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Travel isn’t always easy as a vegetarian or vegan, and next to New Orleans, I expected Jamaica to be my most challenging destination yet. It’s literally a country that’s famous for its Jerk chicken, for oxtail and beef patties, for having some of the best fast food fried chicken in the world (no joke). I pictured myself living on watermelon slices and bread from the hotel’s daily buffet and that’s about it. But that’s fine right? Vacation diets are a thing?
As it did in almost every other way, Jamaica exceeded my expectations by a long shot when it came to food. Everywhere we went there were vegetarian options at the very least, and a lot of stops had vegan alternatives too! Yes, the staples are generally still meat-based, and vegetarianism isn’t always received with total welcome, but over my five days touring the country I found folks to be much more accommodating than expected.
Though meat is major, the many followers of the Rastafarian religion believes in following the Ital diet, which means a massive percentage of the population not only condemns meat, but many avoid dairy and other by-products too! Here’s how I ate my way through the week:
1 // Look for local treasures.
There are a ton of amazing veggie staples growing fresh in Jamaica, like avocado, mango and coconuts to name a few, but there are also so many native fruits and veggies that I had never heard of! Look for Calilloo, callabash, okra, star apple, otaheite apple, bread fruit and more.
2 // Don’t forget to pack Pepto Bismol!
It’s pretty common to experience unexpected upset stomachs while travelling in a new place with new food, and should you happen to end up feeling a bit off from eating spice or over-indulgencing, you’ll want to be prepared! At the first sign of an upset stomach, I fix it fast with Pepto. There’s nothing worse than spending a day on a sunny vacation locked inside in bed! The Pepto chewables are my favourite for trips because you can take them in your purse anywhere in case of emergency, and since they’re not a liquid they’re totally safe for carry on. After all, spicy new food shouldn’t spoil your fun!
3 // Eat like a Rastafarian
Many Rastas follow a strict “Ital” diet, which means eating only plant based and meatless. A lot of the popular Jamaican restaurants off-resort will offer veggie options as a result, like the soy patties at Juici, which taste a LOT like their famous beef patties without the meat! Also keep your eye out for steamed vegetables, Jamaican curry dishes and corn on the cob.
4 // Load up at salad bars
When you find veggies, eat veggies! There are days where you’ll be stuffing yourself with fresh produce, but there are also days where the only thing on offer is the fried Festival Bread. If there is a salad bar at your resort, go crazy! Get those greens in while you can so your body feels full and balanced.
A few of my favourite places to eat and drink //
Scotchie’s – A local favourite for jerk bbq, order one of everything!!!
Juici Patties – With 2 veggie patty options this spot is a winner.
Rick’s Cafe – Get a veggie burger at the grill and watch the sunset.
Zimbali Farms – So many amazing vegan options, and cooking classes!
Disclaimer: Pepto Bismol provides five-symptom relief of heartburn, indigestion, nausea, upset stomach and diarrhea. To ensure this product is right for you, always read and follow the label.