Vegan Trekking Food in Nepal

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Many behavioral omnivores are concerned about going vegan because they think that it is too difficult, especially when traveling. I am happy to tell you that trekking in Nepal is a good destination for vegans. I would not say it is a great destination, as the food situation is not fantastic for omnivores either. It certainly is not like Thailand, Bali or the West Coast of the US but it is good. Let me explain…

It was my second visit to Nepal as a vegan, for Seb, his third so we feel like we have a good lay of the land now and would love to give you some tips in case you are planning a trip to this beautiful part of the world.

First of all, a little about our context. We were tea house trekking which means you stay at a little, usually very basic guesthouse every night and along the way there will be other guesthouses that you can have lunch in and snacks. While nearly everyone has porters and guides to help them carrying their belongings. We didn’t. We carried our own bags. We certainly did not prepare our foods or were self -sufficient. It is also worth saying, that we went in winter time which is pretty cold weather. This means that we observed very few vegetables being grown or available. The situation might be different at other parts of the year but at the higher reaches of the trek they told us that all vegetables are imported by plane from Kathmandu and that food had to be brought to the villages on the back of the yaks or the porters at considerable expense. This explains the high prices of foods compared with those in the valley or in Kathmandu. It is also worth mentioning that in my previous visit to Nepal, I spoke with someone who worked for the World Food Program in Nepal. She told me that the was a lot of malnourishment in the mountainous areas of Nepal to the extent a many people needed vitamin supplementation. At the time, this surprised me, but on my second visit, I could certainly see how this is the case even in the relatively wealthy valley of the Khumbu. There are few vegetables, hardly any fruit and to be honest, not a lot of protein either especially for those who do not need eggs.

So what kind of food is available while trekking in the teahouses?

Most of the food available is refined carbohydrates and processed foods. Some examples of items you will find on a trek are…

Dal baht: This is local stable in the mountains and I really like this. It will compose of a big plate of white rice, a bowl of thin dal broth and a vegetable curry. Usually the higher you get up the mountain,  the vegetables will be more like just potato so it not especially nutritious apart from just calories.

Magical-World

Fried rice and fried noodles. Again a tasty option, and includes some vegetables, but not that many

Momos. These a small steamed dumplings also made with refined flour and some vegetables inside.

Happy Sleepy

Pasta. One of my favorites. There might be a few different versions. The best is one served with tomato sauce which seemed to just be a canned tomato sauce or soup.

Popcorn. A fantastic snack to have when you arrive at the trek and waiting for dinner.

Plates of boiled vegetables are available although they are usually not very flavorful and fun to eat. They are also expensive.

Potatoes… Lots of them. Rostis, french fries and hash browns. All those not vegan are easily made vegan (Can I have the rosti minus the egg and the cheese?).

Soups. Lots of these that are vegan, yet not especially healthy.

Oatmeal without milk. One of the better choices. Usually you will need to add sugar and sometimes there will be some apple too.

Also a the lodges there are lots of vegan processed foods which can work out well. Oreo cookies, Pringles, candies.

As you see, there are plenty of foods available that are high in calories which is what you need when you are expending so many calories as you do on a a trek in cold conditions however, they are not necessarily the most healthy and I would suggest that working so hard on a diet that is low in nutrition over a long period of time without those incredibly important phytonutrients that should be making up a significant part of our plate each meal and I do not like missing out on my fruit and vegetables over such a long period of time that a trek can be. Some people can go trekking for weeks a a time. I contracted a cold towards the end of the trek, and I have a sneaky feeling it was because my body was not as healthy as it normally is.

So, here are some tips  to make your trek healthier and more delicious.

So, the food available at the teahouses are not especially exciting as a vegan so you will want to  bring something to make things a bit more exciting. Cookies are of course fantastic and we went crazy over a pack of Mcvities Ginger Nuts by Day 8 of the trek.  Dark chocolate is a fantastic snack to have on the trek.  A plastic jar of peanut butter is tasty and delicious. Seb thought sways of chocolate dipped in peanut butter was pretty awesome and I have to say I do agree. Ordering chapattis and spreading them with peanut butter and rolling them up and putting them in a zip lock is a good snack to have. Dried seaweed snacks are also great to have in your bag. Although not calorie dense, they are a fantastic (and light) source of vitamins and minerals. In Asia the are a huge array of seaweed snacks available. I brought this one.

You can also bring dried vegetables on the trek too. I stocked up on some from Thailand called Betterday but I am sure which ever country you are from there will be dried vegetable snacks that you can stock up on. Another thing you might like to bring is soy milk powder. Most of the milk available on the mountain is dried cows milk so asking the guesthouse to make up some powdered soy milk should not be a problem and this will open up a few more options on the trek. Granola bars are also good things to take. Although carbohydrates and sugar is not really something that is difficult to find in the mountains, if they are made from whole grains, then it would be a good source of fibre and nutrients something that is lacking up there.

Green powders would be a fantastic thing to include in your backpack. Normally, you would not put even powders in water as it would not taste particularly nice.  I put my green powders in a smoothie where the taste would be disguised but smoothies are not really an option on the mountain. I would probably just add a spoon to the last dregs of my water bottle and drink it down to get some nutrition in to my body. The last thing I would probably like to bring is some sort of seasoning. Gomashio or a small bag of nutritional yeast will be light, but some sprinkled on your food will give some good flavour and of course great vitamins and minerals.

Negotiating with staff at the guesthouses is very easy indeed. They are usually very good English speakers and understand the concept of vegetarianism, indeed, they eat mainly vegetarian food. Vegan is not a term they are familiar with, but it is easy to ask questions like “does this have milk, eggs, cheese?” Or “can go make this without cheese?” For example.

So that is all I have got. I hope this gives you some ideas about how you make  you trek more nutritious. If you have any more ideas to make Nepal treks a bit more healthy, please leave them in the comments below.

And Then There Were Four… Yosemite National Park

After San Francisco we left for Yosemite National Park with 4 people, all necessary camping stuff and food to fit in to a Rav 4. A fantastic vehicle but not the biggest car in the world. Luckily, thanks to Seb’s incredible packing skills we managed to get it all in and still manage to see out of the back window. Seb had a number of responsibilities. He was GPS programmer and navigator too. This all came under the umbrella of minister of transportation. The rest of us had roles too. Jack was minister of information. His job was to be the accomm booker as well as the person who had to find out information to the extent he was often pouring over a book rather than being able to enjoy the view however. Poor Jack! As Seb needed a lot of internet access for work he had purchased this little device in Seattle. It worked so well and we could connect 5 devices to it. I love having the internet as did the rest of our group so we all loved this little addition to our glamping trip. Maija was our official photographer. I especially appreciated this. I love having photos but I am not so keen on taking them. I was food and beverage manager. I was also finance manager but I completely sucked at this job and got completely confused with about 2 days. I did manage to look after our shared kitty fairly well. Due to all of us having our own cash but having a lot of shared expenses like gas, food and camping fees we used a spare purse for a kitty. It sure makes things a lot easier at bill payment time. There you have it. Today’s group travel tip. You’re welcome.

Will it all fit in?

It did!! Just!!

I knew that Yosemite was supposed to be beautiful but it really is amazing and possible my favourite type of climate and landscape. Most people stay in the valley but it was completely full. We stayed at White Wolfe Campsite (no showers!) which was up in the high country and almost an hour from the valley. We arrived at lunchtime so while the others set up tent I prepared Pastrami Reubens and a huge side salad which was so easy to make especially on the grill pan we had which was similar to this one.

Campfire food – Pastrami Reubens

Setting up camp!

After lunch we headed to Luccens Lake which was only 4 km walking distance from our campsite. Not a stunning walk, but the destination was stunning.

Walking to Lucens Lake

As the sun went down it started to get really cold. I cooked us up Quesadillas for dinner which was such easy campfood. So easy to make if you are car camping. Get yourself a tortilla spread it with hummus, salsa. black beans, spring onions and non-dairy cheese. Don’t put too many filling ingredients in or it will be too difficult to flip. Put another tortilla on the top and place it on a hot griddle or large fry pan. When it is brown and crispy flip it and cook on the other side. Serve with a splodge or non-dairy sour cream and guacamole. These were a big hit with our veg campers.

No Queso Quesadillas. Also perfect campfire food. I know.. A wine bottle is up my nose.

Maija demonstrating her Finnish campfire skills.

Seb and I slept so well, but Maija and Jack (total cold bunnies) had a very fitful night’s sleep. The temperature dropped to 2 degrees and we were quite unprepared for that. The time between getting up and leaving for our morning walk in the valley was really hard and it took ages to get moving.

So cold. Maija warms her hands on the tea water.

We headed down in to the valley and went to the carpark. Popular national parks have central car parks and you catch shuttles to get around the more popular areas. While it took a while to orientate yourself to get around the park it really did work well and buses arrived on a very regular basis. We took our first shuttle to El Capitan. Using some borrowed binoculars we were able to see people who were climbing up this 900 metre high monolith. I’d like to be able to rockclimb.

Glorious day with El Capitan in the background

We walked back through to the valley by Yosemite Falls alongside the river and ate lunch there.

On arrival in the village we went to Ahwanee Hotel for a coffee which was inspiration for the hotel in The Shining.

Ahwanee?? Again?? Yep.. It’s so beautiful!

We were pooped so we drove back to our campsite and I prepared South Western Quinoa Soup and completely messed up the campstove for th rest of the trip due to an overfull pan and total darkness. Perfect for our rapidly freezing bodies and a great camping dish generally. Serve it with the sour cream and guac.

Maija prepared the equivelent of Finnish Smores. Bananas peeled half way around and dark chocolate broken in to squares and inserted in to the banana and then heated through. Much healthier and easier than that marshmallow stuff. Next time though I would not put them on a grill as we nearly lost them to the fire. I shudder to think.

We woke up early the next morning so we could pack up and head to Los Angeles. Like all the national parks we visited I feel like we only got oriented and saw a tiny fraction of the park. In order to be at peace with the fact I had to promise myself to come back, to consider this trip a taster for exploring some areas in a lot more detail next time.

Freezing cold breakfasts at White Wolf

Bear cupboards

Actually when we departed Yosemite rather than arriving.