Ah, the freedom of the open road. There's nothing quite as American as hitting the road in the summertime. School's out, the car's packed, the windows are down, your playlist is ready, and you've got a big ole country to explore! But what happens when you're taking a plant-based road trip?
It probably goes a little something like this. You've been on the road for a few hours. It’s hot. You’re been traveling half the day and you are tired and hungry. You stop at a gas station to fill up and grab a snack. Cheesy pizzas spin on a heated carousel at the checkout, right next to a 2-for-1 special on donuts. You’re cranky, but not ready to eat day-old pizza. You search the food aisles: rows of candy and chips. (Some of the chips even claim to be “veggie” chips, but don’t fall for it – most are still soaked with oil, salt, and fat.)
If you’re like me, (until I learned what’s IN them), you probably grab an innocuous-looking “health bar” and a bottle of water. Eventually arriving at your destination, cranky and still hungry.
You’ve heard the tips for a plant-based road trip. Carry nuts with you. Drink lots of water. And sure, these are valid ideas. But why do so many of us still struggle with food choices while we travel?
In 1968, my parents (God love them) piled five kids into a station wagon, hitched on the pop-up camper, and set out on a two-month road trip from Vermont to New Mexico.
My mother was a master at preparation and sticking to her budget. These were the days before gas stations carried much more than coke and cigarettes, and restaurants were out of the question. She had five hungry kids. I remember her sitting in the front seat with two loaves of bread, slapping on the peanut butter and jelly and tossing sandwiches over her shoulder to us. Each kid got two sandwiches and a cup of water from the green Stanley Thermos. We loved it, felt full and happy afterwards, and even got an apple for dessert.
Now, plant-based and with a 5-year-old of my own, I try to take cue from my mom (minus the white bread PB&J’s) and avoid unhealthy and frustrating convenience store visits by planning ahead.
Taking your own plant-based road trip?
Some tips for staying happy, healthy and full on the road this summer...
1. Go old school. Plan ahead and pack a proper lunch for your trip. Notice I did not say pack a snack. Nobody wants a snack when it’s time for lunch or dinner. That’s why suggestions to eat nuts and the like fail. They make it feel like eating plant-based on the road is just too hard. Instead, simply pack what you would normally eat for lunch when you aren’t traveling and bring it with you.
2. Pack double. This plant-based hack is a game-changer. If you normally eat one bowl of noodles, pack two. One sandwich, pack two. One water, pack two. We are always hungrier than we think we are going to be when we travel. Maybe it’s boredom or stress that causes this spike in hunger. You’ll be surprised how much better you feel if you plan for the extra hunger and treat yourself by packing an additional helping of the (healthy) food you love.
3. Bonus Hack: If you are in a bind or just want to eat out, check out Happy Cow, a free website with state-by-state listings of vegetarian and vegan restaurants and storesto make healthy food easy to find and more accessible.
Tell us your own plant-based road trips hacks in the comments or on social media with hashtag #MamaRoadTrip