It is Possible to Maintain a Healthy Diet During Travel
I was not always so savvy with vegan travel. For most of my life I have had a job that required me to travel on multi-day trips throughout the US and many other places in the world. I estimate that over 25 years, I’ve flown at least 2.5 million actual air miles. Most of these were for business (but I certainly used all the frequently flyer miles too!). For most of that time, I was not a healthy veggie eater. I ate and drank what I found on the journey (usually food I would never eat at home). I would get lazy and many of my meals were through room service. My food on trips was typically very rich, involved inappropriately large portions, and was not very healthy at all. Making matters worse, I found that I used comfort food and overeating in an attempt to cope with the stress and isolation of travel. Needless to say, over the years I packed on the pounds and did not support my health at all.
In recent years, I have adopted a much healthier diet. Now I eat a 95% whole-plant vegan diet. At first I struggled with maintaining this way of eating even at home. Once I mastered that (see my article on the Well-Equipped Vegan Kitchen), I proceeded to engineer ways to eat well while traveling. I have been remarkably successful in maintaining a healthy diet on the road, on both domestic and international trips. In this article, I will share some of what I have learned for successful vegan travel in the hopes it will inspire and support you to maintain a healthy diet even during times away from home.
Pre-Planning and Preparation is Key to Success for Healthy Vegan Travel
The real key to being able to eat healthy on the road is advance planning. The old adage about not planning being planning to fail is SO true! I will take an hour or so to plan out my meals based on my schedule. Many thing can be brought with you and others picked up at your destination. Figure out how much time you will have and what you can realistically commit to in terms of meal prep during your trip. Armed with your plan, make lists and be unstoppable in executing on it! This is eliminate the chance that you’ll be without healthy food and leave the door open for failure. Here are some of the strategies I use in my travel.
Suggested Take-Along Food Items
- Dehydrated Soups – these are very light and can be a great meal on the plane. The flight attendants are very happy to provide hot water for a quick and tasty meal. The McDougall soups are my favorites (particularly the black bean, split pea, or the Pad Thai flavors).
- Tetrapacks of Beans or Soups – I love the Pacific brand beans. These can be added to salads for a very satisfying meal
- Packets or cup of Oatmeal or other Breakfast Grains – so simple and easy
- Nuts & Seeds – nut butter packets are a convenient way to add protein to and apple for a hearty snack on the planet
- Kale Chips – there are so many now to choose from – available every where!
- Protein Bars/Powder – I am not a big fan of bars but some are OK. I love the Amazing Greens with Protein for a quick pick-me-up.
- Fruit/Avocados – what is easier than fruit? I even bring an avocado as it can be cut easily with a plastic knife and tastes wonderful with some chips. However, as I learned, TSA considers salsa unacceptable so even if in a sealed jar, this will be taken from you.
- Sliced Veggies in a Baggie – tastes great and perfect for the flight
Things to Bring for Food Prep
- Knife – there is nothing more frustrating that needing a good knife. I have some that permanently reside in the bags I check to support vegan travel. Here is one that I own and love:
- Cutting Board – I am normally not a fan of plastic cutting board but do make the exception for travel. Thin plastic cutting sheets fit easily into all suitcases.
- Baggies – the gallon size bags come in handy for chopped fruit, veggies, and leftovers.
- Tupperware Container with Lid – I usually bring just one for my large lunch salad I take with me
- Strainer – a strainer comes in handy for washing cut product and draining/washing beans, etc. I have a great collapsing one for my bag.
- Portable blender such as the Blend-to-Go works great – I have one that I bring on certain trips.
Things to Buy at Your Travel Location
- Food! Scout out the Healthy Grocery Store before you go and swing by upon arrival. Especially good are veggies for salads (and cooking, as possible). Don’t forget to pack a few reusable grocery bags too!
- Paper Towels
- Dish Soap
Suggested Meals for On-the-Road Dining
Breakfast – can be grains, overnight chia puddings, and/or smoothie bowls (if you have a blender).
Lunches – I will usually make a large salad with lots of healthy veggies I purchase at the travel destination city and top with beans, soup, or other goodies. I also sometime include fruit, nut butters, sliced raw veggies, hummus, guacamole, or nuts and seeds.
Dinners – is typically when I do some cooking. If the place you are staying has a kitchen, i suggest making a veggie stir fry with rice or quinoa, and some fruit-based dessert. You’ll elevate your vegan travel with a yummy, fresh-cooked, evening meal.
Choosing a Hotel with a Kitchen(ette) Can Be Very Helpful
Often I choose hotels like the Home2Suites by Hilton, Elements by Westin, or a Hyatt House. These properties have very acceptable guest suites with full well-stocked, kitchens. These rooms are certainly not the luxury of the regular Hyatt or Westin but these hotels support my needs much better (when it comes to eating healthy on the road). All the properties offer spacious and clean sleeping, living, and dining areas for hotel guests. As noted above, I do always travel with a good knife, a portable cutting board, baggies, spices, a collapsing strainer, a Tupperware container with locking lid, and a bamboo cutlery set (love this!).
The kitchens offered by these properties are well stocked with pans, utensils, dinnerware, stovetops, etc. to facilitate cooking of a great meal. Yes, you’ll need to check a bag (with your airline) in order to to bring your nice sharp knife and other supplies but that is really a small price to pay for a healthy on-the-road eating strategy.
I plans my meals on the plane, shop upon arrival, and prepare my food during the stay. Even in hotels without kitchens or kitchenettes, you can usually get a refrigerator. I will bring my mini blender with me and use this for soups, dressings, and smoothies. For longer stays, I have even purchased a cheap crock pot (from Walmart at my destination for maybe $20) which I fill with veggies, beans/grains, etc. in the morning and have a yummy meal waiting for me in the evening after my work day. I’ll leave it behind me which I check out – hopefully take and appreciated by some of the hotel staff! I’ve managed to make some really wonderful healthy dishes during business trip in many cites of the world! With a little commitment, you can maintain your healthy vegan travel without much hardship. It is SO worth it!
Do you have any tips and tricks for healthy veggie eating on the road? If so, please share them below!