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Tips for Taking a Plant-Based Diet on the Road

Family in Car on Road Trip

Changing to a delicious, whole-food, plant-based diet is by far one of the best decisions you can make for you and your family! However, it does present some challenges, especially when taking a plant-based diet on the road. By taking the time to carefully plan your meals, you'll be prepared to eat wholesome disease-fighting meals while in the car, at a restaurant or even in a hotel room! Below are some tips that will help you eat healthfully so that you won't sabotage reaching your health goals while you're away from home.

Plan and Prepare Ahead of Time

Eating on the road - Planning is the most important element that will ensure your success. When traveling by car, bring along enough food for the first day or two of your road trip. Prepare meals ahead of time that can be wrapped individually like bean/rice/veggie burritos, veggie burgers, and veggie/bean/grain wraps. Individually wrapped items are easy and less messy to eat in the car. One-pot meals such as a hearty soup, casserole, oil-free veggie stir-fry, salad and baked vegetables can be kept in a cooler and eaten on disposable tableware. Be sure to bring along a serving spoon, a knife, several forks/spoons/napkins/bowls/plates and also a small microwave-safe container. Before you're trip, check to see if there are any rest stops along the highway where you can sit at a table to better enjoy your meal. It's easier to eat foods that don't require being heated like sandwich spreads in whole grain pita pockets and cold potato salad or bean/pasta/veggie/fruit salads. To reheat foods, most gas stations/convenience stores have a microwave where they sell their coffee. After filling your gas tank, simply ask the store clerk if you would be able to use their microwave. Your one-pot meals can be warmed up in your microwave-safe dish and then served to your family. Another option is to purchase a warming device that plugs into the lighter socket of your car. There are many types available. Kid-friendly snacks could include fresh fruit or sugar-free fruit cups, cut up veggies/fruit with nut butters, home-made trail mix or oil-free granola.

Stay in a Hotel that has a Kitchenette or Mini Refrigerator and/or Microwave

Eating in a hotel room - Locate a Whole Foods Market or local grocery store that's close to your hotel and purchase foods that can be easily prepared from your room. It's best to keep it as simple as possible. Frozen or salt-free canned vegetables and beans, whole grains and low-sodium vegetable/bean soups can be easily warmed up while fresh vegetables can be cooked in the microwave. (Hotel microwaves are small, so bring along a small microwave-safe dish instead of a large one.) For those that are more adventurous, bringing an Instant-Pot or electric skillet with you will provide hot, home-cooked flavorful meals! Plan ahead what you will be making so that you will have everything you need. For tips on how to cook using an Instant-Pot, click here and here. Additionally, Jeff Novick MS, RD, LD, LN has a series of Fast Food DVDs that demonstrate how to prepare fast and simple meals made from frozen vegetables and canned beans.

Load up on ready-to-go salad bars - Many local grocery stores, including Whole Foods Market offer cafeteria-style bars where you can load up a take-out container to bring back to your hotel room.

Search the Internet for Nearby Restaurants that have Plant-Friendly Meals

For tips on how to choose a restaurant and order an oil-free, health-supporting meal, see my blogs What's on the Menu? and Eating Out? No Problem! Plant Plate's article Guide to Dining Out offers many wonderful ideas as well. 

Enjoy the Benefits!

Purchasing food and preparing your own meals will not only keep your body functioning optimally while you're away from home, it will keep those unwanted pounds off, prevent you from becoming constipated while traveling, and save you money from not having to eat out every single meal!

Additional Resources

For information on selecting healthy foods while traveling by air, see the Airport Travel Guide created by the Physician's Committee for Responsible Medicine. Likewise, Dustin Rudolph PharmD wrote an encouraging article on how to eat a plant-based diet... even "in the middle of nowhere!" You'll also be very inspired by reading Bobby Anderson's (a macho Plant-Based Trucker) story and how he prepares hot, home-cooked meals from the cab of his semi-truck while driving cross country!

To preview Jeff Novick's Fast Food DVDs click on the following links:

(1) Fast Food DVD - Vol. 1 "The Basics"

(2) Fast Food DVD - Vol. 2 "Burgers & Fries"

(3) Fast Food DVD - Vol. 3 "Shopping School"

(4) Fast Food DVD - Vol. 4 "Beyond the Basics"

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