You CAN eat healthy vegan food when you're on the road. It's Veganuary, so let's figure out how to eat vegan while traveling!
Veganuary - How to Eat Vegan While Traveling
How is your Veganuary going? Are you sticking with it? Do you feel good? I bet you are, and I bet you are!
I just got back from a fabulous trip to Savannah, Georgia, and I didn’t starve! First, let me say that you have to visit this beautiful, historic town. It’s the oldest city in Georgia and it’s insanely cool. It also has an abundance of restaurants, many of them vegan friendly. Love you Savannah!
Okay, eating out as a vegan can be hard. I’m not going to sugar coat this folks. There will be times when you ask your server if he/she has any vegan options on the menu and he/she will look at you like you are an alien. Are you a vegan or an alien? In some people’s minds, it’s the same damn thing. If you find yourself in that kind of situation don't get frustrated. You can work around this if you keep the creative side of your brain lubed up and ready to go.
So, the first day we arrived in Savannah was the day of the Outback Bowl, the Rose Bowl, and the infamous Sugar Bowl. How in the f@c# did Bama lose that game?!! I just keep hearing that Taylor Swift song in my head “shake it off, shake it off.” It’s the only thing that’s getting me through until next season. Anyway, there is a fantastic pedestrian mall in the center of the city, and they set up a huge projector next to a wings restaurant (kind of like Buffalo Wild Wings), and we got to watch the games with lots of football fans while they chomped on their wings. Ya gotta love the South, they know how to tailgate and watch a football game! But wait! What did Alex and I eat?
Alex stuck to guacamole and chips, but I needed something more, like a fresh salad. Have you seen the kinds of salads they have in places that pride themselves on their wings? It goes something like this: fried chicken and cheese salad – grilled chicken and cheese salad – taco salad with chicken and cheese….. You get the idea. But guess what, I got a salad y’all! Even though the server thought I was bat shit crazy. Whateva!
He started out looking at me like I was an Alien when I asked for a glass of Sauvignon Blanc. Really? Is that such a foreign concept? It turned out that they only had chardonnay or Pinot Grigio. I went with the chard. Then, hahaha, it was time to take our orders. Alex ordered guacamole, my husband ordered fried mushrooms and onion rings (he stopped eating chicken. I love him), and I ordered the chicken taco salad without the chicken or cheese, and with extra corn and beans, and no sour cream. Our poor server just looked at me like I had given birth to an alien baby through my mouth. So I repeated it again, slowly. I can only imagine what was said in that kitchen. Again, whateva!
The point of this little story is this. I ate well in a wings restaurant. I didn’t starve. I didn’t have to compromise my lifestyle. I didn’t have to eat crap. I ate well.
Hang on a second while I go heat up my coffee. Thanks.
I’m back, sorry! It’s like freaking 0° in Chicago right now and I need my coffee to keep me from shivering. Okay, back to the topic at hand -- how to eat vegan while traveling.
When you find yourself in a restaurant that doesn’t have anything vegan on the menu, the obvious choice is to look for a vegetarian option and ask the server to take out the dairy, like cheese or sour cream. If that’s not an option (some places prepare things ahead of time and don’t make dishes fresh), it’s time to start looking at the sides.
You can eat like a champion just by ordering from the sides menu. Really, you can. I just did a few days ago. I ordered a side of spinach (ask them to steam it or use olive oil to sauté it), a baked potato, and a three bean salad. I got protein, carbs, and a green leafy vegetable. It was satisfying and well balanced. I walked away happy.
Believe it or not, there are places that don’t have a vegan option for salad dressing! For real. I know, it’s stupid – how can a restaurant not have oil and vinegar? If you find yourself in that situation, ask for some lemon wedges. Squeeze lemon juice on your salad and sprinkle on a little salt and pepper. Crisis resolved.
It's pretty easy to get a good meal in a Mexican restaurant. You can get a veggie fajita, gaucamole (ask if they put dairy in theirs, some do), vegetable burritos or tacos, bean burritos (ask if they use lard, most places don't anymore), the list goes on and on.
Thai, Japanese and sushi, Chinese, Vietnamese, these are great places to eat if you’re a vegan. But, there are some things that sound vegan but aren’t, such as:
Miso soup – many restaurants put fish flakes in for flavor. Ask!
Fish sauce – ask if the sauce in that vegetable and tofu dish your going to order is made with fish sauce.
Eggs – fried rice and some stir fry will contain scrambled eggs. Request that they leave them out of your dish.
Most Asian restaurants make their dishes fresh, so they are pretty open to special orders.
Many sauces have cheese in them. Ask, ask, ask. If all of their sauces are prepared ahead of time, ask them if they could sauté vegetables and fresh tomatoes in olive oil to put over your pasta. If they won’t (I’ve never been turned down), order from the sides menu.
It happens. Whether it be a business dinner, or a friend’s birthday, you may end up in one of these joints. Take a deep breath and exhale. It will all be over soon.
Chances are you will have to order from the sides menu, unless they have a vegetable pasta dish that isn’t smothered in cheese and/or butter. The good thing about steak places is that they always have baked potatoes on the menu. Sometimes they even have sweet potatoes. Order one without butter with a vegetable side that isn’t cooked in butter.
Fast food places are trickier. Here is a list that Alex put together last year to help you out.
Bring your own
Always be prepared. My dad used to tell me that, and boy was he right. I never leave the house without a bag of almonds and cashews. I mean, what if – God forbid – I got lost while driving to Whole Foods and ended up in the middle of nowhere, and my GPS stopped working, and it took days, or even weeks for someone to find me?! I’d starve without my nuts.
If you’re on the road, you need to make sure that you have something healthy in your bag, just in case. Nuts, energy balls, vegan cookies, granola bars, fruit, a vegetable medley (carrots, bell peppers, celery, broccoli, cauliflower…), or whatever you like to grab n go. Airport food is notoriously horrible, even for non-vegans, so be prepared.
Eating vegan on the road requires creativity, discipline, and patience. It's not easy, but it's not impossible. The most important thing that you can do is ask questions and make requests. Don't be shy! I’m sure that I’ve forgotten a thing or two, so email me or ask me in the comments box if you have a question or a suggestion.
Here are some pictures of Savannah and Tybee Island ( a quick 20 minute drive). Isn't it charming and beautiful? It's my new place to dream about moving to while I freeze my arse off here in Illinois.