A few weeks ago, I attended one of the three annual conferences my company holds. This particular conference is hosted in Ludwigsburg, Germany, which is in the Baden-Württemberg state - a place where meat is king! This was my first conference after choosing to become vegan and honestly, I was worried. Would I survive this trip as a vegan and if so, what would I be surviving on.
While going through the experience, I thought it would be helpful to share a few tips with my fellow vegans! So here we go:
Before the conference
Don’t wait until the last minute to start thinking about how you will survive on a plant-based diet at a conference.
Registration - When registering for the conference, look for a field about food preferences or special requests. If you didn’t see such a field on the form, reach out to the organizers and ask if there will be a vegan option offered onsite. Any organizer worth its salt will reply!
Hotel - Contact the hotel you will be staying at and ask about vegan options available at their hotel. If they don’t have an option, plan time to shop when you get there. When I asked this time, they replied: "For dinner, simply ask your server and we will accomodate. You can eat rice bread, fruits and vegetables for breakfast. No, we don’t have non-dairy milk."
Trip/Flights - International flights offer vegan options. They aren’t always tasty. You can bring food through security, but no liquids over 100 ml. I always bring snacks (protein and something sweet) in my carry-on. For the international flights, I choose a fruit only meal. Fruits are light and tasty, full of vitamins and I don’t feel gross when I land. This time around, I departed from the Toronto airport and they had a vegan food selection, but don’t count on your airport offering vegan food options. I had a tasty, yet dry vegan falafel sandwich.
Once you get there, get informed!
Hotel: - If they haven’t replied to your inquiries, ask the front desk about vegan options when you check-in. When you get to your room, check if there is a mini fridge to store food later.
Shop - Hopefully, the conference centre will be located downtown or close to a grocery store or bio store. As soon you get 30 minutes to yourself, bolt to the store to stock up on the necessities: nuts, bread, spreads, muesli/oats, chocolate (of course), fruits and veggies.
If your hotel room has a mini-fridge, this is a huge bonus. Otherwise, not a problem. Get mini boxes of non-dairy milk and get to feel like a 5 year old again!
Me with my Oatly milk box in the morning.
Here was one of my afternoon snacks, since the conference didn’t fulfill my protein needs. I made myself an open-faced rye bread sandwich with kalamata olive spread and mixed seeds.
Conference - If you’re lucky the conference food will be tasty and will offer protein. In May 2016, I attended a conference in North Carolina and they always served a form of protein with vegetarian or vegan meals. Some of them were actually very tasty.
Here are two of the meals I had at the conference in Germany:
There were always many vegetable options, so I ate all of them!
Since it was so close to Halloween and it was pumpkin season, they served this amazing pumpkin soup with pumpkin seeds! I had two servings. :)
Restaurants - Many restaurants now offer vegan options, but don’t necessarily advertise it. Take the inivitative to research vegan friendly places so you can suggest them when making plans with clients or colleagues. There is no doubt about it, they will appreaciate you organizing the dinner plans! If they’ve already made an arrangement, call the restaurant to confirm that they have vegan options.
A great website to research restaurants is happycow.net. They don’t usually list restaurants that have only one vegan option, so you might also want to do a Google search for "vegan restaurants in [CITY NAME]".
Bar - Did you know that some alchoholic beverages aren’t vegan?! To be safe, look up your drink of choice on barnivore.com - it’s a great resource!
Questions - This is a warning. You will get questions from non-vegans at the conference. Stay calm. Remember that you can always walk away from a conversation. If you want to be prepared you can look up a list of common questions on vegan.com.
Don’t be hard on yourself
Sometimes, you won’t be able to confirm if a certain beverage or food is vegan and you do have to survive. Don’t be so hard on yourself, especially when you’re just starting your vegan journey. There is no judgement here :) Do your best! When all else fails, just remember that you will be home soon and you have all the amazing vegan food to look forward to!
Some of the food I look forward to:
Matcha Piña Colada Smoothie Bowl
Tofu Veggie Scramble
Spinach Chia Seed Pancakes