For anyone with a dietary intolerance, booking a trip to Everest Base Camp may leave you wondering what food is available to you on the trek. EverTrekker Seonaid Baird who trekked to EBC with us in 2019 has created this awesome article about her experiences to give you the peace of mind that you won't be going hungry:
So, you’ve decided that you would like to go trekking in Nepal. Firstly, great choice! But if like me you suffer from any dietary intolerances/allergies (gluten, wheat, dairy, alliums etc) or follow a restricted diet (Low Fodmap, vegetarian, vegan etc) then you probably have some concerns. What is the food like? Will I be able to eat anything? Can they cater for my dietary restrictions? Well the good news is that you probably don’t need to worry about finding food to eat in Nepalese tea houses.
I did the Everest Base Camp trek in October 2019, and have to follow a restrictive Low Fodmap diet with intolerances to gluten, wheat, dairy, onions, and many other things! Before my trek I was really apprehensive but actually, whilst it was a bit repetitive, I never went hungry!
You may have heard by now from the Yetis, that a vegetarian diet is recommended whilst on the trek so that’s a tick in the box for those on a vegetarian or vegan diet. And for everyone else, when you see how meat is transported up the trail, you’ll understand why it's off the menu! Don’t risk it!
Tea houses all have very similar menus. And the variety on offer is really surprising, especially when you see the size of some of the kitchens, and the number of people they are catering for (google image search ‘Nepal tea house menu’ to see lots of menu examples, or take a look at EverTrek’s article ‘Food & Accommodation on the Everest Base Camp Trek’ which talks more about the tea house menus in general).
It will be your Evertrek guides and assistant guides who will be taking your orders and speaking to the kitchens, so make sure they know of any food intolerances or restrictions that you have. Also, on longer trekking days, the guide will sometimes order lunch in advance to save time and everyone will have the same thing (usually sandwiches, or rice/noodles). Our guide always spoke to me at breakfast on those days and I was able to order something different that I could eat.
Breakfasts options tend to be porridge (plain, honey, apple, cinnamon), toast (with butter, jam, honey, french toast), fried eggs, omelettes and Tibetan bread, and cornflakes/muesli in some places.
For vegans or a dairy intolerance, you can ask to have porridge made with water instead of milk/milk powder. I just then sweetened this with sugar, but you may want to consider taking a small maple syrup or something similar with you to sweeten it. If you are vegan also check if the Tibetan bread comes with honey as it will be drizzled over the bread. And for gluten/wheat free options, eggs are a prominent feature on menus.
Lunch and dinner options will be the same, and are generally sandwiches, dhal bhat, pastas, noodles, fried rice dishes, potato dishes, pizzas, soup, momos (dumplings), spring rolls etc. There was no gluten free pasta or bread on the trek and the noodles are egg noodles rather than rice noodles so probably best to avoid if you are gluten intolerant. But I was able to eat vegetable fried rice (in my case made without onions), egg fried rice, potatoes with vegetables, fried egg and chips, omelette and chips, roast and fried potatoes etc. Just watch out as sometimes they sneak cheese onto pasta, fried noodle and potato dishes, so always best to remind your guide and check.
Snacks are probably the thing that you will struggle most with on a restricted diet over in Nepal. Gluten/dairy free products just didn’t exist in Nepal, even in Kathmandu – although I did find one pack of gluten free biscuits in the Thamel supermarket. Only £7 for 6 biscuits! Which I admit I did buy for the plane journey home.
The usual snacks you can buy on the trek are mars bars, snickers, pringles, haribo and biscuits. I tested my tolerances to some of these before leaving so I knew I could have half a snickers bar before my dairy intolerance kicked in for example. And half a snickers at the end of a long day trekking is better than no snickers believe me! But I’d recommend taking snacks from home with you that you can know you can eat. Even though these will count to your weight limit to Lukla, it’s worth it to have things you can eat to keep you going (and it will give you room to bring yourself back some nice presents from the shops in Namche!). I took some cereal bars, vegan chocolate bars, etc. Oh, and I recommend taking a nice treat with you that you can eat in the German bakery in Namche on days 2/3 of the trek when your new trekking buddies are all tucking into the delicious cakes. Glad I had a free from brownie with me so I didn’t feel left out!
So, as you can see, there are options and in my experience the tea houses and restaurants in Kathmandu were flexible about adapting dishes where possible. As I mentioned before, you might find yourself eating the same things often, but you will eat! And it’s totally worth it as Nepal is amazing. Enjoy your trek!