Staying plant-strong while you’re traveling via planes, trains, and automobiles is a piece of cake (or even better, a piece of kale). I’ve been traveling a ton lately. In fact, in February I was on the road 22 out of 29 days! I was plant-strong and ripping it up day after day after day.
Here are some of my tips for staying fabulously plant-strong—no matter where you are. You can remember these with the acronym F.A.B.:
1. Figure out what you can eat.
Use the menu as a list of ingredients. A 100 percent plant-strong meal might not be listed on the menu, but maybe the restaurant uses some ingredients in other meals that are completely plant-strong. For instance, you might notice steamed vegetables and potatoes in one dish, and black beans in another. Well, the three together make for a great plate! Sometimes it is helpful to call ahead. You’d be surprised how many chefs will rise to the occasion and love making you a fabulous plant-strong meal. They may even come out to your table and let you know how much they enjoyed getting creative with your meal.
2. Ask for what you want.
Ask your waiter or waitress if a dish can be prepared with veggie broth instead of oil. Ask if they have whole-grain options. I’ve been told that the Pei Wei chain of restaurants is very accommodating with requests for plant-strong meals. You can ask for almost any dish to be made with brown rice and to have steamed vegetables and tofu instead of the meat. And get this: They will cook your meal using vegetable stock instead of oil! They call it “stock-velveted.” Sounds cool! Incidentally, their parent restaurant, PF Chang’s, will do the same thing.
3. Bring your own food.
I always pack a solid amount of food to take with me whenever I travel so that I have options on the plane or afterward when renting a car, driving to my next destination, etc. You can pack things such as the Rip’s Big Bowl or oatmeal and raisins for a quick breakfast in a hotel room. You can also pack soups, and there is even vacuumed-sealed cooked brown rice available for sale at most stores, so all you have to do is reheat it. You can make plant-strong burritos and sandwiches and pack them in a cooler for road trips as well.
More Tips on Eating Out
Technology is your friend when it comes to finding vegan meals on the go. Check out the Vanilla Bean app and the HappyCow app or website (happycow.net) to find all the vegan-friendly restaurants near you. Yelp is another great tool for finding nearby restaurants with vegan options.
Here are some tips for other restaurants:
- Asian restaurants: Ask for brown rice, steamed vegetables, steamed edamame, or tofu, hold the extra sauces, and use low-sodium soy sauce sparingly. Another good option is brown rice vegetable sushi.
- Italian: Go for whole-grain pasta and tomato sauce (with no cheese added), and ask them to throw in as many grilled/steamed vegetables as they can find!
- Steakhouse/American: Believe it or not, you can get a great meal at a steakhouse. Ask for potatoes, sweet potatoes, and lots of steamed vegetables. You can also ask for a huge salad. Ask your waiter for a salad with every fresh vegetable they have on hand (and even fruit), with a side of balsamic vinegar (or sneak in your own plant-strong dressing).
- Breakfast spots: Ask for oatmeal made with water or plant-based milk, fruit, and some nuts. You can also ask if they have whole-grain bread, a little nut butter, and some fruit.
- Coffee shops: Hot herbal tea is always a great option. Most coffee shops carry plant-based milk now as well instead of using dairy creamer. If you are having a snack, go for something like oatmeal. You can also get a little bit of dried fruit and nuts at many places. I’m a frequent flyer and go for the Starbucks oatmeal, which is available in almost all airports.
- Gas stations: If you are on the road, you can find fruit at most convenience stores, and sometimes whole-grain pretzels or unsalted nuts as well.
- Grocery stores: Don’t forget local grocery stores! You can get items such as oil-free hummus, whole-grain crackers or bread, cut-up vegetables/fruit, and low-sodium cans of beans (just be sure to pick up a cheap can-opener). You can even buy potatoes and frozen vegetables to microwave later in the hotel room. Or, you can make a great trail mix with whole-grain cereal, raisins, and a few nuts. Many grocery stores also have salad bars where you can make a great plant-strong meal. Go to wholefoods.com and find the closest Whole Foods Market and look for the Health Starts Here logo in the prepared foods section for oil-free, plant-strong options.
The bottom line is that no matter where you are, there are plant-based options to be found.
Stay plant strong anywhere!