Think back to your last trip. How was the food? Did it hit the sweet spot? As in, was it healthy as well as delicious? It’s fun to indulge in the local cuisine, but you don’t want to feel stuffed and lethargic afterwards, right? Wouldn’t it be nice to eat a light, fresh, mouth-watering meal and finish feeling satisfied and energetic enough to walk back to your hotel?
Your best bet, of course, is to cook. (Check out my Guide to Cooking Great Food on Vacation with five of my favourite no-fuss crowd-pleasing meals.)
But if it’s a restaurant experience you crave, here’s my secret: Find the local vegetarian hot spot. (Die-hard meat eaters, hang with me! This trick can work for you too, as I’ll explain below.)
It turns out that vegetarian and vegetarian-friendly are often (although not always!) a good proxy for healthy. These folks know what to do with vegetables and they’ll give you a decent portion of them, along with nuts and seeds, pulses like lentils, and real whole grains like quinoa. And they know how to make all of this food taste amazing. As a bonus, they usually have a commitment to sustainable, ethical food production as well. Hits the sweet spot indeed!
How to find them? You can ask around, of course, but if you want to use an app, I find Trip Advisor best for carnivores experimenting with the “vegetarian-friendly” idea, and Happy Cow if you’re up for actual vegetarian food. Try them both, and see what you discover.
Trip Advisor How-To
In Trip Advisor, start with a basic restaurant search, and then look for the “filter” box. Under “Cuisine Type,” check off “Vegetarian.”
Some of the results will be bona fide vegetarian restaurants and some will offer fish, chicken, and meat as well. For example, in Calgary, you’ll find Dirtbelly, a salad mecca which offers ahi tuna and chicken along with a mouth-watering veggie feast.
If you’re in a big city you’ll get a long list, so you might want to select a few more relevant filters (cost, distance, etc.) and switch it to sort by ranking or distance, as you prefer. Now it should be pretty easy to narrow down your choices.
Another option in Trip Advisor is to select “Healthy” or “Gluten Free” under Cuisine Type. This sometimes leads you to enlightened, conscientious eateries, but sometimes not. For example, searching for “Gluten Free” in Calgary nets you The Coup (certainly a sweet spot choice) as well as The Keg (not so much). Just because it’s gluten-free doesn’t necessarily mean it’s healthy. (That’s true for vegetarian too, but I find there are fewer duds.)
Healthy Cow How-To
If you’re actually open to having a vegetarian meal, try the “Healthy Cow” app. It’s much more vegan and vegetarian-focused, although you’ll find some non-vegetarian choices by selecting “Veg-Options”.
Most of the results are granola-eating, tree-hugging havens offering (delicious) gluten-free, local, and sometimes even raw food. If you’re into that, you’ll love Happy Cow.
The downside is Happy Cow has a smaller user community, so you can’t trust the rankings quite as much (they’re often based on just a handful of reviews).
Healthy Cow is also great for seeking out sweet spot picnic goodies (think salads made with wheat berries, chickpeas, roasted peppers, fresh fruit and more). Just search with the “Stores + more” filter. The only downside is that you’ll shell out more than if you’d just popped into Subway. But the food will be much, much better.
Whether you’re travelling for business 100 days a year, or just heading out for your annual summer road trip, try a vegetarian meal or two. You never know, you might really like it!
Let me know how it goes by leaving a comment on the Sweet Spot Facebook page. And happy travels!
Note: Thank-you to The Coup restaurant in Calgary who helped me out with the two beautiful food pics at the top of the article. No financial relationship. I’m just a fan.