Food plays a very important role in the culture of any country; it is also a critical aspect in the lifestyle of an individual. While some of us restrict our intake of certain foods because of our preferences, others may face more strict dietary restrictions because of cultural or health reasons. Traveling to a foreign location can be very tricky for anyone who is restricted to a specific diet.Of course, you can make things a bit easier by conducting thorough research about the cuisine of the place that you are planning to. If possible, opt for traveling to nations where your dietary restrictions won’t become a major problem.
Here is a brief guide to a few dietary restrictions and the easiest places to follow them around the world.
According to Islamic Sharia law, all foods consumed by Muslims have to be devoid of any pork products and should have been prepared in a specific way. It is not uncommon to see members of the Islamic faith check if meat and other food products are halal before consumption. Halal food is easily available in almost every Islamic country, such as the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, Egypt, Indonesia, and Pakistan, to name a few. However, this diet is also supported to a great extent by several nations that are multi-cultural and multiethnic, such as the following.
Bosnia & Herzegovina
About 50% of the population in this Southeast European country follows Islam. As a result, there are many options and facilities for people who follow a specific diet, making Bosnia the number one halal-friendly country in the world. More often than not, the food available in various establishments will be in accordance with halal laws.
Around 15% of this island’s population is Islamic. Moreover, Singapore attracts a huge number of Muslim travelers every year. The demand for halal food is therefore very high. Almost all international food chains, hotels, fine-dining restaurants and local eateries are halal-certified.
People of all ages are turning vegetarian for several reasons. It is a well-known fact that vegetarians are at a lower risk for developing certain health problems. There is also the ethical aspect that has caused many animal lovers to give up on meat products. Higher consumption of fresh fruits, vegetables and grains is also said to have environmental benefits, as livestock grazing has a huge impact on the environment and climate change. While vegetarian food is available at most places, surviving on a diet completely devoid of meat, eggs, seafood and other animal products isn’t easy in every nation. The best countries for people on a vegetarian diet include the following.
Sometimes called the birthplace of vegetarianism, India is ranked the lowest consumer of meat in the world despite the fact that its population is approximately 1.2 billion people strong. Of course, the main reason is that at least 33% of the locals are vegetarian and consume a diet completely free of meat and eggs. Many food establishments don’t even stock products that contain meat. Supermarkets usually stock vegetarian and non-vegetarian items separately. Restaurants often have signs to explicitly state that they are “pure vegetarian”. A number of international food chains have also opened “all vegetarian” restaurants in certain parts of the country.
In fact, the possession or consumption of beef is a punishable offense in certain states. Indian food authorities have made it easier for people to identify packaged food that is vegetarian by adding a green dot to such items; foods that contain any kind of egg or meat have a red dot on their packages instead. This only applies to items manufactured locally. To know if imported products are vegetarian, consumers are required to read the list of ingredients. However, it is important to note that an Indian vegetarian connotes lacto-vegetarianism. Many types of food are cooked in ghee (clarified butter). Several recipes that contain milk, yogurt, cottage cheese or other dairy products are also regarded as vegetarian all over the country.
In recent years the UK has turned a new leaf in terms of eating habits. Studies show that between 7% and 11% of the population is vegetarian. Vegetarian foods are usually denoted by a green ‘V’on the package, but not all of these will be suitable for vegans. If you have any reason to doubt, it is best to double-check. The fact that the UK has the highest number of vegetarians in the European Union has given rise to numerous restaurants, especially in London, which serve different types of vegetarian cuisine. Of course, locating an all-vegetarian restaurant in the smaller towns may not be very easy. However, you can easily find at least a couple of vegetarian items on most menus.
It is quite easy to survive on a vegetarian diet in Ethiopia. Many locals are a part of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, which requires its followers to eat a meat-free diet every Wednesday and Friday. Moreover, there are long periods of fasting for religious purposes. The local cuisine includes high amounts of fresh vegetables and beans, all eaten with injera, a thin pancake-like bread that helps you pick food from your plate.
A vegan diet can be described as an eating plan that only includes plant-derived foods. Vegans do not consume any kind of animal product. These diets are therefore devoid of meat, seafood, eggs, honey, milk, yogurt, cheese, and butter. Many people who are vegetarian, on the other hand, consume honey, yogurt or other dairy products, which aren’t part of a vegan diet. Vegans often substitute dairy products with items made from soy milk. The most vegan-friendly countries in the world include the following.
About 10% of the Taiwanese population is vegetarian because of the widespread Buddhist and Daoist influence in the country. The government also encourages people to be vegetarian on one day of the week. Food authorities strictly regulate the labeling of vegetarian products. The main ingredients in Taiwanese food are cooked roots, mushrooms, greens, tofu, and fresh veggies. Moreover, the local cuisine is mostly devoid of milk, yogurt, butter, honey, and other such products. While there isn’t a specific demand for vegan food, you can be sure that most vegetarian items you order in restaurant will be vegan-friendly.
Romania has a large number of options for vegan diets. This is mainly because the Romanian Catholic Church promotes the “post”, which is a bi-yearly dietary change. In the period before Christmas and Easter, everyone is encouraged to eat “de post”, which is 100% vegan with ingredients like Maioneza de post and Cascaval vegetal. While such dishes aren’t as easy to find throughout the rest of the year, some of the establishments continue to serve de post products. Anything labeled “Vegetal” is fit to be consumed by vegans throughout the year.
Getting vegan food in Thailand may be a bit tricky. While its consumption of animal products is relatively high as compared to India, a vast majority of the local Thai population follows Buddhism and therefore follows a vegetarian or vegan diet. Unfortunately, most restaurants use ingredients that have seafood or fish oil; even products marked vegan are likely to have these ingredients. However, vegetarianism is widely practiced across the country during the Nine Emperor God Festival.
Jewish dietary laws, called Kashrut, are among the most complex of all religious eating practices. Kosher diets are devoid of certain food products, and moreover, all food has to be prepared in a certain way. The word “Kosher” is used to describe foods that are fit for consumption as per the Jewish dietary law. Since there is a fairly large Jewish population across the globe, getting kosher food is reasonably easy in many nations.
Since this is a Jewish state, it is only natural for kosher food to be easily available in most restaurants, supermarkets, and grocery stores. Israeli cuisine mainly comprises recipes, ingredients and cooking methods that are a part of this diet. However, contrary to common belief, all food available in this country isn’t necessarily kosher; there are quite a few places that serve non-kosher food items too. It is therefore important to check if a product has the Hechsher symbol or if the establishment has the Hechsher certificate before consuming anything.
The United States
Most people have no difficulty at all in finding kosher food across the US, especially in the bigger cities. Numerous establishments have signs stating that they serve food that is in accordance with Jewish dietary laws. However, this isn’t necessarily the norm at all eating joints. When eating out, it is best to check if the food is kosher before ordering it. Even most of the processed food items available in grocery stores and supermarkets have the Hechsher symbol. According to the country’s laws, there is no requirement for labeling food kosher. Private food manufacturing organizations opt to get their products and inspection standards certified in order to attract more Jewish consumers.
Because of its proximity to the US, Canada has a fairly sizable Jewish population, which is growing every year, especially in the bigger cities and towns. Several eating establishments and food manufacturers are trying to cater to these consumers. Most of the local and US-made food products sold in supermarkets and grocery stores across this country is therefore in accordance with Jewish dietary laws. Packaged foods are easy to spot as they generally have Herchsher symbols. However, finding food that is kosher in restaurants and other such establishments may be a bit more challenging compared to Israel and the US.
Gluten is a name for the proteins found in wheat, barley, rye, and triticale. This substance is harmful for those who are suffering from allergies or certain health conditions. Up until a while ago, only those people suffering from celiac disease or a gluten intolerance were asked to follow a diet that was strictly gluten-free. However, today many individuals choose to consume products that do not have gluten due to a misconception that they lead to better health.
Dublin has a high incidence of celiac disease, because of which the city has become a haven for gluten-free consumers. In fact, the Irish Celiacs Association was formed in 1963, well before this disease became well-known in the rest of the world. Food authorities across the country strive to ensure that everyone can enjoy a safe yet hearty meal. Many establishments have a menu that is completely devoid of cereals that contain gluten. Some eating joints go as far as serving up gluten-free fish and chips. Most of the well-known supermarket chains have a dedicated section for products like pasta, cookies, crackers, and bread that don’t contain gluten. The variety and quality of such items only continue to get better because of the growing demand.
The local cuisine in this country is abundant in rice, seafood, and fresh meat, which makes it ideal for those on a gluten-free diet. Most establishments list out their ingredients clearly, so that diners are easily made aware of what they are consuming. They can also customize recipes to eliminate soy products. Gluten-free sauces are readily available at most markets.
Do you follow a restricted diet? How did you find settling into your new country? Let us know in the comments!