Vegetarians – could nutrients run low for business travellers?

Do vegetarians travelling frequently on business need to be extra conscious about the nutrient intake of their food?

When travelling for business our food choices are often altered and can be limited.  If we add extra restrictions, we need to take care not to compromise our nutrient intake.

At our home base, we can eat nutritious food and get our five-a-day, in the happy knowledge that the food available suits our requirements.  If time is short and we can’t be certain that the food available is totally free from meat or fish, the food options can be seriously restricted.  In the short term, there will be no adverse effects, apart from a diet which is dull.  But in the long term, we need to be aware of the nutrients most likely to be at risk of running low and take steps to avoid a sub-optimal intake.


Vegetarian (semi) sources of calcium

Calcium is always important. It’s not easy to achieve and maintain the maximum calcium density in our bones.  The Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) for an adult is around 700mg/day but absorption is reduced by smoking, and drinking too much alcohol, caffeine and acidic fizzy drinks.  A pot of yoghurt has around 200mg and a latte 240mg.

Non-dairy kinds of milk are fortified with calcium.  Fruit and vegetables have smaller amounts, an orange is pretty good at 75mg a serving of broccoli has around 34mg.

Business travel can inflict on us a sedentary lifestyle, weight-bearing exercise is vital to promote the uptake of calcium in the bones.


Vegetarian breakfast can provide iron

Breakfast can be the best meal of the day to access foods containing iron, for example, baked beans and eggs are good sources.  Packet breakfast cereals such as cornflakes or bran flakes, may not be our usual choice but are fortified with many vitamins and minerals, including iron and available on the most basic breakfast buffet.   Unusual sources include dried fruits such as apricots, figs, prunes and pumpkin seeds, which are increasingly available on the breakfast buffet.

Vegetarians will be aware that the absorption of iron can be impeded by the tannin in English breakfast tea and enhanced by the vitamin C in orange juice.  Dark chocolate containing at least 70% cocoa solids is also a good source of iron.


Essential for thyroid function, blood cell production and the regulation of body temperature, this mineral can tend to be low in our diet generally, so special attention is required when travelling.  Regular milk is a good source, potatoes have a little, strawberries too and dried prunes are a good portable source that can be carried as a snack or sometimes found on the breakfast buffet.  If you’re fond of a sushi based vegetarian snack, then seaweed is also a good source of iodine.


Selenium is another mineral that can go unnoticed but is also essential for thyroid function and to make antioxidant enzymes.  Brazil nuts are an excellent source of selenium and easy to carry as a snack.  Eggs and spinach also contribute a little selenium to the diet.  You can usually pick up a two egg and spinach snack from M&S Simply Foods, WHSmith and Boots in most UK airports.

Vitamin D

Mushroom and cheese omelette is a good source of Vitamin D

Has multiple roles including assisting our bones and teeth to absorb calcium and phosphorus, controlling immune function and cell division.  In winter our vitamin D status can be poor.  A short walk in the sunshine allows UVB to react with our skin and synthesize vitamin D, however, this is not a good solution if we have to avoid the suns powerful rays or use sunblock.

Some mushrooms are a good source of vitamin D, as are eggs, but a vegetarian-sourced supplement is the best choice to maintain a good vitamin D status.

Airlines, hotels and restaurants are generally good at accommodating vegetarian food choices, especially when given advance notice.  Carrying a few selected snacks of our own is the best way to ensure business travel doesn’t compromise our nutritional well-being.  As mentioned above, great snacks for these nutrients include eggs & spinach pot, yoghurt, cheese, dried apricots, pumpkin seeds, oranges and sushi.  You can pick these up at most retail outlets in the airport, such as Boots the Chemist, WHSmith and M&S Simply Food.

©  Extravitality 2018






Author: Carol Sadler PhD
Carol is a Nutrition Consultant. She counsels in diet and lifestyle change at Surrey Cardiovascular Clinic where clients have been referred by the clinic cardiologists. Prior to this Carol worked in private practice in Dubai for nine years, where she had various media engagements including Emirates Radio 2 Lifestyle Show monthly ‘phone-in’ on nutrition topics; Gulf News Friday Magazine (weekend supplement) monthly nutrition letter answered; City7 TV appearances on Breakfast Television and Lifestyle Show commenting on nutrition topics. Contributions to local magazines, and organizations, eg Rheumatoid Arthritis Group, Grazia Magazine, Living in the Gulf magazine. She continues to write nutrition articles and blogs, recently writing for Reader’s Digest, and HASTE Academy heart health charity and provides talks on diet issues. Carol is a member of The Nutrition Society, a Registered Nutritionist at the Association for Nutrition, Registration No. 912 and a member of SENSE (self employed consultant Nutritionists group for professional development).

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