As we start to venture out of our homes with the world starting to open up, it can feel stressful to think about how to keep up with your wellness goals and plant-based nutrition while traveling and dining out. Whether you are looking forward to a day trip, a longer road trip, or a vacation getaway, we have 5 TIPS for you to stay healthy and eat plant-based while on the road!
1. Plan ahead
The best way to succeed is to make a plan. Just as you are likely planning activities to do, sights to see, and outfits to wear on your adventures, set aside some time to plan how you are going to stay plant strong while out. Think about how much you can/want to pack food with you versus how much you want to eat out. For overnight trips, consider booking lodging that provides access to things like a fridge, toaster, microwave, or maybe even a full kitchen (Airbnb can be a great way to have access to a kitchen). Do some research about the places you are going and see what food options are like, use an internet search for plant-based/vegan recommendations, crowd-source on social media to see if anyone has recommendations/suggestions.
2. Pack non-perishable food
Bring some non-perishable staple foods with you for snacks and easy to prepare meals on the go. If you’re flying, stop at a grocery store shortly after arriving to stock up on some basics. Bring a cooler if you can, to keep things like hummus, roasted chickpeas, plant-based yogurt cups, and cut fruit/veggies fresh. Pack a few paper or reusable plates, bowls, utensils, can opener, small paring knife with protector shield/swiss army knife, etc. so you can prep your food. Even most gas stations now have fresh fruit, hummus packs, and other plant-based options in a pinch.
- Oats, hardy fruit (apples, clementines, grapes, cherries, watermelon cubes in a container, etc), dried fruit, unsalted nuts, granola, sprouted bread, nut butter, unsweetened applesauce packs
- Roasted chickpeas, sugar snap peas, no oil/low salt popcorn, mary’s gone crackers, celery sticks and PB, carrots and hummus (kept in a cooler), plant-based single-serve yogurt containers (kept in a cooler)
- Canned beans (low/no salt), canned soups/stews (low/no salt)
Nowadays it is easier than ever to eat plant-based while dining out at restaurants. HappyCow website and app are great ways to search for vegan and vegetarian restaurants all around the world. If you can’t find something listed in the town you are going to, try looking for Ethnic restaurants. Most Thai, Japanese, Chinese, Ethiopian, Mediterranean/Middle Eastern, Mexican, Italian, or Indian cuisines have several dishes that are already plant-based (just be sure to ask about any hidden animal products- fish sauce, ghee, beef broth/chicken stock, lard, eggs, dairy, etc). Even at steakhouses and pubs, check the side dishes, and make your own bigger meal from a combination of them. If you don’t see anything on the menu, don’t be afraid to politely ask if they can make something plant-based-- you’ll be surprised how accommodating most restaurants will be, especially if you ask nicely and smile.
Ethnic restaurant options:
- Asian: stir fry, pho, curry, veggies & rice, tofu, veggie sushi
- Mediterranean: tabbouleh, hummus, lentils & rice, falafel, couscous, baba ganoush
- Indian: vegetable based dishes, lentil/chickpea dishes & soups, chana masala
- Italian: pasta primavera, pasta with red sauce, minestrone soup
- Mexican: burrito, burrito bowls, tacos, fajitas
- Ethiopian: veggie & bean/lentil stews, injera bread (fermented teff flour flatbread)
- American/Steak House/Pub: roasted veggies, beans, baked potatoes, hummus, salad, veggie patty
Chain restaurant options:
- Chipotle: burrito bowl with brown rice, black or pinto beans, onions and peppers, guacamole, tomatoes, lettuce, and salsa
- Panera Bread: strawberry salad, mediteranean or baja bowl minus feta & yogurt, ten veggie soup
- Applebee’s: southwest chicken bowl minus the chicken (rice, black beans, corn, salsa)
- Wendy’s: baked potato and broccoli, new black bean patty
- Starbucks (and some dunkin donuts): oatmeal cups
4. Seek out farm stands & farmers’ markets
While traveling, look for farm stands and farmers’ markets to support local farms and enjoy the tasty, fresh, seasonal foods of the area you are in. There’s nothing like exploring a new place like tasting the local and seasonal farm specialties! Enjoy the local produce by itself as a snack or combine with some of your pre-packed staple foods to make a fresh veggie sandwich or wrap, fruit and plant-based yogurt parfait, veggies dipped in hummus, etc.
5. Progress not perfection
Always remember the plant-based journey is about progress not perfection. A single meal will not make or break your health, it’s what we eat and do the majority of time that matters most. If a restaurant batch cooks things and can’t accommodate no oil, it’s okay every once in a while. Enjoy the vegan ice cream on the beach one night. Move on and do your best to make your next meal a plant-strong one.
It can be helpful to check in with yourself before the trip, regularly during the trip, and even after the trip to reflect and plan for future travel. Knowing yourself -- your goals, your current health status, your triggers/temptations, if you can get back on track quickly, if you fall off track and get derailed for months, etc -- is helpful for planning purposes. Remember that stress is stress. If staying 100% whole foods plant-based, is stressing you significantly, that’s likely less healthy than just going with the options you have in front of you. Consider an 80/20 approach where 80% of the time you focus on whole foods, plant-based eating and 20% of the time you allow yourself to eat outside of that. And if you are still struggling to stay on track with plant-based eating, consider keeping up with intermittent fasting and/or exercise while being more liberal with your food choices.