No meat to keep cool, no heavy cans to carry around with you and all in all a much cheaper way to eat.
When we run out of food, we hunt down the next market on route and prepare the space in our panniers. First things first: scouting the pasta, rice and beans stall. We usually stock up with 2-3kg of pasta, spaghetti or fusilli is our favourite choice. Sometimes we like a change and go for rice but it takes much longer to cook, the quicker we can get dinner, the better!
Now for the vegetables: by far the heaviest items in the panniers but important for those micronutrients. We always cook with onions, garlic and ginger, Guaranteed for a scrummy sauce. We grab 1kg of tomatoes, 1kg of seasonal vegetables (broccoli, aubergine, courgette etc) and, for snacking throughout the day, 1kg of bananas. If we can find a good price we pick up some mangoes too. Spice it up! We love to pick out different spices and seasonings from big markets to add to our meals, it makes a big difference to the taste and after 6+ months of pasta and vegetables we are still not sick of it.
So how do you get your protein?!
Another one of those commonly asked questions that vegans have to deal with. Pasta actually contains 12g per 100g of protein, while not a complete protein we also chow down on lentils and soya beans as well as local dishes in South America like Tarwi (similar to the soya bean). Peanuts are also one of our favourite quick and easy snacks for the road and contain lots of protein.
Vegans also lack the vitamin B12, which is naturally only syntheisied by bacteria living in animal products, so we take supplements every day containing B12 and other vitamins. If you are UK-based you can purchase these from vegansociety.co.uk. Even if you are not vegan, these are still great vitamins to take to maintain long-term health.
A lot of produce in South America contains soya, which is great for vegans as many snacks like biscuits and cakes do not contain milk. When you are biking 4-5 hours a day you can sag very quickly if you don’t keep your blood sugar levels up, stopping for a couple of bananas and biscuits is a quick and yummy re-fuel. Packets of biscuits and crackers are not expensive so we always like to make sure we have a few in our handlebar bags. As I mentioned before we also love peanuts and although a bit more expensive in the markets than biscuits they are a great energy boost as well as a hunger satisfier.
Dinner time and sleeping time are two of our favourite times of day, we never pass up on the cooked meal after we have finished biking (we once tried sandwiches for dinner and that just didn’t cut the mustard). On a long day in the saddle we burn over 2,000 calories so snacking throughout the day and drinking lots is extremely important to us.
When we eat out
On the rare occasions that we visit restaurants for either lunch or dinner 9 times out of 10 people have been able to cater for us. It’s easy to explain what we can or cannot eat and we usually visit places that look like they have a large vegetarian option. A lot of items on the menu are only non-vegan because of one or two ingredients in the dish, such as cheese. If you see something you like always reguest for the item to be removed and there you have it! Many restaurants nowadays will cater for a vegetarian, it’s always just a case of explaining your situation to the waiter/waitress and seeing what they can offer!
Vegan meal replacements
Meal replacements are simply powdered food, all the nutrients, vitamins and calories you need in one powder mix. Most meal replacement brands need only water as a mixer, some suggest milk or coconut water. You can make a whole meal in less than a minute and you never have to worry about not fitting in your balanced diet. We are soon to be trying out a few brands of meal replacements, we will be reviewing a few well-known brands such as Huel and Joylent and testing them against our way of life. We love the idea of having an ongoing support from one of these brands and when we reach North America this may well be a viable option, it is difficult to gain supply of anything here in South America.We are fascinated by the science behind these concoctions and especially with the practicality of them. But will we miss our infamous pasta and vegetables?