Written by Emily Perryman, MS, RD
With summer in full swing, many of us are likely in the midst of planning a vacation or have already enjoyed some fun travels. While it might seem daunting to stay on track while away from home, rest assured that it is doable with a bit of planning and creativity. Let the adventure begin!
Consider bringing your own food and/or plan to stop at a grocery store
Pack basic ingredients for some quick meals and/or plan to stop at a grocery store along your way. Some ideas to pack or pick up include oats, whole wheat or bean pasta, tomato sauce, canned or fresh veggies, fruits, potatoes, sweet potatoes, salsa, and canned beans. Consider making one or two of your favorite meals beforehand, freezing, and packing in a cooler to enjoy on the road or when you reach your destination.
Pack some plant-based snacks
Long days on the road can certainly make you hungry. Plan to pack some of your favorite snacks to avoid less healthful options when you get hungry. Some ideas include:
- Raw veggies with oil-free hummus
- Air-popped popcorn
- Brown rice cakes alone or with hummus
- Homemade roasted chickpeas
- Homemade kale chips
- Dry roasted edamame
- Veggie and hummus sandwich on rye or whole wheat bread
Dining out is often a part of a road trip, whether wanting to experience the tastes of local cuisines or as a meal option while on the road. Navigating restaurant menus can take a little practice but is doable with research, creativity, and communication.
Many restaurants have online menus that can be reviewed ahead of time. Using an app or website like Happy Cow, VegDining, and Vanilla Bean can help locate restaurants that offer plant-based options. Yelp is also a good tool for finding nearby restaurants with vegan or vegetarian options that can be adapted to fit your needs.
Get creative with ordering
In cases where a restaurant does not offer a fully plant-based meal and no other eateries are nearby, use the menu as a list of ingredients in which you can ask if a plant-based meal can be made for you. For example, if the menu lists steamed veggies and a baked potato as sides and has an entree that contains black beans, see if a meal from these ingredients could be made for you.
Kindly communicate your needs
If possible, call ahead to make the staff aware of your dietary preferences and to see if they can accommodate such. Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification about different options on the menu to make sure they suit your needs. You may want to kindly ask if a dish can be made without oil and if whole grain options are available for bread, tortillas, and noodles.
Ideas for plant-based options at different types of restaurants:
- Plain baked potato or sweet potato with beans, corn, or salsa
- Low-fat, plant-based selections from the salad bar
- Sides of rice, beans, and steamed veggies
- Veggie burger
- Make sure veggie burgers are made without eggs or cheese
- Appetizers: steamed vegetable dumplings, edamame, seaweed salad, miso soup
- Steamed veggies and brown rice or noodles, with or without tofu
- Veggie sushi
- Make sure pad thai does not contain eggs
- Check that dishes do not contain oyster or fish sauce
- Order sauce on the side or consider creating your own sauce using low sodium soy sauce and/or hot sauce
- Appetizers: Tabulah salad, hummus, grape leaves, Mutabbal eggplant, fatoush salad
- Falafel wrap with tahini and salad
- Mujadarah (rice with lentil)
- Kushari (Egyptian dish rice and chickpeas or dal comes with red sauce)
- Ash soup (Persian bean and noodle soup)
- Legume and vegetable dishes/stews
- Tomato-based chickpea, lentil, and vegetable curries
- Lentil stews or dals
- Veggie and tofu curries with brown rice
- Be aware of ghee and yogurt-based curries
- Minestrone or pasta fagioli soup
- Pasta, whole grain if available, with tomato sauce and veggies
- Pizza without cheese, loaded with your favorite veggies and herbs
- Salad, see if beans can be added and if vinegar or lemon juice is available for dressing
- Make sure soups are not made with animal-based broth
- Check that noodles do not contain egg
- Bean and veggie burrito or tacos
- Veggie fajitas
- Rice and beans
- Make sure beans are made without pork or lard
Opting for a camping vacation?
Have a plan for meals and snacks so you will know the required ingredients and equipment to pack. Doing some prep beforehand, like washing and chopping veggies, measuring seasonings, and making a batch of a soup or stew that you can freeze and reheat at camp makes things easier once you arrive. Consider some of these options for tasty meals that you can whip up when hungry:
- Oatmeal with fruit
- Homemade granola or bran cereal with some shelf-stable non-dairy milk and fruit
- Potato, bean, and veggie scramble
- Lunch or dinner
- Chickpeas or 3 bean salad with some veggies
- Build-your-own bowl: pre-cooked or quick-cooking whole grain, some canned beans or lentils, and veggies (canned or washed and chopped fresh) to make a flavorful bowl at camp, add some spark with salsa, vinegar, or low-sodium soy sauce or liquid aminos
- Whole grain or legume pastas cook quick, add some veggies and oil-free tomato sauce for as tasty meal
- Grill some homemade veggie burger, carrot dogs, and veggies
What if you're staying at an Airbnb or hotel?
Try to select a place to stay where you have access to a kitchen or kitchenette. Once settled, make a plan for meals and snacks and head to a local store for items for your stay.
 Dr Neal Barnard. 2007. Dr Neal Barnard’s Program for Reversing Diabetes. New York: Rodale.
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