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  • Writer's pictureJenni Foshey

Traveling as a Vegan to Tanzania, East Africa

*This blog post is based on my experience in Northern Tanzania while studying abroad through the School for Field Studies which may or may not also apply to food in other areas of Tanzania or Africa as a whole.*


Food on Flights

I flew with KLM Royal Dutch Airlines to and from Tanzania. Before boarding, I had the option to inform the crew of any dietary accommodations- mine of course was to have vegan meals. I wasn’t sure what to expect with vegan airplane food. I thought it would be a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, pretzels, and maybe fruit. To my surprise, I had an AWESOME variety of food on all of my flights and loved them all.


Breakfast

Breakfast meals on my KLM flights were simple, yet yummy. One meal was a rice cake patty, vegan butter, peanuts, and hummus with raw veggies. On the way home, my breakfast consisted of hash brown patties, brown beans, spinach, a roll, and juice.

Overall, I am very impressed with KLM and their vegan accommodations. Some of these dishes I would not have ordered on my own, so I am glad that I was surprised for every meal. Because of their amazing vegan accommodations, I will try to fly with them whenever possible in my future journeys.


Lunch/Dinner

One typical lunch/dinner meal I received was a rice dish with sides of chickpeas, peanuts, raw vegetables, and a dinner roll with vegan butter on my flight from Chicago to Amsterdam. My flight from Amsterdam to Kilimanjaro (also with KLM) I received a lunch of a mixed greens salad, a dish of vegetables with lentils and spinach, a dinner roll, and mixed fruit. I also had something that looked like a hot pocket that was filled with different veggies and beans for another meal. My flights home had similar meals to the ones I had on the way to Tanzania.


Vegan lunch served on my KLM flight. (Side Salad, roll, vegan butter, mixed fruit, cooked spinach, lentils, potato and pepper mix).



Campus Cuisine

Before arriving in Tanzania, I thought I was going to have super limited and repetitive options the entire month I was there. I was expecting oatmeal for breakfast, pb&j with veggies for lunch, and rice and beans for dinner. Surprisingly, I had so many options! Breakfast was the only repeatable meal for me; every morning I had oatmeal, toast with peanut butter and jelly, and maybe some fruit like watermelon, pineapple, or banana.


My daily breakfast on campus at Moyo Hill. (Toast with peanut butter, fruit, and oatmeal).

Lunch and Dinner consisted of similar food but changed every day. Common (vegan) food I had while on campus was: white and brown rice, green beans, other various beans, lentils, black eyed peas, ugali (popular Tanzanian corn meal that looks like mashed potatoes), spinach, pasta, vegetable samosas, cucumbers, carrots, avocado, roasted peppers and onions, potatoes, hummus, watermelon, pineapple, mango, banana, veggie burgers, fried banana, and a veggie salad mix of cucumber, tomato, onions, and dressing- I always put this on top of my noodles.



Every day the kitchen crew made a snack at around 3 or 4 o’clock. Sometimes there were roasted peanuts, cashews, chocolate nachos (homemade chips with a Hershey syrup drizzle), bananas, and popcorn. The kitchen crew sometimes made desserts, like cake, but they were not vegan, so I didn’t get to eat them. However, on my last night there they made chocolate-peanut butter-oatmeal balls which were vegan and soooo good :)


Just a fun fact…East African countries use a lot of oil while cooking. Oil is used in almost every dish I had. It wasn’t bad; the food was super delicious- especially the rice! However, some people experience upset stomachs because of the amount of oil used. I was personally unaffected by the oil, but just keep this in mind when planning your trip to an East African country.


In all, I loved the food in Tanzania and had a much wider variety than I thought I would. Most food in Tanzania is vegan to begin with, so it wasn’t super challenging. Of the 25 students on this program, there was one vegan (me), about six vegetarians, one pescatarian, and one vegetarian who also followed a gluten-free diet. We all enjoyed the food, but what really helped us when we wanted more variety was the snacks we individually brought.


Suitcase Snacks

Before departing, I made sure I packed a variety of snacks just in case there were little or no vegan options while travelling or on campus. With me, I packed about four different kinds of granola bars, Ritz peanut butter crackers, and dried fruit such as mangoes, raisins, and pineapple. I highly recommend bringing granola bars and dried fruit with you on your journey to Africa because they’re healthy and easy to stuff into luggage! I also brought trail mix and pistachios for protein. For drinks, I packed Vitamin C powder packs and other flavors to mix in with my water. I packed the majority of my snacks in my suitcase and only stuffed a couple granola bars and a bag of dried pineapple in my carry-on. I brought the perfect amount of food to last me a month while in Tanzania. Of course, I was provided with meals and snacks as part of the program, but for extra snacks I brought the perfect amount.



Conclusion

Being a vegan in East Africa (Tanzania specifically) was not nearly as difficult as I thought. The food was great (sometimes repetitive but it was so good that I didn’t mind it) and I never felt hungry. The meals were filling and the snacks I packed helped soothe my hunger between meals or while out on safaris. To any vegetarians or vegans travelling to East Africa, follow these tips:


- Bring snacks! (see ideas in “Suitcase Snacks”)

- Be creative and try new things

- Don’t be afraid to ask what the ingredients are!

- It helps to learn how to ask questions in whatever language is used in the country of travel and know the names of food you cannot have. If you are going to Tanzania, saying “Sili nyama na mayai na maziwa” means I do not eat meat or eggs or milk in Swahili.

- Peanut butter should be your best friend



If you have any questions regarding veganism in East Africa, please don’t hesitate to contact me! I’d love to hear from you!

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