Eating A Healthy Vegetarian Diet On The Road

For the past 6 months I’ve been on tour in the Mid-West with a theater group. looking for a more nutritional approach to eating vegetarian on the road.

Road Food

Having been a vegetarian since I was 7, I very much enjoy the vegetarian lifestyle and know a lot about it.

What’s difficult is being on the road and finding healthy vegetarian options in tiny “meat and potato” towns. Currently I’m taking vitamins and supplementing coffee pot soups and oatmeal with restaurant salads and grilled cheeses etc.

I’m looking for a more nutritional approach to eating vegetarian on the road. Without a fridge or oven most of the time, I worry about buying the right foods and the right amount so it won’t spoil.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated :-) Thanks! ER

Savvy Vegetarian Advice:

I lived in Mankato MN from 1994 – 2000. I was a marketing director, and spent my days wandering around S.E. Minnesota. I was able to go home every night, but it sounds like you’re on the road for days, or weeks at a time.

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Some of the things I did then and do now, could help you to eat a healthier vegetarian diet on the road.

I cooked big batches of bean or lentil soups and stews, and whole grains, and froze in individual containers, which I would take with me, and nuke at a convenient microwave. Which could be at any restaurant, convenience store, motel, or one of the company sites I went to.

Nuking isn’t the most ideal way to re-heat food, but it sure beats not eating! Try to use ceramic or glass dishes for reheating in the microwave, to avoid absorbing PCB’s and other plastic nasties.

Minnesota (and maybe other states) has a great law! Anyone on a restricted diet can go into any restaurant, with their own food, and they have to let you sit there and eat it, and even heat it up for you if you ask. I just assumed that vegetarian diets were covered by that law, as they are necessary for our health!

I’ll bet that if you went in with some rice and tofu, a lot of restaurants might cook it for you. I’d do a little research on that law, and prepare a spiel in advance, in case you have to explain it to some restaurant managers. It was a restaurant owner who told me about it, when I apologetically asked to use her microwave.
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Most towns seem to have a Chinese restaurant, sometimes an Indian or even a Thai restaurant, and when I ask they will almost always prepare something I can eat – tofu, rice and veggies, seitan rice and veggies, or noodle something or other. I rarely have to resort to pizza!

I’ve found that Mexican food is often iffy. They seem to have big pots of beans and rice sitting around all day, ready to foist food poisoning on unsuspecting travellers. But sometimes you luck out, as above. Never hesitate to ask the cook at any restaurant to make something special for you – usually they’re happy to show off what they can do. Chain restaurants being the exception – they mustn’t deviate from the formula!

These days, I travel with a cooler (on wheels), a hot plate, a slow cooker, and a rolling suitcase full of cooking equipment and various ingredients in zip lock freezer bags and plastic containers.

I’ve become adept at cooking in motel bathrooms, with the fan running. I admit that this can be cumbersome, and takes more time than stepping out to a restaurant, but it’s way healthier. Otherwise I’d never get any whole grains, beans or leafy greens on the road.

A cooler is a good way to extend the lifespan of foods you bring from your freezer at home, plus whole grain tortillas, breads, fresh veg and other healthy things they don’t serve in restaurants.

Canned beans are handy to have along, soba noodles, rice cakes, hummus, refried beans, nuts and nut butters, dried and fresh fruit, tofu, seitan, etc. You can work some quick miracles with a saute pan, a wooden spatula and a hot plate.

I fill up a two gallon freezer bag from the ice machine to keep my cooler cold. Sometimes motels have a fridge with a freezer to refreeze gel packs. If the front desk people are friendly (mostly they are), often they’ll put them in their own freezer overnight for you.

Maybe some of your associates will think you’ve gone stark raving mad if you take up any of these suggestions, but soon they’ll be casually dropping by your room to see what you’ve got cooking, or asking for some of the dishes you’re enjoying at restaurants, or pulling out of the convenience store microwave!

Judith Kingsbury, Savvy Vegetarian

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5 Responses to “Eating A Healthy Vegetarian Diet On The Road”

  1. Kathy says:

    I always stop at Safeway or a large grocery store. Some of them have sushi stands where you can get a great roll up with no meat. They also have sandwich and salad counters. Yu can ask them to put anything you want on the sandwich and sometimes they will even go the extra mile to grab an avocado in the vegetable isle and chop it up for your sandwich. At Mexican always ask for the “topopo” salad. It is always different but is kind of like a chef salad – you ask for no meat, and ask for whole beans (not refried)as they always have them!

  2. Proactol says:

    I find that like someone mentioned above, if you focus on the smaller goals and not necessarily, then you mihght not able to achieve the goals.

  3. J Kingsbury says:

    Re: Asking for veggie or NO MEAT versions in restaurants. Yes! You have to be very careful. E.G. Is the soup stock or sauce made with chicken or beef? Does the fried rice have shrimp, chicken or beef in it? And, you have to spell out exactly what you mean by No Meat: no fish, shellfish, chicken, pork, beef etc. Or NO DAIRY. If your server seems at all uncertain or you think they might be telling you what you want to hear – get them to go back and ask the cook. One other thing, be sure to leave a generous tip when they go the extra mile for you in a restaurant. Sure, you’re entitled to a veggie meal wherever you go. But most restaurants don’t get that yet.

  4. Anonymous says:

    As a vegetarin for almost 30 years, I can tell you that it is a breeze to eat vegetarian today as compaired to “back when” It was salad and a baked potato back then.
    Nowdays, I find that almost every restaurant has a vegi option even if it isn’t on the menu. I never go into a Chinese or Italian restaurant without there being multiple vegi options. Ask… be prepared to be specific with your questions. I once ordered a supreme pizza with no meat (the supreme with EVERYTHING was cheaper than ordering with the individual vegies added). It came out with peperoni on it. They thought meat was ham and beef till I explained it didn’t grow on a “peperoni tree”

  5. Anonymous says:

    re: nuking food in a convenience store –
    law or no law, as a clerk, I can tell you, the clerk does not care if you use the microwave. Not one bit. knock yourself out.

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